BAYBAY CITY – The Visayas State University (VSU) through the Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) linked up with the Philippine Army to address the problem on the lack of livelihood opportunities in the countryside that has lured civilians into joining the communist movement.

Recently, PhilRootcrops, in partnership with the 52nd Infantry Battalion and Fatima Multipurpose Cooperative, conducted a training on root crop production in Brgy. Agsaman, a remote village in Jipadpad, Eastern Samar that can only be reached through a four-hour long walk from the nearest access road.

Brgy. Agsaman has long been occupied by New People’s Army (NPA) militia until government forces recovered it recently after the surrender of its many armed guerillas.

In Eastern Visayas, the Philippine Army reported that there are a total of 33 rebel-infested areas in the region as of 2017 with the biggest concentration located within the Samar Island.

In the previous consultations with residents of the community, abject poverty was identified as one of the main reasons for some farmers to take up arms and join the communist movement.

With this is mind, researchers and extension personnel from PhilRootcrops found it fit to work with the Philippine Army to help them in providing livelihood opportunities to rebel returnees especially in making their respective communities economically productive.

PhilRootcrops Senior Agriculturist Dioscorro Bolatete trained more than 20 rebel returnees on the importance of using quality planting materials to improve farm yield and overall productivity of sweet potato and cassava.

The trainers also discussed the many viable food by-products developed by VSU researchers that are derived from both sweet potato and cassava.

Each of the rebel returnees received cassava cuttings that were sourced from the VSU root crop nursery, and that has been certified by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI).

PhilRootcrops Deputy Director Marlon M. Tambis said that he welcomes more similar engagements as the Center pushes for inclusive development especially in marginal communities all around the country, saying, “This is a very fitting program so that we can target those areas that are economically-deprived while also mainstreaming the many potentials of root crops production in some of our underutilized upland communities here in our region.” PhilRootcrops had previously engaged the Philippine Army in a similar program last 2013 in the remote areas of San Isidro and Calubian, Leyte where it introduced innovative technologies, quality varieties of root crops including other techniques to boost production of cassava and sweet potato. By Elmer Recuerdo (EV Mail September 5-11, 2022 issue)