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1st Farm School for Community Seed Bank in Region XII

South Cotabato is nurturing a humble but great person which can be considered probably one of the country’s national treasure in the person of Mr. Perfecto “Ka Peks” Vicente.  Ka Peks is a 78 year-old farmer-scientist who hails from Pangasinan.  He was a former UP professor and researcher who found solace in continuing his advocacy in rice seed banking and organic farming in Barangay San Vicente, Sto. Niño, South Cotabato.  Ka Peks’s notable contribution in conserving and developing our traditional rice varieties through organic farming using his own ingenuity has given him a Gawad Geny Lopez Jr. Bayaning Pilipino Award and Lifetime Achievement Award from Masipag Foundation in 2004.

During the first few months of Sec. Proceso J. Alcala as Secretary of Department of Agriculture in 2010, he made sure he never forget to look back to this great man who is silently working to  advance the cause of the farming sector.  In November of 2010, Sec. Alcala  awarded him a special Secretary’s Award during the 7th National Organic Agriculture Conference. Their meeting was again followed when the Secretary personally visited him in his residence in December of the same year.

The Secretary’s visit paved the way for other agencies to look into his efforts and make ways to further his initiatives.  One of these institutions that immediately responded is the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI).  No less than Director Asterio P. Saliot of the ATI believed that Ka Pek’s legacy should be passed on to other farmers  and extension workers. The ATI has acknowledged his expertise and experience being a researcher as well as resource person to many trainings in rice seed banking and organic farming.  That is why during the first visit of Dir. Saliot to Ka Peks in February of 2011, the Director mentioned his plan to put up a farm school for the farmer-scientist to showcase the research technologies in the farm and to develop his farm as an eco-tourism site for local tourists to visit.  At first, Ka Peks was just listening to what the Director was saying.  Little did he know that plans are already made to turn this vision into reality.

These visits were repeated and followed up by the ATI counterparts in the region, headed by Center Director Abdul I. Daya-an and its senior staff, Mr. Rafencio Somoza.  Series of planning were done afterwards  and the construction began in August of 2011.

After one month, the farm school was completed and was inaugurated on September 1, 2011.  The farm school was constructed attached to the original house of Ka Peks.  It is a two storey building, with a training room below and a sleeping quarter on top.  Surrounding the farm school is the one –hectare rice field which will serve as the demonstration area.  Now finally completed, this farm school- coined as the School for Practical Agriculture or the Sanayan ng Pagsasaka at Adhikaing Agrikultura (SPA) is ready for use by the farmers as a center for learning in seed banking.  According to Dir. Saliot, “There will be six farm schools that will be initially established in the country this 2011, and the one in Sto. Niño is one of the first to be completed.”

In his acceptance speech, Ka Peks said; “Wala akong kakayanang himingi ng anumang gamit. Umaasa lang ako sa kabutihang loob ng mga dumadayo at nakakakita sa aking ginagawa. So ito po ay tinatanggap ko sa ngalan ng mga magsasaka. Hindi po (ito para) sa akin, baka ilang taon lang wala na ako. Pero kinakailangan po nila (magsasaka) na matulungan dahil alam natin na halos lahat ng farmers gipit.  Kung di natin bibigyan ng tulong, baka ang seguridad sa pagkain ay di makakamit.”  (I don’t have the capability to ask anything.  I just rely on the goodness of the people who have seen my works.  I accept this (Farm School) in behalf of the farmers.  This is not for me, beause I may only have few years left.  But the farmers need our help.  If we can’t provide them the help they need, we cannot attain the food security in our country.

The blessing and inauguration of the farm school was witnessed by the local residents and  officials of the town, headed by   Mayor Antonio F. Damandaman, together with the members of the Municipal Council, Municipal Agriculture Office of Sto. Niño  and representatives of the Provincial Agriculture Office of South Cotabato.  Also present were the staff of ATI-XII headed by Center Director Abdul I. Daya-an and Mr. Rafencio B. Somoza, the Center’s Farm School Project Coordinator.  A year later in 2012,  Secretary Alcala was able to return to Ka Pek’s residence and was surprised on the improvements of his farm school.

Ka Peks will never forget the charismatic Secretary because he is the only DA Secretary who was able to recognize his efforts.  Sec. Alcala, also being an advocate of organic farming is pushing for the development of community seed banks under the AgriPinoy Framework he is pursuing.

With the farm school now in place, Ka Peks can continue his legacy to teach farmers to produce their own seeds.  Says Ka Peks, “Dapat magamit ang farm school para mapakinabangan ng mga magsasaka.”  (This farm scool must be used for the benefit of the farmers.)   He also intends to make this as an information and reading center where farmers can read his reading materials about farming, especially in rice breeding.  He added, “Gusto kong madevelop at maparami natin ang mga traditional varieties sa ating bansa upang hindi tayo maging dependent sa mga foreign varieties.   Sa paggamit ng traditional varieties, magiging mas sustainable ang ating pagsasaka, mas mura at kayang-kaya ng mga farmers.  Kung aasa tayo sa foreign varieties, didiktahan lang tayo ng mga malalaking kompanya.  Kakabit nyan ay foreign inputs na mas mahal.”  (I want to develop and multiply our traditional rice varieties in our country so that we will not be dependent in foreign varieties.  In using traditional vatieties, our farming can be more sustainable, cheaper and affordable to our farmers.  If we continue to rely in foreign varieties, we will just be dictated by big companies.  Attached to it are foreign inputs which are very costly.)

Right now, Ka Peks, together with the help of the ATI in the region is developing the module on seed banking.  He intends to pass his knowledge on seed banking to farmers,  extention workers as well as the younger ones for as long as God intends him to be.