I am amazed by Teria and Lando Panis. At 76 and 78, respectively, they are one of the original partner families of the Developing Dairy Zones for Smallholder Farmers in Agusan del Norte project, co-funded by Heifer Philippines and the National Dairy Authority and implemented by Technology and Community Help Foundation, Inc. Outreach.
We were about to leave Tungao, a village in Butuan where the project is located when, by chance, we happened upon the couple enjoying a ride in a wooden wagon drawn by Sita, their water buffalo. They were hauling grass cuttings from their forage plantation for their two pregnant dairy cattle, Ruth and Easter, which they received as gifts from the project.
In five months, Ruth and Easter will deliver their first offspring. The couple is very excited and looking forward to the day when the “milk flows” from their precious soon-to-be-lactating dams. Teria and Lando expect to earn additional income from the raw milk they will sell and deliver to the local dairy cooperative.
Each cow will likely produce an average of 1.2 gallons of milk each day. With a selling price of $2.70 per gallon at the cooperative collection center, the couple expects to earn around $12 a day, or $ 3,600 a year from the cows’ milk. “An income of $12 per day for a family of two in our rural community will be more than sufficient to meet our basic day-to-day needs,” said Teria.
“Our thoughtful grandchildren lent us their helping hand through hard labor in the land preparation during forage plantation establishment, construction of our modest cattle shed and milking parlor,” said Lando. “And they watched our farm livestock when we attended project trainings. In return, we promised to extend financial support to our grandchildren by sending them to school.”
Teria and Lando are the oldest dairy farmers in the community. Some may have once doubted their capacity to withstand the physically demanding daily practices of dairying, but now it is clear how strong and capable they are. They illustrate extraordinary diligence and hard work in maintaining their small backyard dairy farm. As dairy farmers, these grandparents have inspired others in the project to enthusiastically strive to be the best dairy farmers they can be.
Accountability is the couple’s favorite Cornerstone of Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. For them, accountability is not limited to the generous and kindhearted donors. They feel it is an especially important value for the families coming next–those expecting the same gifts to be passed on to them, and the never-ending chain of families who will come through Passing on the Gift®.
Teria and Lando encourage their grandchildren to continue to assist with dairy activities before and after school, to maximize learning opportunities while they are still young. “Part of my accountability is to secure my grandchildren’s future,” Lando said. “For certain, they will inherit this dairying livelihood, and I am proud and confident to say that this will provide sufficient income for their future families, as well.”
Story and photos by Forcep Chris Dela Torre, Program Officer, Heifer Southern Philippines