Paradigm Shift, Key to Community Empowerment

A farmer’s goal is to bring food to the table and reap the fruits of his labor to support his family’s needs.

Yet, a farmer from Naic, Cavite Joselito Tibayan, fondly known as ‘Manager Yhet’ envisions more than these.

“Ang gusto ko talaga ay matulungan ang farmers ng aming barangay,” he says.

Shift to Agriculture
Manager Yhet recalls how he ended up in the agriculture sector in 1987. “Lumaki ako sa farming. Kaya lang, ang magulang ko ay walang lupa noong araw. Namumuwisan sila,” he shares. A self-supporting student, he financed himself through high school and planned to take up BS in Accounting or Engineering in Manila.

He then tried to juggle work and study to support his college education and worked as a factory worker, but an economic recession during the EDSA revolution got in the way of his plans. After working for six years in Metro Manila, he went back home and was immediately invited to attend a seminar facilitated by the Department of Agriculture-TECHGEN now, CARES (Cavite Agricultural Research and Experiment Station).

After earning from his first season in farming, Manager Yhet was easily convinced that it is what he wanted to do. “Ipinagkumpara ko ang kita sa pabrika at farming. Sa pabrika, kung masipag ka o hindi, iisa ang sweldo. Dito sa farming, ang tamad walang kita, ang masipag may kita.”

The Researcher Farmer
In 1994, he co-founded Palangue Agrarian Reform Cooperative along with 33 members in Barangay Palangue 2, Naic, Cavite. After its registration to CDA (Cooperative Development Authority) in 1995, he was elected as Chairman.

Manager Yhet sees two main problems faced by every farmer in his community: technology and capital. He addressed the problem on technology adoption by becoming a researcher and farm cooperator for DA-CARES’ projects for almost a decade. He started planting tomatoes and studied the planting systems of lowland vegetables.
From learning and experimenting, he was able to develop the zero tillage technology and apply it to 1.3 hectare-planting area that he leases. “Sa paraang ito, makakatipid ka ng 42% ng production. Walang [kailangang] land preparation, wala masyadong labor. Yung trellis ay naka-design sa kahit anong gulay,” he explains. He is convinced that growing vegetables entails deep understanding and education to achieve a good produce and earn from it.

It was also through his eagerness to learn and his partnership with DA-CARES that he become one of the first Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) of the Agricultural Training Institute Region IV-A. As MS, he often go to farmers meetings and trainings to share his management practices and experiences in vegetable farming. He is also expected to continue developing and adopting scientific and technology-based practices and serve as a model farmer in his community.

To help other farmers sustain their livelihood, he encourage them to join the cooperative. “Nakita ko ang kagandahan ng coop[erative] kaysa sa association. Sa association kasi, very powerful ang leaders. Samantalang sa cooperative, balewala ang leader basta hindi napag-kasunduan ng kasapian,” he reasons.

Empowering the Members through Shared Profits
Manager Yhet has been serving as General Manager of the said cooperative since 2003. His leadership is built on transparency and trust. His first challenge was to convince the members that being a part of the cooperative will be good for them. “Namuno ako na every general assembly, bilang ko ang pera sa harap nila” he narrates. This created an impact to the members that their investments and livelihood are in good hands.

As a result, more and more farmers in Barangay Palangue 2 are signing up for membership in the cooperative. In fact, as per Manager Yhet, 98% of farmers in their barangay are already members and reaping the benefits; with only 34 founding members back in 1995 to 300 active members at present.

Members can earn in many ways: they are paid for selling their harvest and they get dividends from patronizing the products and overall earnings of the cooperative.
“Halimbawa, binibili ko ng singkwenta pesos sa farmer ang isang kilong ampalaya, tapos ibinebenta sa consolidator ng P60. So, may sampung pisong kita ang cooperative,” Manager Yhet explains. He added that it is a win-win situation for the farmer-member and the cooperative.

Another advantage is that they can loan their capital from the cooperative provided that they pay after harvest within the agreed terms. A member can borrow from a minimum of P2,040 up to 85% of his/her shared capital. The required minimum shared capital for a new member is P2,400.

Leonardo Legaspi, a long-time member of the cooperative narrates how their lives have changed since he joined. “Noong una, kami naman ay pagbubukid lang ang ikinabubuhay. Parang lumalakas ng kaunti ang kita, nakaka-atikha ng kaunting gamit. Ngayon, ang anak ko ay malalaki na, nakapag-aral naman sila dahil ako’y nagbubukid at sa cooperative ay nakaka-utang din. Kaya malaking tulong,” he proudly shares.

Future Plans for the Cooperative
With almost active 300 members, Manager Yhet do not have plans on expanding the scope of the cooperative beyond their barangay. “Sa experience ko, pag malawak ang membership, ang resources ay uunti at maaapektuhan ang members na pinangarap kong umunlad,” he explains. Nevertheless, he is open to mentoring budding cooperatives who wants to succeed in the industry.

At present, the cooperative is looking forward to the operations of their newly-built processing facility that will increase value to their produce. Some of the products that they plan to process are ube jam, ampalaya juice with honey, pickled papaya and cucumber and special bagoong alamang that will serve as OTOP (One-Town-One Product) of the municipality of Naic.

Manager Yhet's vision for the cooperative is the immense success and productivity of its members. He envisions that every member has financial freedom to support the education of his/her children. In order to achieve this, he advises farmers to have a paradigm shift.

“Kailangan bukas tayo sa bagong kaalaman at patuloy na mag-aral.”

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