GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 1 -- Agrarian reform communities (ARCs) in Mindanao will soon enjoy greater economic opportunities as the government in partnership with the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, pours various rural infrastructure projects in support of the country’s sustainable rural development program.
The P2.5-billion project include the rehabilitation and construction of farm-to-market roads and irrigation systems, provision of potable water facilities and construction of post-harvest facilities in the municipalities of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos (Socsksargen). The projects are targeted to be completed by April 2019.
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano said the development of Socsksargen, being one of the poorest provinces in the country, aims to reduce the incidence of poverty and raise the standard of living of farmers.
“Socsksargen, whose residents consists mainly of farmers and fisher folks, will greatly benefit from these infrastructure facilities. These [infra projects] will enhance the rural economy and in the process, create job opportunities in the provinces,” Mariano said.
These infrastructure projects is under the Italian Assistance to the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program (IARCDSP) and will cover 35 ARCs.
Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno who is the country to visit the project sites here with Secretary Mariano said the program [IARCDSP] would also focus in helping farmers become integrated into agro-based entrepreneurial system, “this way, the farmers would be able to increase their income and quality of life.”
Under the IARCDSP, various training for farmers would be implemented to capacitate the farmers in different modes of farming. These training include organic farming, post-harvest training, and farm technology and product development.
The development intervention was initially conceived in 1998 to support the Peace Process in the Special Zone of Peace and Development in Mindanao. The original project did not materialize until the 2007 when the Italian government confirmed its interest to pursue the project.
In October 2007, a joint Italian-Filipino team agreed on a new design and a new project proposal from the DAR was created for launching. This final document represents the formulation of the new initiative called the Italian Assistance to the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program (IARCDSP).
The partnership between the Italian government and the Philippine government for the IARCDSP was signed on 23 March 2011.
IARCDSP’s objectives are in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, the Philippine Development Plan, Republic Act (RA) 9700 and the program support to the Peace Process in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The IARCDSP provides agriculture infrastructure such as farm to market roads, irrigation, postharvest facilities, rural water supply and capacity building of farmers’ organization and opportunities for agribusiness.
Ambassador Roscigno is currently in Sarangani for a two-day visit to project sites in the province. While on his visit, the DAR headed by Secretary Mariano turned over two finished solar dryers to the farmers of Batodo agrarian reform community in Barangay Baluntay, Alabel, Sarangani.
Mariano said the two solar dryers would address the problem of inadequacy of postharvest facilities of farmers in Batodo ARC. “Farmers here do not have solar pavements to dry their agricultural products. They are relying in adjacent places for drying,” said Mariano.
“Most farmers resort to using mats and plastic covers as dryers for their harvested rice which results to big losses in grains. These solar dryers would be a big help. Their drying system would be faster and the grain quality in drying is better. With better quality, their agri-products would get higher prices,” explained Mariano.
Aside from the 276 agrarian reform beneficiaries of Batodo ARC, the farming households of Barangay Baluntay and around 185 indigenous people (IPs) would directly benefit from these solar dryers.
Ambassador Roscigno visited the on-going concreting of the 340-meter farm-to-market road in Kawas ARC and the 210-meter Baluntay farm-to-market road in Batodo ARC. He also visited the expansion of the potable water system in Kawas ARC and the construction of solar dryers in Purok 5 and 5 in Batodo ARC. (DAR)