Two decades ago, camote was the food staple of the residents of Brgy. Tukucan in Tinoc, Ifugao. It was the most practicable crop to plant due to the topography and soil type in the area. There was no road then, so there was no market for their camote products. It was only for the village’s consumption. According to Barangay Captain Joseph Calabson, rice was only served during special occasions and rituals.
Today, Brgy. Tukucan is a location of a booming vegetable industry, of picturesque gardens carved on hillsides and of artistic contours of carrot beds. Farmers plant high value crops thrice or even four times a year, depending on the crops planted. Their produce is brought to the trading post in La Trinidad, Benguet through the rocky unpaved road from the barangay exiting to the Buguias-Tinoc Road.
Within the barangay, there is a recently completed irrigation system dubbed Hana Ababa Communal Irrigation Project (CIP), implemented by the National Irrigation Administration which is hoped to contribute to an already productive land of hardworking Ifugaos.
“It will be of much help,” said Mr. David Domingo, president of the newly formed Irrigators’ Association in the area. Farmers will have sufficient irrigation water, most especially in summer when water from the spring comes in short supply that farmers had to schedule planting.
Aside from the construction of new reservoir tanks and installation of new pipelines, the project included the restoration of existing reservoir tanks constructed by the Department of Agriculture’s CECAP but became unoperational due to previous calamities. Funded under the regular fund of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Project (CARP), Hana Ababa CIP has a service area of 31 hectares. Its 74 farmer-beneficiaries organized themselves into Tukucan Irrigators’ Association Tinoc Inc. registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). It will be the association in-charge of the operation and maintenance of the irrigation system upon its turnover.
In the past, when camote or sweet potato was still the staple crop in the rolling lands of Tukucan, Tinoc, Ifugao, women are the key players in the farm as most of the farm activities were done by the women. During these farm activities, it was the men who looked after the house and the young children while the women went to the field. Mr. Domingo shared that women farmers cultivate camote because of their greater dexterity at it as camote cultivation requires patience, care and precision especially during harvesting.
The camote root crops after harvest were stored and consumed as nutritious food throughout the year. Rice is a rare commodity. Even in other villages who cultivated rice, it was only the rich families with vast rice lands who had enough rice supply to last throughout the year. Traditional varieties of rice planted in the terraces usually takes six to eight months before they can be harvested.
At present, the booming vegetable farming in Brgy. Tukucan facilitates the active involvement of both men and women. In the vegetable gardens along the barangay road, men are visibly busy with land preparation which usually involves manual harrowing or cultivation of the soil and formation of garden beds. They are also mostly responsible in the manual hauling of freshly harvested potatoes in sacks or cabbages in big baskets to the nearest roadside ready for transport to the nearest trading center. Women, on the other hand, are either in-charge of clearing weeds along beds of carrots or cabbages, participates in other farm activities such as harvesting of farm produce.
Barangay Captain Joseph Calabson shared that development in the area has indeed began, with the opening of the road to the barangay and the residents being able to market their produce. The barangay has also been a recipient of several government projects and programs, such as the Hana Ababa CIP, which contribute to the livelihood of the barangay. One of his fears though is the continuous decline of forest area due to land conversion. He hopes that with Brgy. Tukucan becoming a part of the Indigenous and Community Conservation Areas (ICCAs), the community will endeavor for the protection and conservation of the barangay’s forestland.