One outstanding farmer we met lately is a widow who could easily
beat many male counterparts in the business of farming. She
is 54-year old Lydia Lapastora of Yeban Norte, Benito Soliven,
We met her at the media presentation on biotech crops under
the auspices of the National Academy of Science and Technology
(NAST) headed by Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and the International Service
for the Acquisition of Agribiotech . Applications (ISAAA) represented
by Dr. Randy Hautea. Lydia was invited to share her experiences
in planting transgenic corn because she is an example of a farmer
who is progressive because she readily adopts the latest technologies.
When transgenic corn, more popularly called GMO or genetically
modified organism, was finally allowed to be commercially planted
in the Philippines in 2005, Lydia was one of the first adoptors
and has been growing the same two times a year (sometimes three
times) on 10 hectares of farmland.
She remembers that there were so many people who were against
biotech crops, including a priest in her hometown who told his
parishioners not to plant the so-called GMOs. But she didn’t
heed the admonition and is glad she didn’t.
There are actually two transgenic corn varieties that Lydia
is growing. One is the Bt corn in which the genes of the Bacillus
thuringiensis (a bacterium) is implanted in the plant so that
it is not attacked by the every destructive corn earworm. The
other GMO corn is the so-called herbicide-tolerant variety.
This enables the farmer to save on the cost of weeding. When
the corn plantation is sprayed with herbicide, only the weeds
are killed and not the corn. Since manual weeding is very expensive,
the use of herbicide makes it easier and less expensive to weed
a farm, especially when a big area of several hectares is involved.
With herbicide, weeding a big area can be done in just a short
Last year, Lydia planted the two transgenic corn two times
and averaged 6.4 tons per hectare. That is almost double the
average of 3.57 tons per hectare harvested by corn farmers planting
conventional corn. On the average, she realized an additional
profit of P11,000 per hectare as a-result of planting transgenic
corn. Since she planted two times on the same area, she really
made a substantial income from the GMOs.
Because of her success in growing corn, Lydia has been invited
on so many occasions to speak on her experience in growing corn
in particular and farming in general. One of her latest speaking
engagements was before land reform beneficiaries during the
25th anniversary of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
When she got married to Ricardo Lapastora in 1971, they started
literally from scratch. She recounts that they started farming
by planting corn on one-half hectare. She remembers very well
that from that first planting, they grossed the princely sum
of P600. And what did they do with the six hundred pesos? They
used it to buy a 4,000 square meter farm from her brother.
The couple also planted the 4,000 square meters to corn and
made P800 from their first harvest. They used the income to
buy their first carabao which also cost them exactly P800. They
continued to plant corn and continued to reinvest their income
in new farmlands and in other projects that enabled them to
make more money.
For instance, in 1996 the couple made a net income of P20,000
from one corn harvest. Instead of buying a new farm, they bought
six native female cattle which they dispersed to relatives and
friends for them to take care and to breed. Under the scheme,
if the dispersed animal is still very young when it was dispersed,
the caretaker will keep the first calf while the next would
be given to the Lapastoras, and so on.
Up to this day, even if Lydia is now a widow (her husband died
in 2005), her dispersal project is continuing. She has at present
15 cattle breeders distributed to different caretakers. If her
share is a male calf, she would sell it. But if it is a female,
she would disperse it to a caretaker she trusts. Aside from
cattle, she also disperses carabaos. At present she has five
female carabaos being taken care of by other farmers.
Another money-making activity is financing other corn farmers
who need money for their inputs. She usually provides loans
to several farmers cultivating a total of 100 hectares. For
each hectare, she advances P20,000. The amount is returned after
six months with an interest of 20 percent.
When they were already making a lot money from farming, they
were confident enough to borrow money from the bank to buy three
big brand new tractors. They used these to prepare the farms
of other farmers for a fee. They used to charge P1,800 for plowing
one hectare. When her husband had become sickly, Lydia decided
to give the tractors to her children for them to operate. The
children now have their own families and are farming on their
own. Lydia, of course still uses the tractors to till her 10
hectares but she has to pay for the fuel.
Thanks to corn, Lydia, who only finished sixth grade in school,
has really gone a long way in achieving financial success, considering
the fact that she and her husband started farming on just half
a hectare after marriage in 1971. She now farms 10 hectares,
lives in a big house, travels in a late model car and has trucks
for hauling her corn harvests