2017 BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY REGIONAL

 

“CINDERELLA MAN”
JOHN GLEN S. SAROL
From Fears to Cheers Book August 2017 by PhilRice-JICA

 

It’s a routine. In his early 40s, Magellan Guiner wakes up in the morning and treks his way to Kabulman river.


HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
 

Every rainy season, the river somewhat turns into a wishing well that grants an opportunity for people from Labu- Labu, Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao to collect washed-out wood and sell it at a humble price.

When the harvest season arrives, Magellan operates a harvester machine. He says he earns P10,000 for each cropping, enough to last a month.

In their small nipa hut – just enough to fit him, Fasmina his wife, and Datu Handie, his only child – Magellan takes deep breaths, and dreams each night hoping to find new ways to earn for his family.

This was in 2013.

Now, Magellan rents a one-hectare rice farm and owns a vegetable garden. He raises ducks, chickens, and even owns 2 carabaos that help him till his land.

He harvests 100 sacks of rice each cropping and sells it at P18 per kilo. Eggplants, string beans, and tomatoes occupy his 450 sqm garden. Every 4 days, Magellan sells his vegetables for P250 to P400 in the nearest market, and grosses P30,000 each harvest.

He also sells ducks and chickens. In 2016, he sold two carabaos for P22,000 each.

Magellan has also earned the respect of the town, not just because of his recent success in farming but of his willingness to teach.

A farmer-to-farmer extension worker, Magellan treats his farm as his own classroom, echoing to fellow farmers what he learned during his training under the PhilRice-JICA TCP 5 project. Because of his dedication, he enjoys a P500 incentive from JICA and another P3,000 for being a local farmer-technician assigned by the Department of Agriculture.

He is also set to chair Sitio Kusang Bangsamoro Cooperative and Marketing, a new group in Labu-Labu with 25 members.

An inspiring story of new beginnings, Magellan professes it is all because of Allah, his God.

 

A STRONG FOUNDATION
 

In 2014, Magellan joined a group of farmers in a 14-day training in Luzon made possible by TCP 5. Little did he know, it would soon change his life.

“Everything I learned during those 14 days were foundations of my farm. Right after the training, I decided to rent a farm and apply everything I learned,” Magellan reflects.

Each planting season, he carefully chooses the right certified variety. He says he treats it as the most crucial stage in farming.

“I always remind myself, even if I follow all the right techniques and technologies, if I don’t plant the appropriate variety, then it’s useless,” Magellan advises. He says he plants NSIC Rc222, Rc128, and Rc238 because they are high-yielding.

With the help of the Minus-One Element Technique (MOET), a reliable test kit that determines nutrient deficiency in actual field conditions, Magellan has finally come to terms with the lack of nitrogen in his rice farm.

“I apply triple 14 and urea 10 days after planting, then after 45 days,” he explains.

Magellan also seeks help from Datu Ali Sumlay, an Agricultural Development Officer in Maguindanao who uses the Rice Crop Manager (RCM) to give recommendations on nutrient, pest, weed, and water management.

“RCM has helped me understand how to manage my farm effectively. It is an effective tool because it gives me advice just for my own rice farm,” says Magellan.

“The RCM is a digital application that can be accessed by extension workers through smartphones or a computer with Internet connection. It gives recommendations based on the farmer’s used variety, yield from the previous season, and the site- specific conditions of the field,” Sumlay adds.


MENACE AND CONSENSUS
 

Magellan grunts a little. Rats and black bugs bother him most. These pests have been a common plague to Labu-Labu farmers throughout the years.

“Pests are very pesky but they can be managed. For some time now, I have convinced farmers here to plant at the same time to prevent more damaging rat and black bug attacks,” Magellan didn’t seem to need a guidebook.

Magellan says he also grew flowering plants near his farm to attract more non-harmful insects that eat pests. He says he always sees praying mantises, spiders, grasshoppers, and dragonflies patrolling the farm.

“I remove weeds in my rice farm before we plant, and I also let my ducklings loose so they can eat the black bugs and sometimes even young Golden Apple Snails,” says Magellan.

Magellan hunts rats at night with fellow farmers. “I encouraged them that we work together for us to try to solve this rodent menace,” he added.

During the dry months, water supply coming from Kabulman river thirsts. Magellan laments it has worsened each year. He now uses a water pump for

his rice and vegetables. He also often lends it to neighboring farmers.

“There was a time when we didn’t need water pumps but times have changed,” his voice cracked.

Magellan also plants mungbeans in his rice farm before the next planting season. He explains it as his way to cope with climate change. Over time, he taught his fellow farmers to do the same practice.

“I believe if farmers would help each other solve any problem, we can solve anything, eventually,” vows Magellan.


FROM 10 TO 50
 

Datu Ali Sumlay is a witness to Magellan’s Cinderella story.

“Mang Magellan is just one living example that if we continue to persevere in life, no matter how hard the circumstances, there will come a time when we will reap the fruits of our hard work,” Sumlay said.

In just 2 years, from a nipa hut, Magellan’s house has turned into sturdy concrete; from 15x10-feet to 25x50-feet floor area, wide enough for Datu Handie to play. He has also managed to buy 2 motorcycles and a Kubota tractor.

“All fully paid,” you can sense the satisfaction in Magellan’s smile.

“Now, I don’t have to worry about how to transport our produce to the market, or soon, to fetch my son from school,” Magellan giggles.

To further inspire farmers, Magellan put up his vegetable garden near the Labu-Labu Elementary

School so that he could set an example and convince everyone to diversify their crops.

Considering himself a fast learner, Magellan is never contented. “I still want to learn more,” he says.

With fiery eyes, “I still want to learn more,” he reiterated.


TRIUMPHANT CALLUSES
 

“When a farmer is successful, people oftentimes disregard the hardships that go with it. Farming is not a job for quitters,” Magellan urged.

For the last 2 years, Magellan has learned that farming is a skill that can be forged in time and can be learned by anyone who can take up the challenge.

For him, farming can be as lazy as planting and waiting for the harvest season but it can also be as complex as diversifying crops, and applying new farming technologies.

“In the end, what I really want to do is to keep on improving and to soon buy my own rice farm. I know in my heart that this is something that I want to do for the rest of my life,” he says with bliss.

It’s a routine. Magellan is now 42. At 6 am, he walks to his farm then straight to his favorite spot in his vegetable garden, an unfinished nipa hut he built for himself. “I forget time when I’m here,” he keeps reminding me.

He has snapped out of his daydream, he clutches his fist, and feels every callus. He smiles, looks at me, and tells me it was all worth it.

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