Region IX hosts 65,084 hectares of rubber plantations, with the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Basilan, Zamboanga del Sur and del Norte being the major growing areas. In Zamboanga del Norte alone, the municipality of Tampilisan has the most number of rubber-tree growers scattered all over 20 barangays (villages) and numbering 6,128 members.
Most of the rubber plantations are being managed by Agrarian Reform Communities with more than 30 rubber associations throughout the peninsula. These associations are usually groups of small landholders who predominantly transport the harvested cuplumps to the nearby primary processors or traders, especially since they do not have the capability to process their own produce. While Region IX is the country's top producer of rubber sap, rubber farmers in the area face a number of challenges.
"Despite the strategic location of the production areas in the Zamboanga region, the growth of the rubber industry is still being hampered by constraints from production, harvesting, processing and marketing, said Melvin Carlos, director of the Science and Technology Community-Based Farm (STCBF) Program of Pcaarrd.
"Some problems identified include lack of investment for budwood nursery; fungal diseases on the roots, leaf and trunk; improper tapping procedure causing bark wounding and disease; severe exploitation of the trees' panel resulting in early dry up and death of trees; tapping even during wintering stage; use of battery solution instead of formic acid for latex coagulation; adulteration of raw rubber products; and absence of premium price for good quality cuplumps, he added.
Rubber growers in Zamboanga Peninsula agree that improved practices have to be done to enhance the quality and yield of processed rubber.
In an effort to promote Science and Technology (S&T) adoption, and enhance the productivity and quality of the processed rubber products at Zamboanga del Norte, Pcaarrd supported the STCBF technology transfer project of the JRMSU-Tampilisan campus through S&T-based interventions. The STCBF concept is a component of the Pinoy S&T Services for Farmers and Entrepreneurs (PSF), which is a new technology transfer and commercialization modality of Pcaarrd. STCBF showcases the effectiveness of S&T interventions to improve the productivity, address the needs and empower the rubber farmers in the community.
"The project hopes to enable 100 rubber farmers in Tampilisan to increase production of quality cuplumps, and serves as a technology model to promote and expand production to adjacent areas of the community, Carlos said.
The project is a collaborative undertaking of Pcaarrd, JRMSU, Kasangyaan Rural Development Foundation Inc. (KRDFI), Rubber Growers Association, and the local government of Tampilisan.
During the inception meeting conducted by the Technology Transfer and Promotion and Crops Research Divisions of Pcaarrd early this year at the JRMSU campus in Tampilisan, the project team leveled-off with project partners on the concept and methodology of the STCBF, the required technical and financial reports to be submitted to Pcaarrd, deliverables that should be achieved by the project, specific data to be collected to gauge the success of the project, and the details and guidelines on the use of project funds based on the approved accounting and auditing procedures.
In the same manner, the terms of reference of the project team and the commitment of the rubber growers were also tackled. Milagros Rodriguez, campus administrator of JRMSU-Tampilisan, was very appreciative of Pcaarrd for its continued trust and confidence extended to JRMSU in implementing S&T-based projects, particularly on rubber which is their focus commodity and main income generating project. She assured Pcaarrd of the university's commitment in ensuring the success of the collaborative undertakings. Before the inception meeting, an onsite assessment of the rubber production areas were conducted by the group in Barangays Sayang, Tubod, Situbo and Tininggaan.
Source: Daily "The Manila Times", Manila; 8 May 2013
(Syed Rashid Ali, Karachi, Pakistan)