Lessons from a Vegetable Farmer

By Meliza H. Agabin, MABS Deputy Chief of Party

Mr. Joel Tormis shares his knowledge on vegetable farming

We found Mr. Joel Tormis and Mrs. Jeannie Tormis in their farm tending their fruit bearing bitter cucumber (ampalaya) plants and rows of newly sprouting cucumber plants. Along with microfinance Specialist, Mark Guillermo, and Officers from the Cantilan Bank Tagum branch, we had just come from another location along a river embankment where the couple had planted several long rows of cucumber plants.

We got our education from Mr. Tormis and his wife on a few things about raising vegetables and how cash flow generated from vegetables helps smoothen their income flows.

Mrs. Tormis shared that cucumber plants start generating income “…35-40 days from planting and we continue harvesting every other day for a period of one month”. She added that “Vegetables are a good source of regular income flow for us, and we have no difficulty paying monthly our loan with Cantilan Bank. It is important, however, to program planting other vegetables to ensure continuing income flow.”

We listened intently as Mrs. Tormis gave us an overview of how programming the planting of other vegetables help with spreading and avoiding undue risks from farming, maximizing the use of the land, and ensuring some regular income flow. This income has enabled the couple to send their two children to school. Aside from tending their own vegetable plots, Mr. Tormis also tends, on behalf of his father, a rice farm, and gets a “management fee” of 15% for doing so. On the whole, his family depends mostly from a variety of farm production activities.

Mr. Tormis is among a group of farmer-members of Dynamic Vegetable Growers Association (DEVEGA), a local association that consolidates and markets their produce at the local public market and other markets in the Visayas region. The association, as the consolidator, pays them cash as soon as they deliver their produce. Established in 2003, DEVEGA has 100 members and has a lending facility for in-kind credit limited only to seeds. Due to poor loan collection, it has had to scale down its lending operations.

Rows of cucumber plants (left photo) found at the Tormis’ Farm

In January 2012, Mr. Tormis applied for and received a PhP5,000 (US$115) loan from Cantilan Bank Tagum branch.  Payable in 6 months at 3% per month, he used the loan for planting cucumber, which has started generating income for his family. Speaking in the local language about his loan, he said,“I thought about getting a loan from the bank over and over again because I feared the process I would go through. Not having any previous borrowing experience from a bank, I had the perception it would be very difficult.  As it turned out, getting a loan with Cantilan Bank was a very easy process with simple procedures.  What I also like is that I was able to open a savings account where I can save regularly.”  Both the loan and the deposit accounts are his first with a bank.

Cantilan Bank, which has been receiving technical assistance and training from the USAID-supported Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines Microenterprise Access to Baking Services (RBAP-MABS) program, has been offering its micro-agri loan products to small farmers since 2005 through eight (8) of its fourteen (14) branches in Surigao and Davao provinces. Through its micro-agri loan product, Cantilan Bank has reached out to around 6,500 small farmers and disbursed more than 13,000 loans with a cumulative value over PhP153 million. Cantilan Bank’s Tagum branch was opened in 2011, and offers micro loan products to farmers and other borrowers in New Corella, Davao del Norte. Although Cantilan Bank only recently approved its first micro-agri loans to small farmers there, Mr. Tormis thinks there are more farmers like him who would qualify for a bank loan.