HYBRID RICE. Young Maguindanao farmer June Rey Peñafiel shows his high-yielding hybrid rice in this undated photo. The 27-year-old Peñafiel said he was able to harvest 12 metric tons per hectare through the Department of Agriculture's (DA) provision of hybrid rice seeds under the Hybridization Program. (Contributed photo)

MANILA – There is more to it than meets the eye.

This is how 27-year-old farmer, June Rey Peñafiel from Maguindanao province, sees the future of farming in the Philippines while using the SL Agritech’s hybrid rice varieties as a better way to increase harvest and earn more.

At a young age, Peñafiel has experienced the abundant result of “sipag at tiyaga” because he believes that there is a career and business to be made in farming. And since 2013, his top choice and the most reliable for his farm is the SL-8H rice variety.

Peñafiel said during his trial planting of SL-8H, he was able to harvest 12 metric tons (MT) per hectare through the Department of Agriculture's (DA) provision of hybrid rice seeds under the Hybridization Program.

After seeing the result of his trial planting and the resilient characteristic of SL-8H during the dry season, Peñafiel has since then invested in SL hybrid rice varieties.

“Dagdag lang ng kaunti sa puhunan pero naibabalik at doble ang income at mataas ang ani (Just small additional capital but the return is double and harvest is high),” he said as he described how much he earned using SL-8H on his farm.

Peñafiel was able to harvest twice a year with a return on investment (ROI) of four times in his venture. His average gross income per hectare is PHP160,000 but only spent PHP40,000 for production cost including the “pakyawan” labor work per hectare.

He also sees that to gain more income in selling palay, its high demand in the market has a significant factor. This way, he can also provide financial support to other farmers.

And through diversified farming, he looks for opportunities and is carefully observing the market trend of palay (unmilled rice) as well as, weather forecast to determine the appropriate planting and cropping season for rice.
Diversified farming requires farm practices that will give a high ROI and, especially, needs a skillful farmer like Peñafiel.

His mindset in farming is to think about “what can be produced” from the farm aside from planting rice and “what needs to be improved.”

“Focus lang. Gawin lang kung anong (kailangan at dapat) gawin. Dahan dahan lang, basta may nakikitang pagbabago (Just focus. Just do what should be done. Slowly but what is important there are changes),” he added.

The Maguindanao province seldom experiences typhoons and drought, which makes Peñafiel’s farm in Upi suitable for farming, with other functional landscapes providing agricultural inputs.

He learned to convert some parts of his farm into a fishpond and water reservoir, as a source of irrigation to areas in his farm with limited water supply. In this way, he was able to irrigate his farm and continue to plant almost year-round.

Peñafiel never doubts his capability and knowledge when it comes to farming and the fruit of his labor resulted in acquiring his own harvester and tractor.

He said the tractor can cover land preparation for 3-4 hectares in a day and, sometimes, both pieces of equipment are being rented which gives him additional income. But, most importantly, other farmers benefitted from this equipment to save more time and ease labor work in their farms.

“Nasanay kasi sa inbred variety na pag tinanim (mo) ung palay, babalikan mo lang kung kalian mo gusto. Sa hybrid kasi, palagi mo bibisitahin. Titingnan kung ano kailangan (para) maibigay mo. Para maibigay din kung anong gusto mong harvest. Basta alagaan mabuti (Because you are used to the inbred variety that when you plant the rice, you will just come back when you want. In hybrid, you will always visit. You will see what is needed to give. To also get what kind of harvest you want. Just take good care of it),” Peñafiel said.

Why we need young farmers

Peñafiel is indeed a young farmer who dreamt of becoming a soldier but he saw the bigger picture of succeeding as a farmer.

He started farming by helping his father as early as high school and decided to continue managing the farm. His hesitation of becoming an agriculturist changed, and soon graduated from Upi Agricultural College Provincial Technical Institute of Agriculture.

“Basta pursigido lang. (Dahil) kahit anong kurso mo, kung hindi mo talaga gusto o hindi ka masaya, hindi ka magiging successful. Sa akin kasi, masaya talaga ako sa ginagawa ko (For as long as you are determined. Because you take up a course where you are not happy, you will not become successful. For me, I’m enjoying on what I’m doing),” Peñafiel said.

But as a young farmer who gains higher profit, he never turns his back from where he started.

“God’s will (at) naguide ako mabuti ng mga magulang ko kaya napunta ako dito. Kaya binabalik ko sa kanila ngayon (God’s will and through my parents’ guidance, that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m giving back to them),” he said.

His siblings, on the other hand, helped him to manage and develop the farm. Using the raw materials in the farm, they can make livestock feeds from the palay and corn. In fact, he is one of the local producers of corn and feeds in Upi.

Peñafiel is a Young Farmer Awardee in 2019 and is still an active member of the farmers’ association in Upi.

He encourages the youth to venture into farming as their profession and to his co-farmers in the community, he wanted them to invest in planting SL-8H.

“Kung magsasaka ka, ikaw ang boss (If you are a farmer, you the boss),” Peñafiel words to the youth.

And during this pandemic, he supports agriculture students by giving free lectures and accepting on-the-job trainees which include actual work on the farm. For the farmers in Upi, he offers free consultation and shares his innovative farming experience and knowledge.

Peñafiel sees progress in the Philippine agriculture industry because of the various programs and support of the Department of Agriculture to young farmers like him.

“Sana magtuloy tuloy ang suporta ng DA sa magsasaka na kagaya ko (I hope DA will continue supporting farmers like me),” he added.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said “the DA created programs so that the Filipino youth can start their agribusiness.”

With these programs, just like Peñafiel, young people will choose to pursue their careers in their community.

“With the youth’s technological intuition and dynamism, we are banking on them to steer Philippine agriculture towards the age of digital and smart technologies. This strategy will definitely put the sector on a path of more resilient growth,” Dar said. (PR)