“When there’s a storm, our cooking pots are empty. Our students are pitiful whenever their fathers don’t earn anything. But because of seaweeds, we already have children who have finished school.”
This is the statement of Mardy Montaño, a 48-year-old woman from Sitio Balintang, Barangay Isugod, Quezon in Palawan, who is also proud mother of an agricultural engineer. She owed it to seaweed farming that she was able to send her eldest child to school, just like the rest of the 86 members of the Cherish Fisherfolks Association.
Photo credit: Inquirer
For each kilogram of seaweed, farmers earn P85. A line of fresh seaweed that measures about 25 meters long weighs about 100 kilograms. When dried, it can get as heavy as 25 to 30 kilograms.
This means that for each seaweed line, a farmer can earn up to P2,500.
Montaño said that ten lines of seaweed are sufficient to pay for the midterm exam while 20 lines are enough to pay for the final exam.
Suffice it is to say that drying fresh seaweed is very important to the farmers. Not only does it bring food to the table, but it also sends their kids to school. Thanks to the partnership of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Protect Wildlife Project, the Lutheran World Relief (LWR), and the Ecumenical Church Loan Fund (ECLOF), the association was able to acquire a solar inland dryer and floating one.
Photo credit: Inquirer
These facilities were able to improve the quality of the seaweed products and reduced the drying time that usually takes a week or two to only three days.
Before they acquired the seaweed dryer, the farmers only lay their harvested seaweed along the pier and leave them to dry.
In need of more capital
Though they already have the drying facilities, the association needs more capital so the farmers can sell their products directly to Puerto Princesa. At the moment, they do not have a vehicle to transport the products from Quezon to the capital city of Palawan, not to mention that it would take a three-hour drive to reach the city.
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