My Iligan

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Monday, January 19, 2009

nuts over rats

Denuded Palo 19...

It is the smallest barangay of Tampakan in South Cotabato bordering the province of Sultan Kudarat. It was once a forest, the families of B'laan who first settled in the area enjoyed the rich resources until the logging companies came. The forest dwindled through the years and was cleared of its old and huge mahogany trees.

The logging operation also brought migrants from Leyte, Zamboanga and the neighboring towns. The denuded forests were further cleared for homes and made into farmlands. The Kaingin was practiced by farmers, and mono and non-synchronized cropping worsened soil erosion and incidence of pest and rat infestation on crops.

Land conflicts between the B'laan and Christians occurred and were settled only in 1988. The NPA and the MILF groups also occasionally pass through Palo 19 but there were no reported conflicts with them.

The village has poor roads that it is better to ride a horse or walk. There are no post harvest facilities, electricity, and health center--- only basic services are provided by the town’s personnel and some volunteers. There is a high school and an elementary school. The main water sources for the 260 households are undeveloped and unprotected springs.

After the logging, farming also became a very unprofitable enterprise. Middlemen provided trading, marketing, and credit services, including cash advances and loans to be charged against harvestable crops. The farmers have very little to do with their harvest. Selling prices for crops were mainly determined by the middlemen.

Fastforward…

Fortunately, the UDP selected Palo 19 as its first cover in Tampakan. It has assisted the village in formulating their community watershed plan, training farmers on sustainable and environment sensitive farming methods, provided farm to market roads, and helped in marketing and developing their enterprises.

Today, the village was significantly organized into an upland barangay association. It’s primarily purpose is to enter into a community-based forest management agreement with the DENR and secure land tenure for the farmers.

The Bagsakan center was broached to pave the trading of village’s major crops. The activity renewed interest in the communal efforts towards development. The center was intended as consolidating station for buyers and farmers to do business. Realizing that there was a big market for peanuts, the village went into peanut farming. However, the concept that the center would act as a consolidator of products did not happen, and actual operations were limited to peanut buying and storage.

Missteps…


In 2002, the association partnered with the Mindanao Peanut Industry that pitched them to a buyer in Manila city, who required 10 tons per shipment, at P50.00 per kilo. However, the venture resulted into a huge loss due to rat infestation. Also the unsynchronized planting and harvesting of farmers nailed them to meet the required volume. Helpless, the center then sold the peanuts to buyers within the town at less than their buying price.

The damage caused by rat infestation, the lack of capital, and lack of organizational skills to manage a communal enterprise, and other issues related to finance and operations, led to the closure of the Bagsakan at the same year.

Revival…


In 2004, the UDP engaged a consultancy firm, to implement business development services to Palo 19. The officers signified their interest in reviving the operations of the Bagsakan.

The association opted to convert itself into a coop to manage the trading business, and provide its members with dividends, patronage refund and other benefits. It would adopt a structure more appropriate to managing business, and guided by a business plan and operations manual. The coop is now trading banana, gabi, ginger and tomatoes based on the community’s production capabilities in relation to the current market demands. These crops are from the farmers, and sold to markets in Koronadal, Surallah, and General Santos.

The UDP funded and introduced diversified farming, to help sustain the trading enterprise and the production of the priority crops, to farmers.

Significantly, the association believe in focusing to stay committed, and united, as a way to address their day-to-day struggles, considering that up to now, the services rendered to the coop are still voluntary with doubts and intrigues destructing the initial operations of the enterprise.

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