Unlike most farmers in the Philippines, Efren Caisip, 34, did not grow up in a farm. He only decided to become a farmer eight years ago when he was earning less than $200 a month in a factory in Batangas Province. When he got married, he knew his earnings would not be able to sustain his family needs. So, he decided to quit his job and venture into farming.
“When I told my wife, she asked if I knew how to farm. I didn’t. So I told her I will learn how to do it.” Efren shared. “In farming, as long as you’re a hard worker, you will not lack.”
Efren and his wife, Myla, left Batangas and moved to the town of Maragondon in Cavite Province where Myla’s parents own a parcel of agricultural land. Efren began watching how the farmers worked until he learned how to till the soil and plant crops. Initially, he only planted and sold cassava and corn. To augment the family’s income, he also worked as laborer earning $5 a day.
When Efren became part of IIRR’s Family Farming Program, he and his wife learned new farming practices. He also received seedlings for vegetables and fruits like ginger, pineapples, banana, pomelo, papaya, sugar apple, and rambutan. In 2016, he earned $400 from selling papaya and $140 from selling pineapples. Additionally, Efren received a goat from IIRR and earned $60 from the young goat he sold. Efren explained that since his pineapples were free from chemical fertilizers, his buyers enjoyed the taste and bought more from him. He built a small stand near his house to display his farm’s produce and allowed buyers to pick pineapples straight from his farm. He regularly earns income from bananas, which he brings to the market every two weeks. In 2016, he was also entrusted to take care of at least ten pigs and shares the income with the owner.
Efren shares that with his farm now growing diverse crops, his income has increased. He renovated his house and purchased appliances like a television, and an amplifier. He is also contributing money to pay for taxes on the farm, which is owned by his mother-in-law.
Despite living in a country where more people prefer employment work over farming, and where agriculture is often linked to poverty, Efren displays confidence and passion about his work, “I prefer my life now as a farmer,” he said. “I prefer it over the working in a factory.”