What used to be a cluster of swampy and unproductive fishponds owned by the LGU of Magallanes, Agusan del Norte has metamorphosed into a vibrant and thriving community which is now called Poblacion, Magallanes Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) or POMARC. Situated in the center of the town, by Agusan River delta, POMARC is bounded on the north by Butuan Bay and Barangay Caloc-an; on the south by Agusan River and Barangay Guiasan; on the East by Barangay Taod-oy and on the west by Butuan City. It has a total land area of 501 hectares and a total population of 2,109 covering 378 households.
The ARC has a scope of 141.5860 hectares in land acquisition and distribution (LAD). Accomplishment along this component is 100%, all distributed to 110 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). It is noteworthy that the beneficiaries has already fully-paid their amortizations to the land ahead of schedule.
A Prawn Producing ARC
Owing to the quality of the marine product, the Baug CARP Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative (BCBMPC), the existing agrarian reform beneficiaries cooperative in the area, was offered credit services by various formal financing institutions due to the big potential of the product for export. Even a major supplier of prawn feeds extended liberal credit terms. The Credit Assistance Program-Program Beneficiaries Development (CAP-PBD) of DAR and the Agrarian Reform Support Project (ARSP) also provided credit to finance prawn production. With these array of credit sources available, more than PhP 30 Million were availed since the beginning of the cooperative’s operations in 1997. With this relatively large amount of availment, the cooperative has established a milestone in credit history, for having accomplished a 100% repayment of all loans availed even before maturity. The cooperative expanded its activities and services by renting and operating some idle fishponds located not only in neighboring villages but also in other municipalities in the CARAGA region. POMARC is now considered as a big exporter of quality prawns.
The Baug CARP Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative (BCBMPC)
Prior to land distribution, the ARBs initially formed an association - the Magallanes Aquaculture Development Association (MACDA) in 1987, composed of 110 members in their bid to own the land that they were cultivating. Shortly after the issuance of the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA), MACDA was registered as a cooperative in 1995, thus the Baug CARP Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative (BCMPC) which now has a membership of 140 came into being. From a PhP 404,681 capital build-up (CBU) in 1997, it rose to Php 25,940,112.40 as of this writing. It has a total asset of more than PhP 121,220,310 (to verify updated figures na “as of today”). The significant increase in capital build-up was attributed to a very effective policy on internal resource mobilization.
Marketing of ARBs produce was done through the cooperative. The policy facilitated the 100% repayment of production loan and subsequently the increase of the individual member’s CBU, by deducting PhP 5.00 from every kilo that is marketed by the cooperative.
The cooperative also provides other services to its members, such as production loan – cash and farm inputs; rice trading and savings program. These services not only benefitted the members but also the entire ARC as well.
The organization played a major role in achieving the ARC objectives by extending micro-finance services to ARB farmers in all municipalities. The BCBMPC has come a long way, it has attained tremendous economic development which serves as a model for other organizations. Their leaders have the vision and the will to pursue their plans and programs. They met every challenge with strong determination and failure, with optimism.
POMARC’s Success Contributors
The ARC has also been recipient of various enhancement trainings and seminars conducted by DAR and NGOs which have made them relatively empowered. They have an effective organizational structure manned by officers and the core management team who are competent and dedicated. As a result of its efficient and progressive business operations, the cooperative has attracted many ARB prawn farmers from neighboring area to engage with them.
Development needs on physical infrastructure were provided not only by the MLGU and concerned line agencies but from foreign donors as well. The DPWH constructed a footbridge for easy access of prawn farmers to their area of cultivation. The EU-funded ARSP constructed a multi-purpose building for use as venue for meetings and as storage of their farm inputs and implements.
Since it was launched in 1997, it has made steady strides towards development. Much has been achieved in a relatively short period of time as compared to other ARCs launched earlier. ARC Level Development is at Level 5.
The success of POMARC did not happen overnight. It is a result of a long genuine struggle to own the land they cultivated for a long time. Their persistence and unwavering desire to improve their quality of life strengthened their resolve to realize their dream despite the challenges that confront them.
Really, the success of the ARC depended mainly on the strong and functioning people’s organization complemented with strong support from line agencies, especially from the DAR, factors which make it pulsate like a freshly-caught prawn.