Mushroom Farmer educates self on El Niño, enjoys bountiful harvest

Posted by: RAFIS DA6 | Posted at: July 5, 2024

In Cabatuan, Iloilo, a supportive father, a wonderful husband, and an innovative farmer, carved out a niche as an example of resilience in climate change, Dante Berina II, president of Cabatuan Organic Farmer Practitioners Association (COFPA). “I know that the agriculture sector will be the first to be hit by El Nino; in this sense, we need to study our opponent (climate change) and understand its characteristics to win the battle,” Dante explains.

Dante’s flight into agriculture began long before he settled in Iloilo. He was raised by parents who tilled the soil in Bicol, so farming was ingrained in his blood. When he married an Ilongga in 2011, his journey took him to Cabatuan, Iloilo, a fertile ground where he cultivated crops and a thriving agricultural community. Initially, Dante focused on native chicken production, supported by grants from the Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF). His farm quickly became a model of diversity, hosting various high-value crops and livestock. His kids were also involved; the farm became their training ground for understanding life’s blessings. Dante led the COFPA and shared his knowledge and passion with 23 fellow farmers committed to sustainable practices.

Central to Dante’s ability to navigate El Nino’s challenges is his dedication to continuous learning and adaptation. Empowered by knowledge, Dante educates himself on the adverse effects of El Nino through daily monitoring of PAG-ASA advisories and avid listenership of the DA Western Visayas Kadalag- an sang Agrikultura program. These sources provide crucial insights into climate change impacts and the latest agricultural technologies, enabling Dante to proactively adjust his farming practices and mitigate risks posed by changing weather patterns.

Dante soon realized that mushroom farming required meticulous attention to detail. From maintaining precise humidity levels to ensuring optimal ventilation and temperature control, every aspect of the process demanded his vigilance. In the face of El Nino’s heat and drought, Dante fortified his mushroom farm with insulated housing and UV protection, shielding his delicate crop from adverse weather conditions.

The initial stages were fraught with challenges. As El Nino intensified, water became scarce, prompting Dante to source water from neighboring deep wells and resort to mineral water for misting—an essential practice to prevent contamination. Despite El Nino’s impact reducing yields by 30-40%, Dante’s perseverance bore fruit. His first modest 900-gram harvest steadily grew to a record-breaking 11 kilograms daily, selling per kilogram at 300 pesos, marking a turning point in his agricultural venture. His persistence was also rewarded as an overwhelming number of consumers flocked to buy his products after few mushroom growers stopped their operation due to extreme heat. “Determining the right balance of environmental factors is crucial,” Dante explains. His dedication was evident in the daily rituals of misting and monitoring. His commitment to quality and consistency paid off as demand for his mushrooms surged; strengthened by support from the local government unit and agricultural technicians, Dante significantly profited from mushrooms. Cabatuan’s establishment of a market kiosk and Dante’s embrace of online selling platforms broadened his market reach, connecting him with consumers eager for locally sourced and sustainable produce.


Essential to Dante’s success is his role within COFPA, where he mentors fellow farmers and fosters a culture of innovation and resilience. COFPA members, including two new mushroom farmers inspired by Dante’s example, have thrived amidst El Nino’s challenges through collaborative efforts and shared resources. Access to agricultural services and ongoing training programs has empowered these farmers to adapt to changing climates and market demands, ensuring sustainable livelihoods for future generations.

Dante’s vision extends beyond weathering El Nino; with plans to expand his mushroom production facilities, including renovating old chicken houses to accommodate 10,000 fruiting bags, Dante envisions a future where sustainable agriculture thrives in Cabatuan. His commitment to sustainability is further evidenced by his use of spent substrate for vermicomposting, turning waste into a valuable resource in the agricultural cycle. He remains optimistic about the future as he prepares for integration into the Department of Agriculture’s F2C2 clustering approach, connecting his produce with institutional buyers. Anticipating a substantial grant to enhance his mushroom facilities, Dante envisions a strong supply chain that meets market demand and fosters economic growth within his community. “My fight against El Nino comes with gearing up with knowledge and a positive mindset, looking at every challenge as an opportunity, and not being afraid of failures; in life, we get 99% failure and only 1% success, but we still thrive”, Dante explains.

Dante’s commitment to sustainable practices and community empowerment has secured his family’s future and inspired other farmers to embrace change and forge a path toward agricultural resilience. As El Nino tested the limits of traditional farming, Dante’s mushroom farm emerged as a source of income and proof of the enduring spirit of Filipino farmers in the face of adversity.###(MCMCBuala/DARAFIS 6).