FOOD PROCESSING EQUIPMENT. The Department of Science and Technology 3 (Central Luzon) turns over food processing equipment to a farmers' cooperative in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija in this undated photo. The equipment will be used by the Nagkakaisang Gabay sa Bayan ng Gabaldon to process their surplus squash harvest into such products as squash noodles, flour, and chips. (Photo courtesy of DOST-3)

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has provided processing equipment to a farmers’ cooperative in Nueva Ecija that could help reduce post-harvest losses.

The equipment will be used by the Nagkakaisang Gabay sa Bayan ng Gabaldon for the processing of squash-based products.

Leidi Mel B. Sicat, provincial director of the DOST - Provincial Science and Technology Office (PSTO)-Nueva Ecija, said on Tuesday that the project aims to help members of the cooperative from the villages of Bagong Sikat, Bantug, Carugang, Bugnan, and Cupaya, all in Gabaldon town, to process their surplus harvest into squash-based products, such as squash noodles, flour, and chips.

“Squash is one of the crops grown in the municipality. However, due to the large volume of harvest, farmers are usually forced to sell their produce at low prices or even at a loss while the rest are left to rot and spoil,” Sicat said in a statement.

She said the project aims not only to increase the economic capabilities of the farmer-beneficiaries by adding value to their crops but also to enhance the nutritional status of the community through the production of readily-available and nutritious vegetable processed products.

“Not only will the farmers earn extra income, but they will also get to contribute to the improvement of the nutritional status of the people in the community, especially children, as their products can be used in feeding programs initiated by the municipality,” she said.

The equipment for squash processing includes stainless steel working tables, a digital platform scale, a dough mixer, a digital weighing scale, a noodle maker, a deep fryer, a cooling rack, blenders, and a foot stamp sealer.

Sicat said to ensure the sustainability of the project, the cooperative members would undergo training on the operation of the equipment.

She said the DOST-PSTO-Nueva Ecija would also conduct a seminar on basic food hygiene and current good manufacturing practices to ensure that their products are safe.

Mara P. Arcilla, chairperson of the Nagkakaisang Gabay sa Bayan ng Gabaldon, thanked the DOST and Sen. Joel Villanueva for their assistance.

The project is funded under the expanded implementation of the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology program of DOST 3 (Central Luzon), which is fully supported by Villanueva.

“Lubos po ang aming pasasalamat sa DOST Region 3 at kay Senator Joel Villanueva para sa mga ipinagkaloob nilang mga kagamitan para po sa pag-poproseso sa mga naani naming kalabasa na naiibenta lang po namin sa murang halaga. Ngayon po na nabigyan na po kami ng mga kagamitan sa pagpoproseso ay mas mahal na po naming maibebenta yung mga mapo-produce po namin na gawa sa kalabasa, gaya ng squash noodles (We are very grateful to DOST-3 and to Senator Joel Villanueva for the equipment provided to us in processing our squash harvests, which we’re able to sell at lower prices. Now that we were given the processing equipment, we could sell our products made from squash, such as squash noodles, at a higher price),” Arcilla said. (PNA)