Mindoro is one of the most promising agricultural provinces in the country. Aside from being one of the major producers of rice, the island also yields many crops that vary from highland, lowland, root crops, among others. The fertile soil and rainy climate not only provide good quality of produce but also allowed the people to prosper in terms of agricultural and social advancement.
However, as many progress, others find it hard to get by. One of them is Nanay Juaning Kabato, 61, who belongs to the Mangyan Iraya indigenous group. The Iraya tribe is a group of Indigenous People (IP) living in a Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Area (GIDA) that capitalizes on agricultural activities as their main source of food supply and livelihood. Her tribe is located at Sitio Barogante in Barangay Alacaak, Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro. Iraya’s yields vary from rice, banana, beans, sweet potato, and other root crops that are mostly grown in Occidental Mindoro.
Nanay Juaning’s family relies on their produce as sustenance for her family. She has two kids, Erwin and Lia. Both go to school through the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Her husband, on the other hand, depends on kaingin to support their family.
Despite many opportunities the land may offer, the area is prone to typhoons. In fact, in a year, at least four to five typhoons pass by the area. The typhoons not only devastated homes, but worse, affected crops, damaged yield, and distressed their livelihood in general.
A test of resiliency
One typhoon that Nanay Juaning recalls is Typhoon Josie which nearly devastated almost half of her crops last July 2018. She mentioned that the typhoon uprooted several of her crops and soaked some of her stored produce.
But the Iraya is known for resiliency. For them, the typhoon is merely but a challenge to overcome. More so, right after the typhoon, she collected whatever was left of her crops and started again. She gathered the seeds that can be reused and replanted it.
Days after the typhoon, Nanay Juaning’s farms started to prosper again. Sprouts from the replanted seeds were seen and buds another hope for her family. Though half of her farm was destroyed, Nanay Juaning never lost courage.
Budding Hope for Nanay Juaning
In good faith, after a year, the DSWD, in partnership with several government agencies, assisted Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) beneficiaries like Nanay Juaning and 20 other members of her tribe to recover from the damages brought by Typhoon Josie. Innovations in farming were introduced to the Iraya tribe.
Under the DSWD’s Sustaining Support Services Intervention (SSI) project, training on modern farming was conducted. It includes skills training on different root crop propagation, strategies to prevent pest manifestation, and modern techniques in rice production. Moreover, training on organic fertilizer production was provided which can help Nanay Juaning and her tribe lessen their operational expense. Apart from the training, supplemental seedlings were also provided.
Nanay Juaning used the assistance to improve her farm and stand again after being struck by the typhoon. Now, she and her tribe boast many crops from their farm such as banana, ginger, rice, corn, vegetables, and notably—grapes. Likewise, the Iraya tribe became more persistent to further learn about innovations in farming.
Presently, Nanay Juaning’s yields can support their family in terms of food supply, but she sees the farm produce as an opportunity to later on earn additional income. If the profit from her produce turns well, she plans to expand their farm and explore other crops to propagate.