Fernando Fuentes and his wife Josephine of Brgy. Malapag in Carmen, Cotabato, were landless when they got married in 1994. But when we interviewed them in June 2012, they were planting corn on 24 hectares that they owned and many more that had been mortgaged to them. They were planting a high-yielding hybrid corn which were giving them good income.
How they were able to accumulate such a relatively big landholding is an inspiring story of industry coupled with some business sense.
Fernando remembered that when he and his wife were just newly married, he used to sell cut up vegetables house to house just so they could have an income. Fernando would buy fresh vegetables from the market, slice them and pack together different varieties that would be used in one cooking.
When their neighbors were making money from planting corn, they also decided to do their own corn farming. But how could they grow corn when they did not have land of their own?
It happened that their godfather during their wedding had land. They rented one hectare from him at P2,000 per year which they paid after harvesting their crop.
They were quite lucky because they had a good harvest from their first crop which earned them P18,000. Because they themselves worked on the farm, they only had cash expenses of about P6,000, including the rent. With their profit, they were eventually able to buy the lands that were mortgaged to them.
During the time of our visit, the weather was very good for corn production so that the farmers were making an average of P40,000 profit per hectare. And because the Fuentes couple knew how to handle their finances, they were able to increase their landholding, and of course, their income from farming.
Two developments had helped boost the income of the corn farmers like the Fuentes couple. One was the introduction of the Bt corn which is high-yielding and does not require spraying with chemical pesticide to control corn borer, a destructive pest of corn. That meant saving in production cost.
Another was the introduction of herbicide that can wipe out the weeds in one spraying. With the weeds eliminated, the farmer can just dibble their seeds without plowing the field. Even the rolling and sloping fields could be planted to corn the zero tillage way.
Now you see, landless people can acquire land of their own through their own efforts without depending on the land reform program. (By Zac B. sarian, Memoirs of an Agri Journalist)