By Sarwell Meniano
PNA

TACLOBAN CITY — The Department of Tourism (DOT) is eyeing to accredit six more farm tourism sites in Eastern Visayas this year to provide a better life to farmers in this predominantly agriculture region.

The target will bring the number to nine accredited sites in the region by the end of the year or a 200 percent increase from 2018 figure, said DOT Eastern Visayas Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes.

Currently, there are only three accredited farm tourism destinations in the region – Softea Garden in Biliran, Biliran; Canaan Hills Farm and Honey Garden in Caibiran, Biliran; and Villaconzoilo Farm in Jaro, Leyte.

Prospective farm tourism sites should be in safe and in peaceful locations with roads, electricity, water; have sufficient facilities and amenities such as reception center, parking space, dining or multipurpose area, souvenir shops, accommodation and restaurants; and have trained tour guides.

“We would like to identify diverse farms so that they will not be in competition with each other. We want at least one well-developed, market-ready farm tourism sites. We’ll try to find places in the region with marine agriculture parks, a large track of coconut plantation, vegetable production area, dairy farms. Among others,” Tiopes told reporters on Thursday.

Earlier, the tourism department and the Agriculture Training Institute have identified 58 farms as potential agriculture tourism sites. These farms produce rice, dairy, coconut, aquaculture, and high-value fruits and vegetables.

“The presence of these farm sites puts the region in a good position to develop distinct and complementing farm experiences, that can be more interesting because of unique and even heart-warming stories of the farm owners themselves,” Tiopes explained.

The official said farm tourism opens up the possibilities for diversification of income for small-scale farmers while promoting sustainable agricultural systems and community involvement and participation.

The tourism department has been gathering farm owners and other stakeholders to come up with a strategic action plan that will guide them on how to develop farm tourism in the region.

“We assist them in product development, identify potential activities given the terrain, main resources, and organizational set-up that they have,” she added.

The government enacted Republic Act No. 10816 or the Farm Tourism Development Act on May 23, 2016, recognizing the value of farming in food production and providing income.

The law defines farm tourism as a practice of attracting visitors and tourists to farm areas for production, educational, recreational, purposes – which involves any agricultural or fishery-based operation or activity, and may also provide a venue for outdoor recreation and accessible family outings.

The tourism department launched the “It’s More Fun in Philippine Farms” program on Oct. 23 recognizing that “a day in the farm is both relaxing and educational.”

Eastern Visayas region is a predominantly farming area where 45 percent or 976,415 hectares of its total land area is devoted to agriculture.

Of its agricultural lands, 70 percent is planted to coconut and 20 percent is planted to rice and corn. The rest is planted to other crops, used to raise livestock and poultry, or inland fishery products. (PNA)

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