One of the challenges being faced by Tuba, Benguet is that the farmers would rather choose to plant gawed (piper betle) over its one town one product, ava (taro).
Municipal Agriculturist Marlyn Cabanes said of the 15,000 farmers in the municipality, 558 of them are into ava farming with a production area of 80 hectares and producing 594 kilos annually.
But the sustainability of the root crop remains the challenge for the municipality as climate change and high cost of farm inputs forces ava farmers to diversify planting other high-value crops.
Cabanes said some farmers choose to plant betle leaf because it is easier to harvest and market it than plant ava, which will take six to seven months before harvest.
But the municipality and other agencies have been assisting ava farmers by giving planting materials and farm inputs, as well as loans without interests and other technical assistance the farmers need.
“Although ava is still there, it remains as an important part of the family, it is not removed totally, be it in small quantities at least there is consumption of the family,” Cabanes said.
Councilor Garey Behis said since Tuba decided to change its OTOP from ube to ava in 2014, they have intensified their campaign in helping farmers level up their ava production.
Behis said through the launching of the Ava Festival in 2014, which is now on its eighth year, the municipality partnered with agencies, farmers, and micro-small-medium enterprises in the town to also go into processed products out of ava.
“We wanted to encourage our farmers that ava is not only boiled or used in viands but it could be processed into cakes, pies, ice cream, chips, pizza and even empanada,” Behis said.
This is why the municipality’s festival included the ava medley which encouraged the residents to come up with the different processed foods out of the root crop.
The municipality also started trials on looking for the best variety of ava that is fit for the different barangays.
Currently, ava farmers produce the varieties bun-long or Chinese taro strains; pitik, rabok, luko strains; Mindanao strains; Delin strains; corac; and garet strains.
Most of the supply of ava comes from Barangays San Pascual, Nangalisan, Tabaan Norte, and Camp 1 which are mostly hot to semi-temperate areas in the municipality.
It is usually planted on the onset and offset of the rainy season in April to May and September to October while the harvest season can be year-round for its stalks and leaves and the tubers in April to May or November to December.
“Our vision is that if someone will think of ava, they will think of Tuba also,” Behis said.
The municipal council is currently codifying its ordinances regarding ava production and working on its agricultural code to help elevate the production of the root crop in the municipality. – Ofelia C. Empian