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Feeding communities, engaging farmers into agricultural enterprise

BAGUIO CITY, August 5, 2021 – The Department of Agriculture (DA) – Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) ups its quest to not only provide food on the table but also equip beneficiaries to become agri-preneurs.

As the pandemic hit Cordillera communities with lockdowns and movement control restrictions, the DA–SAAD CAR found a way to tide communities over months of isolation and slowly build a future for farmer groups willing to learn the business trade.

DA-CAR Regional Executive Director and SAAD Focal Person Cameron Odsey said the program is targeted for the communities not reached by regular programs by the DA and other state agencies.

“Sa SAAD we are operating in the poorer communities, yung mga area na ito, sila ang hindi nararating ng regular programs, kung meron man, patak-patak lang or paminsan-minsan lang, not only in the DA but the other agencies. In these communities where we have implemented special projects, sometimes, the primary concern is food sufficiency. Sapat ba ‘yung inaani natin para lang kainin ng bawat household sa barangay? So in these areas, it is really prioritizing that they are able to produce enough for their own needs, secondary na lang if meron silang excess at meron sila ibebenta. Sa livelihood projects natin, it will meet their needs, siyempre unahin pangangalingan nila sa household then kung may sobra sila, ay ibebenta para may additional income.” Odsey explained.

[We are operating with poorer communities, these areas are the ones not reached by the regular programs of the government and if they are, it is only a small intervention and far and in between, not only with the DA but other agencies. In these communities where we have implemented special projects, the primary concern is food sufficiency. Is their harvest enough for their households?  The SAAD Program prioritizes that they can produce enough for their own needs; it is only secondary that they are able to sell. Do our livelihood projects meet their needs, of course, their daily needs should come first and if there is a surplus that is when they can sell for additional income.]

As of July 2021, the program has so far helped organize a total of 147 farmers’ cooperative and associations (FCA) in the region covering Apayao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province. The FCAs have registration and documents, enabling them to avail more programs and opportunities in the future.

The beneficiaries, which are now at 7,150, received 148 livelihood projects covering 138 barangays with 35 identified as End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) areas.

For 2020 there were only 73 FCAs for the three SAAD areas with 4,796 farmers benefited with 84 livelihood projects from 84 barangays with 14 identified as ELCAC areas.

Capacity-building activities were also conducted to equip beneficiaries with skills to maintain and sustain their SAAD livelihood projects.

Capacity Building Efforts  

The program aims to shift farmers to become agricultural entrepreneurs, thus equipping various capacity building activities.

Some of the activities are Organizational Development and Management [ODM], Bookkeeping, Financial Management, Package of Technology for Vegetables Poultry and Livestock, Agro Farmer Field School for Fruit Trees, and Farmer Livestock School for Swine.

Dir. Odsey said setting up an enterprise is not that simple “It’s a whole process that you also have to learn, we are doing these through their FCA, we have to train them on how to do business especially that we have a value chain approach – meaning we look at the whole process, planning what to plant, taking care of crops, then how to sell, it all starts with planning, knowing what you will plant for home consumption and what is for business.”

He also said the SAAD Program often gives more than enough resources which can accommodate both needs. “We are trying to upgrade the capacities and capabilities to also allow them to do business. If we need our farmers to survive in the present environment, they have to learn. We should also be teaching them that before you even think of selling to the market, you should do an assessment”.

Tiding Them Over the Early Days of the Pandemic

In the early months of the pandemic in 2020, the SAAD faced challenges in movement restrictions which hampered deliveries and program goals.

The program however was successful in providing essential commodities of food for beneficiaries during the months of lockdown, allowing communities to consume production yield for daily sustenance, thwarting the problem of scarcity in food supply.

In Kalinga, Maling Agriculture and Fishery Organization (MAFO) member Virginia Rufino said the program helped her family and constituents especially during the pandemic.

The swine and poultry intervention in 2019 aided daily living from which her family earned Php 28,000. They also used the income to purchase feeds to sustain their livelihood.

However, some members of the group with no means of transporting feeds from the market due to restrictions by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) were forced to sell and butcher their hogs. For the chicken interventions, their eggs also greatly helped provide food on their table.

In Apayao, PIAS (Poblacion, Imelda, Alem, San Luis) Farmers’ Association (FA) member Rosalyn Vea said “Malagip ko iti rigat mi idi mangrugi lockdown, uray igatang iti bagas arig na awan. Ngem idi nakaawat kamin iti livelihood nga agapo SAAD idi July, nabang-aran nak bilang maysa nga ina kin bilang maysa nga farmer ta adda meten iti paguyudan nu kasjay nga agkur-kurang pagsapulan mi kin makatulungak aglawlaw nu tay agkasapulan da iti quail egg nga agserbi a kanen da.”

[I remember the struggle during the start of the COVID-19 lockdown; we can’t even afford to buy rice. But when we received the interventions from the SAAD program, I felt lighter as a mother and a farmer because I have an additional source of income. I am also happy to produce food for our consumers by selling quail eggs, a valuable contribution to our community as well.]

In Mountain Province, Doccos Farmers Organization, Inc. member Palonga Mangusan said, “Mayat kami tay maid na-CoVid ken dakami tay talaga nga sha nan sustansiya mi tay insibsibo mi san inyala yu tay dumakkel da ket limitado nan kuti gapu is lockdown ket naibatog isnan pinag-aani sunga sha et nan abasto mi.”

[We remained free from the CoVid-19 virus because we were sustained by the chicken intervention from the program at the height of lockdown. Also, the stocks obtained market weight in time with our local rice harvest season, thus, became our supply.”]

DA-SAAD in Apayao, Mountain Province, and Kalinga provinces

DA-SAAD CAR Operations Officer Balag-ey Claver said, “We experienced setbacks from both the pandemic and the ASF from last year, deliveries were delayed because of restricted movement control measures in the local government units, while our swine program was also hit with the ASF, now we are focused on capacity building of our FCAs, so they are better equipped to overcome these challenges.”

Today, the setbacks are being addressed to keep the program on track with its goal to create better opportunities for SAAD organized FCAs in CAR.

Since the SAAD project started in 2016, the three areas of concern for the region have grown to become what the program aims to achieve.

In Mountain Province, there are 53 FCAs composed of 2,798 beneficiaries with 52 livelihood associations covering 34 barangays, 15 of which are identified as End Local Communist Armed Conflict [ELCAC] areas.

In Apayao, there are 48 FCAs composed of 1,695 beneficiaries with 51 livelihood projects covering 68 barangays, two of which are considered as ELCAC areas.

In Kalinga, there are now 46 FCAs composed of 2,657 beneficiaries provided with 45 livelihood projects covering 35 barangays, of which 18 are identified as ELCAC areas.

As farmers learn to delve into enterprise, the SAAD program continues to empower, assist and enjoin communities to become part of the new breed of farmers, ready for the world of development and entrepreneurship. ###


Writer: Maria Elena Catajan, Information Officer 1 – Cordillera

Sources: Information Officers for Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Apayao

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