FARMER Yoy Saban shows off their onion harvest from his farm in Davao del Sur. — DA-DAVAO

THE Agriculture department’s Davao office is expanding onion production in the region with a 5,000-square meter trial farm in Monkayo, Davao de Oro.

Abel James I. Monteagudo, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Davao regional director, said the DA organized a trial planting, which it called an “onion derby,” at the site last week to determine which varieties are best suited to local conditions.

“The derby is like a contest to determine which seeds are good (for the region’s soil and climate). There are four players that planted together in the same area,” he said during the Agribiz Media Forum at SM Lanang Premier last week.

“Through this onion derby, seed companies can showcase their best varieties and technologies, and find out what variety can grow in particular climate conditions,” he added.

Onion is not a traditional crop in the region, whose main commodities are banana, coconut and other high-value fruits as well as staples such as rice, corn, and vegetables.

Mr. Monteagudo said an onion harvest is due in a few months, and arrangements are being worked out for direct purchase by SM supermarket branches in the region.

Mr. Monteagudo said the trial will eventually address issues with onion supply and demand in the region.

Magsaysay and Matanao, Davao del Sur have started producing red bulb onions at a 1,190-square meter site with assistance from the DA regional office’s P1-million Spring Development Project.

“This cropping season, I harvested 600 kilos of bulb onion. This can be sold at P130 per kilo,” farmer Yoy Saban was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the DA.

“I am encouraging my fellow B’laans to return to the community and once again cultivate their idle land,” he said.

A series of earthquakes in 2019 triggered landslides in upland areas of Magsaysay, prompting members of the B’laan indigenous group to abandon their farms.

Another farming community in Matanao has seen improved productivity after the communist insurgency in the area receded.

“That was something that could never happen when sitios in that barangay were still under control of the New People’s Army,” Ezra L. Balagtey of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion said on Friday during the closing ceremony for the three-month Peace and Development Alternative Literacy System project, an inter-agency intervention program for areas declared as “peace zones.”

“Their productivity has also improved because they can now move freely in their farms without fear of getting caught in rebel-military encounters,” Matanao Mayor Vincent F. Fernandez said.

The community is home to B’laans and migrants from the Visayas whose means of livelihood is rice and vegetable farming and propagation of fruit trees.

Rodulfo T. Lauda, chairman of Barangay Donganpekong, said traders now come to the area to buy produce without fear for their safety.

“There has been a big improvement compared to the time when there were armed men around collecting money and asking for food at gunpoint,” he said.

Davao’s regional peace council declared the region free from communist insurgency in October 2022. — Maya M. Padillo and John M. Unson