Monday, September 10, 2012

Gawad Kalinga to help farmers in Bulacan raise productivity

In keeping with the commitment to improve the lives of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), the Department of Agrarian Reform has entered into an agreement with Gawad Kalinga to help farmers in Bulacan raise their productivity and improve their income with the help of the growing legion of social entrepreneurs.

Under the agreement formalized on Sept. 9 at the Enchanted Farm of Gawad Kalinga in Angat, Bulacan, the DAR will focus on the improvement of productivity and enhancement of marketing channels for different commodities in areas covered by the Agricultural Productivity and Marketing Enterprise Development Project, particularly in Bulacan.

Commodities to be given priority are palay, coffee, lowland vegetables, lemongrass, citronella, pandan, camote, coffee and ube. Farm mechanization will be implemented through the DAR budget to increase productivity and raise income.

Target production area for palay is 80 hectares, 75 hectares for vegetables and other rootcrops, and 100 hectares for coffee production. Common service facilities or farm machines, equipment and implements procured under government procurement rules will be provided to ARB organizations to make production efficient and profitable.

Direct beneficiaries are the ARB organizations within the contiguous area.

The projects under this agreement will be implemented in partnership with Gawad Kalinga (GK) Community Development Foundation, a non-government organization that has built over 2,000 communities' villages both here and abroad.

Gawad Kalinga, through its increasing number of social entrepreneurs, will act as the marketing arm and will also provide technical, financial and human resources to help the target beneficiaries in Bulacan. GK will provide these valuable services to the ARB organizations without receiving compensation or honorarium from the DAR and the ARB organizations.

According to Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio De Los Reyes, the DAR has decided to tap GK's social entrepreneurs as these young people are the "missing middles," the ones who have the knowledge, skills, passion and heart toward helping agrarian reform beneficiaries and smallholder farmers improve and sustain their farm enterprises.

"Social enterprise is somewhere between the for-profit and the non-profit where new entrepreneurs meet their own income objectives and at the same time lift the people out of poverty. It is about taking a worthwhile risk towards creating wealth for the countryside," De Los Reyes said.

He added that all Filipinos can contribute to making the project a success by patronizing the crops and products that the agrarian reform beneficiaries will be able to develop and sell with the help of Gawad Kalinga's social entrepreneurs.

"Eat, shop, advocate for social justice and create wealth for the countryside," De Los Reyes said.

Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, for his part, said that bringing the market closer to the producers is Gawad Kalinga's way of helping the farmers in Bulacan improve their lives.

Bulacan covers 262,500 hectares where 38 percent is classified as agricultural land. Average production of rice per hectare in irrigated areas is 3.9 metric tons and 3.56 metric tons in rain-fed areas. Through the DAR-GK partnership, the aim is to increase yield and also improve the farmers' ability to sell to the market.

"The goal is bringing the keys in developing the countryside -- capital, market, social entrepreneurs and technology," Meloto added.

The proposed Agricultural Productivity and Market Enterprise Development Project is part of the Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services (ARCCESS) Project of DAR and the Strategic Development Plan (SDP) of the province of Bulacan.

Some of the projects included in the SDP are Rice/Palay Production, Vegetable Production, Rootcrops Production like ube, ginger, sweet potato and coffee production identified through focus group discussions and consultation meetings with ARBs, different local government units, cooperatives, Peoples Organization/ARBOs and other stakeholders.

The project aims to establish models of viable and sustainable income generating projects by providing ARBs assistance on the utilization of appropriate technology on rice, vegetables, rootcrops, grass and coffee production that will eventually increase their income.

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