The Department of Science and Technology IX (DOST-IX) through the Provincial S&T Office of Zamboanga del Norte (PSTO-ZDN) facilitated the benchmarking activity of LGU-Mutia to various innovative horticulture projects in Benguet and Bulacan on 1-3 August 2022. The team from LGU-Mutia was led by no less than its Municipal Mayor, Engr. Lorrymir S. Adasa.
The benchmarking activity included visits to various innovative projects in horticulture—cut flowers and high-value vegetables—assisted by DOST. In Benguet, the team visited the flower and strawberry farms in La Trinidad and high-value vegetable farms in Mankayan and Atok. In Bulacan, the team visited some projects of LGU-Guiguinto in its "Garden City" initiative.
Mayor Adasa said Mutia can learn a lot from Benguet, known by its moniker as the "Salad Bowl Capital" of the country. Mutia has a lot in common with municipalities in Benguet—situated at a relatively higher altitude with colder temperatures. These are important elements in the production of high-value crops and cut flowers.
"Just like the beautiful province of Benguet, I envisioned my town to be one of the major producers of quality highland vegetables and ornamentals in our province as it has a similar climate; and through the application of the latest and relevant farming technologies, I believe we can realize that," Mayor Adasa said during the courtesy call with the DOST-CAR team headed by Dr. Pepita S. Picpican, assistant regional director. He added that their town is one of the highland municipalities located in the northeastern part of Zamboanga del Norte province, bordering Mt. Malindang Range.
Some of the innovative horticulture projects visited included the tissue culture laboratory for export quality cut flowers like Malaysian mums of Benguet Fresh Produce Multipurpose Cooperative in Alno, La Trinidad and greenhouse farming with manual and automated drip irrigation systems for high-value vegetables like lettuce of different varieties, celery, basil, pak choi, and carrots of Reinzi Natania Farm and JLM Farm in Mankayan, Benguet, respectively.
The team also visited the Agri-based Technology Business Incubator or Innovation Center (ATBI/IC) of Benguet State University. The center showcased some of the initiatives and interventions of the institutions to assist local strawberry farmers in La Trinidad. The team also met local strawberry farmers who generously shared their best farming practices and techniques in high-value crop production. The visit to these projects was facilitated by Melecio Balangen, Jr. of PSTO-Benguet.
"The purpose of this benchmarking activity is to learn from the best practices of successful enterprises, which we can hopefully duplicate in our province," said Nuhman M. Aljani, provincial director of PSTO-ZDN, who together with his team – Marc G. Cachin and Mark Vincent J. Baliña – accompanied LGU-Mutia in this activity.
"We are happy that LGU-Mutia, through the leadership of Mayor Adasa, has this interest in making their municipality thrive in horticulture. In PSTO-ZDN, we are always ready to provide the needed support to realize that vision," Aljani added.
Meanwhile, in the Province of Bulacan, the team was warmly welcomed in the Municipality of Guiguinto by no less than the Municipal Mayor, Atty. Agatha Paula A. Cruz. At a brief welcome ceremony attended by other municipal officials and heads of various departments in the locality, Mayor Cruz quipped, "We are now convinced that we are on the right track as another town is benchmarking our practices and initiatives."
In Guiguinto, the team visited the Innovative Laboratory (iLAB) for Tissue Culture for Ornamental Plants. The project is a joint initiative between the LGU and DOST-III through PSTO-Bulacan.
According to PSTO Bulacan Director Angelita Q. Parungao, the iLAB project is included as one of the big-ticket initiatives of DOST dubbed as "21 in 2021," citing its huge contribution and impact. The iLAB project provides technical assistance and know-how to ornamental plant farmers in the municipality of Guiguinto through the tissue culture laboratory intended to produce and propagate hybrid and disease-free ornamental plants.
The three-day benchmarking activity was realized through the strong support of DOST-CAR through PSTO-Benguet and DOST-III through PSTO-Bulacan.