Henry Cambangay, Smallholder Farmer in Bohol, The Philippines
Henry Cambangay works hard to increase the productivity of his rice farm. But he’s also concerned about his neighbors. The 55-year-old farmer wants his fellow farmers to advance with him because rice is a means of income for these South East Asian rice farmers. Their livelihood depends on it. Henry’s farm is located in San Miguel, Bohol which is known as the rice bowl of Central Visayas in the Philippines. Some quick facts about Henry:
- Grows rice on a 2-hectare farm in Bohol, The Philippines
- Has been farming rice for more than 13 years
- Is the proud father of 4 children and grandfather to 7 grandchildren
Click on the story updates below to follow Henry’s journey with Better Life Farming
Updates of Henry Cambangay’s story:
What came first, the seed or the egg?
Even in my wildest dreams, I would have never thought that there is this much potential in my field – in my business. Today, I think differently. My success makes me dream bigger because I no longer have to farm as a means of living. I now have the freedom to invest part of my income in new markets. My goal: self-sufficiency. By introducing additional sources of income to my farming business, I no longer only depend on a good rice harvest. That’s why I have started to breed pigs, turkeys and ducks along with cultivating rice. I am even a proud owner of a poultry incubator to hatch and raise chickens. I feel confident taking this next step. I no longer feel like a rice smallholder. I feel like an entrepreneur.
Shifting to a higher gear
Modern agricultural machinery makes my life a lot easier because I no longer have to do everything manually. This spares me a lot of hard work, man power and time. Today, I use a tractor or turtle tiller to prepare my field for rice cultivation. When it’s time for planting in the dry season, I can use a rice seeder. In the rainy season however, I plant manually because the seeder may damage the rice seedlings. During harvest, I use a thresher that easily separates the rice grains from the stalk. I am very happy because these machines help me to improve my farming operations entirely and leave me with more time to spend with my family and friends.
Good connections empower growth
Believe it or not but my cellphone is a very important farming tool in my daily work out in the fields. It makes it easy for me to reach out to my family in case of an emergency or an important situation I need help with. At the same time, it allows me to hire field workers when there’s a lot of work, check the weather, access agricultural advice or contact off takers when they can pick up my yield to process. I am also responsible for the irrigation system in my farming community. During land preparation when more water is needed, other smallholder farmers call me directly for help from areas with less water.
Mother nature gives and takes
No matter how much sweat and time I invest in my rice fields, there are simply things I have no influence on and that is mother nature. Extreme weather is something that can destroy an entire seasons work. This means I have to start all over again. But before I joined Better Life Farming, I lacked the money to buy new seeds and quickly recover. Now, I have a safety net. I have insurance. This helps me to stay in the business even after a bad event and secure my income to lead a better life together with my family.
Rice farming is a family business
My typical day starts before sunrise. I have a cup of coffee and some snacks before I head of to my rice fields on my motorcycle. I tidy up the paddy fields, prepare the seedbeds or cover the holes in the embankment so that I can bank the water. Later, my wife joins me on the field to support me. During planting and harvesting for example, my wife helps me to supervise the field workers we hire to help. She also takes care of the catering for the field works. It wouldn’t work without her. Rice farming is our business and we make a great team together.
Small land. Big challenges.
Three challenges that have a direct impact in my life as a rice smallholder are pests and crop diseases, climate change and the lack of credible off-takers. Pests in the field affect the quality of my rice and are responsible for a lower yield at the end of a season. Extreme weather like typhoons is even worse because it can flood and damage my entire field, leaving me nothing to harvest at all. At the end of the day, selling my harvest for a reasonable price is also not easy because off-takers try to push down the price.