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WMSU researches intensify promotion of rubber production in Zambo Peninsula

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The region’s economic growth created greater capacity for consumption for different sections of the population. This has stimulated the demand for various products especially agricultural products, thus, generating the need and opportunity to develop the country’s agriculture industry. In the Philippines, rubber and coconut are viable agricultural products as reportedfrom sources like Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), and from testimonies of long time farmers of the crops.

True to its commitment to serve the community, the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) has initiated researches to address concerns crucial to keeping the rubber industry alive. WMSU, through the Western Mindanao Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources, Research and Development Consortium (WESMAARRDEC) in partnership with the Philippine Council for Agriculture Aquatic Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARD) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) spearheaded a study entitled Advocacy for Sustainable Rubber and Coconut Production in ZamPen to examine the actual circumstances surrounding the rubber and coconut industries in the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga Del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga Del Sur, and Zamboanga City. These are the areas in ZamPen where coconut and rubber plantations abound. Coconut and rubber stakeholders from these areas were identified through Department of Agriculture Region IX field office, FITS (Farmer’s Information Technology Services) centers and the local government units in the areas.

The WMSU advocacy research team headed by Dr. Lea E. Usman as project leader together with faculty researchers whose expertise are in the field of communication, agriculture, forestry, health and the media initiated the study. The team also partnered with the Department of Agriculture- Zamboanga Peninsula Integrated Agricultural Research Center(DA-ZAMPIARC).

At the outset series of focus group discussions were conducted with farmers, traders and community stakeholders. Impact assessment of the advocacy implemented was done through another set of focus interviews in the second phase to determine the extent of awareness of the problems and learning experiences of recipient farmers after exposure to trainings and IEC materials to overcome actual problems as well as to provide recommendations to improve interventions.

The study revealed the different practices detrimental to rubber farming conceived by farmers to be practical for some urgent reasons. For instance, the use of battery solution in rubber coagulation and the mixing of latex with hard objects to make it heavier since farmers earn more when the latex is heavier. Farmers and traders selling coagulated rubber in bagsakan centers combine different ages and batches of rubber cup lumps into one big bulk called “field lumps.” They also use sulfuric acid, commonly known as battery solution, in coagulating rubber cup lumps and placing them in between the field lumps. Rubber cup lumps coagulated with battery solution absorb water, thus making the field lumps heavier and more expensive when sold. This is a malpractice that the rubber industry aims to eradicate. Battery solution not only weakens the quality of rubber when processed, but also threatens human health and the environment. Other detrimental activities observed among rubber farmers turned out to have some economic and cultural justifications which have serious effects to the industry.

The findings of the study also showed poor the poor health conditions of farmers, and “health: being the least important domestic concern among most of them. Many are unaware that potentially harmful diseases are acquired in line with farming activities which can also be prevented by observing healthy habits.

WMSU is currently undertaking researches to improve the rubber industry in region IX. Just recently, a benchmarking activity on the research entitled “Policy Analysis and Advocacy on the Use of Various Latex Coagulants and Nano-Sensor for Improved Quality of Rubber Products”was conducted in Malaysia. The research team was headed by WMSU’s very own president Dr. Milabel Enriquez Ho, and WESMAARRDEC directorand Vice President for Resource Generation Dr. Teresita A. Narvaez.

The four-day visit in Malaysia,enabled the participants to understand the different factors and circumstances leading to the use of adulterants and examine the potential of technological interventions such as nanosensor and other policy reforms in Zamboanga Peninsula. The activity is aimed at strengthening policies intended to improve the quality standards of rubber in the region. The rubber nanosensor technology, which can determine which of the filed lumps contains the battery solution, was tested recently in Ipil and Titay, Zamboanga Sibugay and in Tampilisan, Zamboanga Del Norte.

The rubber industry in the Zamboanga Peninsula has thrived for years and the farmers’ lifeblood apparently depends on these crops. To ensure that the farmers are well enlightened and motivated to sustain the crops, WMSU has actively intensified its advocacy projects on rubber in the region as well as in the entire country. (Liezel M. Parreño, WMSU-PAO)




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