LUNA, Apayao – Cassava, commonly called Kamoteng kahoy, is said to be a poor man’s staple food in at least 105 countries. It is endimec in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In fact, it is ranked as 4th most important crop in developing countries due to its drought resistant qualities.
In the Cordillera Administrative Region, “balangkoy” as the I-Apayao call it, played a key role in the transformation of the Department of Agrarian Reform-assisted cooperative of Nueva, Sta Marcela, Apayao.
It all began in 1991 when Saranay Multi-purpose Cooperative was born with a P32,000 start-up capital from the capital build-up(CBU) of 56 original memebrs who are residents of Nueva and Marcela barangays. Operations was conducted in the residence of one of the Board of Directors. Services were all voluntary and included production loans, emergency loans and providential loans. Slowly with sheer determination, membership expanded to barangays Panay, San Juan and Consuelo.
Sheer persistence do not spell success as experienced when the coop underwent difficult times and at the brink of bankruptcy. Then the Department of Agrarian Reform provided capability building and coordinated with other agencies and organized a new set of officers and trained them, reviving the coop from scratch.
During these times, balangkoy or cassava was regularly planted in the area as a subsistence crop. Priority were aacorded to rice on rainy seasons and corn when water was inadequate. Hence, cassava were planted in the unirrigated areas or during dry season or even during drought.
Then in early 2000s, the potential of cassava was recognized. Not only was it lesser cost to propagate but also of low maintenance and the planting materials abound in the place.
Hence, in 2004, A joint Memorandum of Agreement was signed by and among SARANAY MPC, DAR, Local Government Unit of Sta. Marcela, Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry to support the cassava industry of the municipality by developing the 2,000 hectares for cassava production. SARANAY MPC was identified as the sole cassava assembler to consolidate dried cassava chips & granules from the farmers. It will deliver it to San Miguel Food Inc.(SMFI), Echague, Isabela.
Thus, farmers within and outside the ARC were organized as cassava producers and the coop as its marketing arm. This was the beginning of the cooperative’s upward climb. With the thriving cassava industry, it was later proclaimed as the municipality’s “one town one product”.
In support to the cassava enterprise, the DAR through Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity Enterprise Support Service (ARCCESS) project provided Common Service Facilities in the form of 4WD Tractor, Granulator and dump truck coupled with Agri-Extension Service and Organizational Management.
The cooperative was likewise a recipient of Post - Harvest Facility (PHF) under Agrarian Reform Support Project III comprised of a 2,500 cavans capacity business type warehouse with office and a solar dryer. The lot where it was built was the counterpart of the cooperative. Bundled with the PHF is Agriculture & Agribusiness Development.
With the notable track record of the cooperative, another 4WD tractor was accessed from the Dept. of Agriculture, SSF from DTI and Cassava grinder from DOST. These are all grants purposely to improve and develop cassava production and marketing.
Simultaneous to the production of raw materials is a livelihood project for women ARB members. They have undergone series of training on cassava processing. Once again, the DAR provided the Village Level Processing Center Enhancement Project (VLPCEP) and Up-Valuing, to further develop the existing enterprise. As if these were not enough, a Community Potable Water Sanitation and Hygiene(CP WASH) project was implemented that catered to the water requirement of the center.
Recently, 45 tons of cassava chips and granules were delivered to SMC in Echague, Isabela, per month at its peak season and 24 tons on the average during ordinary months depending on the weather.
At present, the the coop provides members with cassava production and marketing and is continuously expanding. The food processing gained accreditation as FDA-LTO certified. There is also the lending and farm equipment rental.
To date, the coop employs a three full time management staff, seven Board of Directors, five regular committees and two special project committees. The total membership rose to 429 of which 164 are Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries and a total asset of P 12,011,375.37.
Lary Balanay, the BOD Chair acknowledges that his strong leadership is attributed to the untiring efforts of the DAR in continuously educating the officers and members including the cooperative strengthening trainings of the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) and those provided by other government agencies. To the officers, he said, “Be the best that you can and don’t ever give up” and to all the members, he said “Alone, we can do little, but together-we can do much”.
Saranay MPC was named after the word “saranay” - an Ilokano word that says empathy with each other. According to them, “saranay” embodies the attitudes of the people in barangay Nueva who work hand in hand to have a better life.