Gov’t Agencies Pool Resources For Luisita Farmworkers

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dar web news pix 1 may 23 2013 400The more than 6,000 farmworkers who qualified as agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Hacienda Luisita will be awarded not only with parcels of land; they may also avail of agricultural support services from government agencies to boost their productivity.

This was the assurance given by officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as they embark on a massive information campaign to educate agrarian reform beneficiaries in all the ten barangays of Hacienda Luisita on how to avail of government services to make their land productive.

The grassroots-based information campaign will be launched by DAR from May 23 to May 25 in 10 barangays covering Hacienda Luisita, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Sugar Regulatory Administration, National Dairy Authority, Land Bank of the Philippines, and Agricultural Training Institute.

Jerry Pacturan, DAR Undersecretary for Support Services, said the representatives of these government agencies have agreed to meet with Hacienda Luisita farmworkers to explain their programs and projects that are available to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

On top of the list is the Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS), a project implemented by the DAR to help improve the household income of ARBs through their organizations.

Specifically, the project seeks to strengthen the business operations or business units of agrarian reform beneficiary organizations (ARBOs) so that they can eventually manage business assets or activities related to farm production, post-harvest, processing and marketing.

Pacturan noted that the Hacienda Luisita farmworker-beneficiaries are strongly encouraged to organize themselves into farming blocks to make ARCCESS support service more efficient and effective. These include:

1) Professional services to assist them in implementing their agri-based enterprise, which include agri-extension and business development (organizational, financial and enterprise management);

2) Common service facilities (CSF) or farm equipment, which they will use as their business asset;

3) Access to credit and insurance facilities in partnership with the Land Bank, Philippine Crop Insurance Commission and private financing institutions;

Pacturan said the agrarian reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita may also pool their resources together to engage into diversified Sugar Block Farming, a joint-program of the DAR, DA and SRA that seeks the consolidation of support services for small sugar farms in order to obtain economies of scale.dar web news pix 2 may 23 2013 400

The block farms, between 30 to 50 hectares each, will be managed as one farm so that the activities in the small individual farms are aligned and implemented according to the plans of the whole block. In this way, resources including farm workers, equipment, inputs, and financing could be utilized efficiently.

While operated as a block, Pacturan explained that “the ownership of each small farm is maintained and respected.” Agrarian reform beneficiaries will not lose their land titles, and will only be helped by a farm manager who shall take charge of the operations of the block farm.

The SRA has estimated that with block farms, the agrarian reform beneficiaries could increase sugar production from 99 to 147 bags of sugar per hectare.

The Sugar Block Farming program was launched in January last year, with 16 pilot block farms in 12 sugar-producing provinces namely Albay, Antique, Batangas, Bukidnon, Capiz, Davao del Sur, Iloilo, Leyte, Pampanga, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and Tarlac.

Under the program, DAR shoulders the cost of farm tractors and business development services while DA covers the development of irrigation facilities and improvement of farm-to-mill road. The SRA, on the other hand, handles agri-technology support and overall management of the block farms.

According to Pacturan, individual ARBs who do not wish to join the farmers’ engaged in block farming may still avail of other support services for diversified cropping, vegetable production and cattle-raising.