CATANDUANES, OCTOBER 05, 2020 – Brgy. San Marcos, a community where some members belong to an organized group of beneficiaries of the SAAD Program in Catanduanes was declared the champion for the Halaman ni Mang Isko Program – Clean and Green Barangay competition. Initiated in January 2020, the search accommodated a total of 24 barangays in the municipality of San Miguel, Catanduanes, where SAAD covered barangays such as San Marcos, Tobrehon, Balatohan, Kilikilihan, Dayawa, and JMA belong.
The San Marcos Vegetable Farmers Association, one of the SAAD organized associations, was established in 2018 and has been registered officially at DOLE on January 16, 2020. The said association is composed of 36 members, mostly housewives who tend to a 5-hectare land area. The women of Brgy. San Marcos is in charge of their families while managing their community farm and garden. San Marcos is a small barangay that can be reached only by foot for about 1-2 hours from the city, or through own motorcycle or rented (habal-habal) for about 30-45 minutes, if the road is passable after crossing the Pagsangahan river to reach the barangay.
In coordination with the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO), Municipal Nutrition and Action Office (MNAO), Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (MDRRMO), Municipal Planning and Development Office (MPDO), Rural Health Unit (RHU), and Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO), the participating barangays were judged according to their performance in solid waste management, cleanliness (clean and green barangay), health and sanitation, and maintaining a communal garden with a nursery.
The said association received implements for their 2018 – Vegetable and Pig Production Package and 2019-2020 – Vegetable Production Project, where they developed livelihood activities such as abaca farming, vegetable production, and swine raising, among others.
With cleanliness and sanitation as fundamental considerations in the competition, studies on independent agricultural food production mention the outcome of practicing backyard gardening, and community-based nurseries make solid waste management more efficient. Community gardens also transform idle spaces within the community into a green space. These agricultural activities then can lead the entire community to develop a sense of ownership and ignite public space values and ethics.
A closer look at SAAD-Catanduanes dynamics of relationships: A participatory governance
The archipelagic nature of the Philippines exposes development actors to a wide spectrum of socio-cultural differences. One can find each community different from the other communities in terms of customs, cultures, and/or subcultures despite being located in the same province or geographic area. Hence, effective sustainable development and community organizing in the Philippine setting require intricate socio-cultural, structural considerations. The goal is to increase the social capital of a community, which has long been deteriorating because of poverty.
Data on production can only go so far in defining sustainable and impactful development. Hence it is important to also examine the socio-cultural structure of a development project implementation. Considering the stakeholders’ and development actors’ relationship dynamics can reveal how the community understands a proposed development program and their shared consciousness about its trajectory.
Increasing social capital means blurring huge disparities with regard to the distribution of opportunities between urban and rural communities. According to Labro (2019), “Increasing the social capital of a poor community is critical in changing the mindset of people that it is possible for them to achieve social transformation through collective action. If they are given the financial tools and other key resources, they can be further motivated to take initiative and work individually and as a group to initiate advocacies.”
The Village Eco-Governance Development Framework (VEGDF) is a development framework that anchors its approach to environmental and social justice. It utilizes a micro perspective of organizing for development which in contrast with conventional approaches – focuses on the unique experiences of the actors and stakeholders at the grassroots level. In his paper, Labro mentioned one compelling methodology involving the VEGDF which is participatory governance. He pointed out the importance of the stakeholders’ understanding of the developmental propositions offered by the state or agency to ensure community participation. Operating in the structural and cultural facets, he further mentions objective decentralization or the delegation of power from the central authority where the governance design compels each actor involved in the program to be motivated by trust and confidence to lead work towards a common goal.
In the case of San Marcos Vegetable Farmers Association, involvement and initiative have started to develop between the SAAD team and the beneficiaries by exhibiting farmers’ ownership and commitment through mutual efforts in managing the program.
Their participation consists of managing and tending to the community nursery and other agricultural activities, and administrative tasks such as monthly meetings conducted by the members to discuss agenda and plans. The farmers also take the lead in managing monetary concerns by allocating funds from the revenue, and expansion.
The SAAD provincial arm on the other hand speaks the language of the locals and comes from the same region. This is fundamental to complementarity as it supports the daily interactions of the developmental sector. The staff originating from the same locality blurs the division of authority between the providers of assistance and the subject community.
For the SAAD staff, the importance of consistent communication between the implementers and the beneficiaries play a significant role in community participation. “To implement the project and have [a] harmonious relationship[s] between our beneficiaries/farmers, constant communication is very important. We as coordinators must be flexible at all times to meet the farmer’s needs. We must be patient and cheerful because being an area coordinator needs a lot of courage and [a] positive attitude. We face different people every day, we must have the willingness to make them see that the program is there to help them so that they will actively participate in the activities of the program,” shared Ms. Melrose Bernal (SAAD Provincial Coordinator) and Nelly Emerenciana (SAAD Area Coordinator).
The above mentioned structural and socio-cultural practices between the actors and the community in fostering consent and shared consciousness invite voluntary participation among organization members and the whole community. These practices cultivate a sense of ownership, trust, commitment, and mutual empowerment which drive the whole community to perform beyond expectation as they rediscover and reinforce their innate capacities throughout the development journey. ###
Jessamae Gabon, DA SAAD NPMO, Public Relations, and Communications Officer
Sources and Photos:
DA-SAAD Region 5
Maribeth Mangalino, DA-SAAD Region 5, Planning Officer
Melrose Bernal, SAAD Provincial Coordinator
Nelly Emerenciana, SAAD Area Coordinator
Labro, E. C., Jr. 2019. Village Eco-Governance Developmental Framework. National Anti-Poverty Commission. Quezon City.
Evans, P. 1999. Government action, social capital and development: reviewing the evidence on synergy [PDF]. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0305750X96000216 in October 2020.
Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program Online ISSN: 2718-9791 Published by the SAAD National Program Management Office Editorial Board Contact | Follow @da.saadprogram