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POLO makes farm training quarterly event

26 September 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Seminars on farming will become a regular part of the livelihood training program of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Hong Kong for overseas Filipino workers.

Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre told The SUN at the sidelines of last weekend’s two-day integrated mushroom-rice farming seminar at POLO that he would make the highly popular organic farming and livestock raising seminars a quarterly event.

Resource speaker  Jo Johnson Munoz.
“We will make this a continuing program for our workers. We’ll invite experts from the Department of Agriculture to conduct the training sessions to prepare our workers for reintegration into the economy when they return home,” Labatt Dela Torre said.

He said the regular seminars will be held at the new POLO offices on Queen’s Road East in Wanchai when they move there by December.

On Sept 9 and 10, a total of 532 OFWs attended the seminars conducted by farming experts Josephine Muñoz and Lowell Rebillaco of the DA Region 3 office in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Resource speaker Lowell Rebillaco.
These were a follow-up of the successful mushroom-growing seminars on June 24-25 at POLO’s 16th floor office in Admiralty Centre and Boys and Girls Auditorium in Wanchai which had a total of 858 participants.

Labatt Dela Torre was pleased with the unexpected overwhelming interest from the Filcom in the agriculture training program.

In fact, the two-day seminars complement the already regular agri-livelihood training sessions being offered every Saturday and Sunday by POLO courtesy of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

POLO’s rationale for the extra focus on farm production is that OFWs who return home for good might not be able to rejoin the labor force in the country, where the official unemployment as of April was at 5.1%. So, the training program will ensure that returning OFWs won’t starve when they go home.

“Food security is a paramount national concern. We’re glad to be able to contribute our 5-cents’ worth through this farming seminar series,” Labatt Dela Torre said separately in a post on his Facebook page after the latest seminars.

“The objective is to open the eyes of 1,427 potential and actual OFW farmers that agriculture through the farming technologies now available may be profitable, and may prod them to reunite with their families,” he said.

He said that the feedback gathered after the seminar indicated that many participants wanted to return home and farm again. Even while still in Hong Kong, some of them are already actively engaged in farming or slowly investing in their farms until their contracts run out.

The labor official said coming up next in the livelihood series are balut, salted egg and food processing seminars sometime in December, and livestock production early next year.

In the latest seminars, Rebillaco presented “Palayamanan”, his masteral thesis featuring the zero-tillage method of rice farming that aims to maximize resources, reduce farming risk, enhance sustainability, productivity and profitability, improve economic stability and build a better relationship among family members.

“Yung ating maliit na lupa sa Pilipinas, gawin nating pagkakakitaan sa pamamagitan ng konseptong ‘Palayamanan’,” Rebillaco said.

He said key to this is maximizing resources by integrating organic rice farming with vegetable, fruit, cash crop, livestock and fish production in which excess output can be sold in the market or exported to earn income for the farmer.

Muñoz gave a presentation on organic mushroom farming that OFWs can start on a low capitalization and can turn into an income and employment-generating community livelihood activity.

She said demand for mushroom in the Philippines is so big that current production fills just a small percentage of that output.

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