DAR: Luisita Farmworkers Free To Choose Their Own Crops

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dar web news pix 1 may 29 2013 400Farmworkers who qualified as agrarian reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita will be in full control of the farm lots to be awarded to them and are free to choose the crops they want to plant, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) stressed today.

“The land will be theirs to own. They are free to do whatever they wish on the farm lots, except sell or mortgage them to other parties,” said Jerry Pacturan, DAR Undersecretary for Support Services.

Pacturan issued the statement to debunk allegations that the DAR plans to retain the Cojuangcos’ control over Hacienda through Sugar Block Farming even after the sugar estate has been subdivided to farmworker-beneficiaries.

Pacturan maintained that the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers will be given Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) in the middle of the year, which will grant them the status of new land owners under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“As in the case of other agrarian reform beneficiaries, the farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita will be free from the control of previous landowners. They will manage their farm lots in whatever way they want to,” Pacturan said.

To make the farm lots more productive after distribution, government agencies have pooled resources to provide the farmworker-beneficiaries with an array of agricultural support services to choose from.

The menu of support services were presented to farmworker-beneficiaries during the information campaign conducted by the DAR and other agencies at all the 10 barangays covering Hacienda Luisita last week.

The grassroots-based information campaign was launched by the DAR from May 23 to May 25 in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Sugar Regulatory Administration, National Dairy Authority, Agricultural Training Institute, and barangay officials of Hacienda Luisita.

During the information campaign, the DAR has enjoined more than 6,000 farmworker-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita to organize themselves into farming blocks to boost the productivity of the farm lots that will be distributed to them

The DAR, at the same time, encouraged the Hacienda Luisita farmworkers to allocate a portion of the land to be awarded to them for diversified and integrated farming involving crops other than sugarcane to ensure sustainable income for their family throughout the year.

“The farmworker-beneficiaries will have greater chances of enjoying these support services if they organize themselves as farming blocks,” Pacturan said.

“As a farming block, agrarian reform beneficiaries will have access to cheaper farm inputs, farm equipment, credit and financing, and other vital support services from government,” he added.dar web news pix 2 may 29 2013 400

Pacturan explained that these farming blocks have the option whether to adopt the Sugar Block Farming concept developed by the DAR, DA and SRA or the Integrated Farming System now being popularized by the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute.

The sugarcane block farm consists of 30-60 hectares of sugar lands managed as one block such that the activities in the small individual farms are aligned and implemented according to the plans of the whole block.

The Integrated Farming System, on the other hand, involves diversification of land use to include vegetable farming, raising of poultry and livestock, and dairy production.

“Whatever is the choice of the farming block, there is a need for operational consolidation of small farms in order to obtain economies of scale,” Pacturan explained.

“While operated as a block, the ownership of each small farm by the ARBs is maintained and respected. In this way, resources including farm workers, equipment, inputs, and financing could be utilized efficiently,” he explained.

Pacturan said farmworker-beneficiaries may also combine the two farming systems to boost the productivity of their land and, at the same time, ensure sustainable income for their family throughout the year.

“Definitely, the government will not decide for the agrarian reform beneficiaries. It is up to the farmers to choose what to do with their land. We, in the DAR, are only making support services available to make the farm lots awarded to ARBs more productive,” he pointed out.