Of the nearly 11,000 households in Tuguegarao, 6,132 were dependent on farming and fishing for survival. Many of these were impoverished and heavily indebted to landlords or businessmen for basic needs ranging from seedlings for subsistence crops to school tuition for their children. Compounding the persistent problem of poverty in the municipality was lack of access to new farming techniques and facilities, leading to stagnation and decline in yields from the annual harvests and an accompanying drop in the incomes of farmers who depended on their fields. This cycle of debt and declining income left Tuguegarao’s residents highly dependent on their neighbors for food and other produce.
The Tuguegarao City Agricultural and Fishery Modernization Program was developed in 2000 to address the worsening condition in agriculture. The vision of the Program was to achieve general improvement in the quality of life for marginalized households dependent on farming and fishing. Its components included crop and livestock development, fishery construction, technology and support services for farmers, and farm and home resource management. Beneficiaries of these services would, in return, become partners in various municipal government projects. These included the Clean and Green campaign for the environmental protection of Tuguegarao, the city’s cultural heritage development program, and the initiative to promote literacy throughout the region.
By supplying poor farmers with improved tools to ply their trade, Tuguegarao’s innovators were able to encourage a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity, which in turn resulted in an average income jump for farmers from 1,000 to 7,000 Philippine pesos per month. Land tilling and preparation costs, on the other hand, dropped from 1,800 to 1,000 pesos per hectare. Average harvests increased from one per year to at least two, with as many as five successful crop yields produced in some particularly fertile and well-irrigated fields.
In addition to crop farming, the city’s agricultural initiative also extended to fishing: the province’s Lake Dada, renowned for its murkiness, remained a largely wasted resource due to the brownness of its waters. Reformers found that the lake was ideal for fish caging, resulting in a substantial harvest for local fisherman. In order to manage the lake’s fish populations to prevent the over-fishing, a problem affecting many of the Philippines’ coastal areas, municipal workers installed 25 cages with a limited capacity to protect the lake’s natural resources. By monitoring catches, authorities can insure that fishing in Lake Dada will remain a sustainable source of income. To supplement these revenues, innovators are also exploring the eco-tourism potential of the lake. Eco-tourism would simultaneously promote its protection while generating much-needed income for various local government programs.
By encouraging public-private partnerships between the municipality and its Agricultural and Fishery Modernization Program beneficiaries, Tuguegarao City has been able to maximize its human and financial resources, encouraging income growth and reinvestment in the city’s programs by its most marginalized residents.