Engineer Wilfredo Lanusga hails from a family of farmers in Bicol. With diploma tucked under his arm, he ventured into the city and applied for an overseas job and was hired as a mechanical engineer spending a combined 15 years in Arabian Technical Contracting Company and Algo-Saibi Enterprises in Riyadh and Libya respectively.
Little did he dream that he will go back to farming. But this time, with an investment he earned abroad and skills he learned to boot.
His enterprising wife Lilac encouraged him to go back to his roots in Barangay Hibago, Ocampo, Camarines Sur, in 1997. Fred, as he is endearingly called, did not want to soil his hands again as the life of his kababayans in the province has not changed. “I left them living ordinary lives as duck raisers and now I get to see them remain as ordinary duck raisers,” he laments.
Besides, he wants to remain in Manila. How can he manage the duck farm from afar?
But Lilac knows how to convince her husband. Her entrepreneurial skills and Fred’s indefatigable spirit are enough drive to keep them moving. Unwilling husband and venturesome wife bought six trays of fresh duck eggs which they cooked into salted eggs. It was an instant hit for their friends and neighbors who got to taste the salted eggs as free samples.
They know how to repay the husband-and-wife team in return. Orders for salted eggs started to pour in.
“Why can’t we cook additional duck eggs if there are many repeat orders?” Lilac challenged Fred.
After the taste test, customers from as far as other towns come visiting Bgy. Hibago, now fast becoming popular by word of mouth – all because of the lowly ducks’ tasty salted eggs.
Until one day, Fred finally shouted: “Eureka! I discovered a new formula: rice-based farm+ducks=success.
Fred combines his saved earnings from abroad, dwindling fast by the day, with the family asset of three hectares of rice farm. The engineer and the farmer in him egged him to develop new skills in duck raising.
He finally decides to attend the skills training seminar that the Bicol Integrated Agricultural Research Center (BIARC) of the Department of Agriculture-Regional Field Unit 5, in coordination with the local government of Camarines Sur, has been launching regularly.
“BIARC does not approve my attending the seminar because I was based in Manila at that time. I reasoned out I am an engineer by profession but I am a farmer’s son.”
The BIARC staff screened and interviewed him. Fred was chosen one of the two farmers in their barangay to attend the seminar. Cora Orbon, Assistant Manager of the Technical Program of BIARC, attests they admitted Fred as a program beneficiary because they can see the commitment in his actions. Fred likewise promises to share a counterpart in the business that he is conceptualizing.
BIARC gives Fred their full trust and confidence that he was awarded 500 live ducks. His counterpart was the duck house plus more live ducks he bought from his own money. He also opens his farm as an experimental farm where BIARC opted to put an irrigation system.
Being a hands-on student, Fred learns how to differentiate one egg from the other seggregating the younger ones that he later cooks into salted eggs and older ones into the native, delicacy balut.
“Return of investment in duck farming is 500 percent,” Orbon discloses.
Fred now resorts to “integrated farming” where he only not produces palay but he also raises vegetables, and livestock – including his golden ducks, of course.
Alternative jobs related to farming and food production in the barangay have been created. Fred discovers that he can raise ducks and at the same time continue farming in his three-hectare property. He learns from the BIARC seminar that after harvesting the palay, he can release the ducks into the farm to eat the snails and insects. No time is wasted in integrated farming because palay production and duck raising can be done alternately.
Aside from saving on feeds – because the ducks feed not only on the snails and insects but also on the grass that malleably grows in the farm, Fred discovers he no longer needs to weed it out. The ducks do it for him.
His ducks give him organic fertilizer with the waste product that naturally makes the palay and vegetables grow in abundant green.
Fred expands his business by buying 358 ducks in addition to the 128 ducks that BIARC entrusts him. Now with a powerhouse of 500 ducks, his duck farm now feeds more towns in Bicol such as Sorsogon, Pili, Tigaon, and even reaches to as far as Laguna, Manila and Baguio City.
“We have a customer in Baguio who orders duck eggs weekly. From 10,000 eggs, he made a repeat order of 20,000 duck eggs,” Fred chuckles.
He also raises ducklings as his neighbor-farmers and caretakers buy duck chicks from him. He sells the female ducklings at Php 23 each; a “value added” of 15 male ducklings are given to the buyer.
A duck egg that is made into balut costs Php 3.50 up to Php 4.50 each depending on the egg size. Fred pays it forward by teaching his kababayans how to make balut.
He attests that the balut business gives him more earnings. He has to wait, on the other hand, for three weeks to make salted eggs, and thus, profit comes only after three weeks.
In a few months, Fred’s farm became the model farm of the Department of Agriculture. He becomes a farmer-cooperator, eventually, of the Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CPAR).
Due to increasing demand, Fred now has asked his neighbors to also raise ducks. He buys from 3,000 up to 5,000 duck eggs daily to augment their regular production of duck eggs. Egg orders amount to 60,000 weekly.
Fred now drives a new car. He is also able to build a new house and sends his two daughters, aged 11 and 14, to school. His farmer neighbors like him have also been enjoying their ducks that lay golden eggs. BIARC’s Orbon calls this venture a “community business.”
BIARC proposes to build an infrastructure support in Fred’s barangay to teach more farmer-cooperators to develop their food products. Like Fred, they may use Php 20,000 as a start-up capital.
Fred’s business is now registered as Golden Egg Enterprises.
Lilac, meanwhile, remains the dutiful wife who holds the family purse and runs the duck business with Fred. (Gloria Esguerra Melencio, reprinted from The Philippine Entrepreneur)