The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), through the support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), recently launched two of its provincial projects under the Project ConVERGE (Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment) in the areas of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.
The project’s aim is to increase the income and improve the way of living of the farmers by boosting their production of the primary crops such as rubber and rice through the provision of farm inputs, equipment, relevant rural infrastructure projects, farmer trainings and links to various markets.
Regional Director Julita Ragandang said the project expects to develop some 10,000 farmer-beneficiaries to become businessmen.
"This project aids not only the big and established cooperatives but also smallholder farmers. Our goal is to consolidate the primary crops of these coops in their clusters, provide them with complete interventions so that they can benefit from their business enterprise through increase in volume of production and marketing and likewise improvement in product quality. With these, our farmers can gain a bigger percentage of their income and be empowered to be their own businessmen," said Ragandang.
Ragandang also emphasized the importance of the launch since it is the venue for DAR to present the overview of the entire five-year implementation to ARBs and major stakeholders to ensure mutual understanding and commitment.
Increase and improvement of rubber in Zambo Norte
Through Project ConVERGE, Zamboanga del Norte's Resettlement ARC Cluster Rubber Development Project would help increase the quality and quantity of the rubber production of the smallholder farmers in the area.
Cabong Tampilisan Multipurpose Cooperative (CATAMCO) Chairman Erlie Handomon said the increase in their production and the improvement of their rubber's quality have been a lifelong dream.
"Dugay na ni namong gihandom. Apan dili gyud sya makaya 100% sa mga mag-uuma lang (We’ve been dreaming of this for so long but we knew this can’t be done 100% if done only by us, the farmers)," Handomon said.
Through the IFAD-funded and DAR-implemented project, they hope to be able to fulfill their dream and finally have a place in the rubber market.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) II Mohammad Dassan Adju said that with the LGU's support and the farmers' active participation, a successful project is in the offing so long as all stakeholders cooperate with each other. "There will be issues and problems along the way, for sure. But don't be afraid to ask. We are here to listen and to help," he said.
The rise of Sur’s rice
The Salug Valley Cluster Rice Project in the province of Zamboanga del Sur, , on the other hand, is provided with a program called Intensified Rice Production, Milling and Marketing.
With the current plan of providing an all-encompassing project, PARPO II Arturo Soria is confident that the project interventions will address the key areas for an increased production by 25% in the next three years.
“Part of the plan is to construct a rice milling facility so farmers need not travel far to rent or pay the services from another facility. ConVERGE will also be supplying improved farm seedlings and inputs, consequently producing a higher quality of rice which is seen to be marketed as the organic rice of Salug,” Soria said.
Immediate Next Steps
This year’s total budget for the region amounts to around P40million, with P11.5million for Zamboanga del Norte, P14.5million for Zamboanga del Sur, and P5.5million for Zamboanga Sibugay.
Based on the regional office’s plan for 2017, procurement will start by the fourth quarter to cover necessities from office equipment and supplies, as well as farming inputs, value chain facilities and equipment for the clusters.
Meanwhile, trainings for staff and coordination meetings for beneficiaries and concerned agencies have already been conducted left and right for the first half of the year and will continue until year end.
Also comprising the annual target is the commencement of the Rural Infrastructure projects for more than 8 kms of farm-to-market roads and a 95-has communal irrigation system. Prioritized sub-projects will be located at the Municipality of Godod in Zamboanga del Norte and the towns of Mahayag, Tambulig and Aurora in Zamboanga del Sur.
Ragandang emphasized that the launch is only the beginning of the intervention and that more work is to be done for the coming phases of the program. Along the way, certain realignments and revisions may be made on the plan to adjust to changing needs of the beneficiaries and the success of ConVERGE.
Finally, Ragandang said that the responsibility of the project, including all stakeholders such as the government, farmers and other agencies, goes beyond the five year implementation. After all, the project eyes sustainability and profitability of the entire business enterprise to last generations of farming communities.
Meanwhile, the Zambo Sibugay Rubber Agribusiness Project which targets around 3,000 beneficiaries will be launched before the end of this month. (Ma. Socorro Reambonanza)
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