My Iligan


Monday, January 19, 2009

striptease to progress

In the shadows of development…

Upo is one of the 19 barangays some eight kilometers away from the town center in Maitum. It has a population of 1,640 and mostly T’boli, where only 43% are literate. It has 2,430 hectares of moderate slopes and rolling hills. This village was marginalized because of limited use of its land for agriculture. The village elders describe the barangay during the early 90’s as very bare. It was one of the poorest barangays of the town in a survey conducted by the local government. This situation was worsened by the armed conflict between the government forces and the MNLF in 1999 that greatly affected the village.

During the period, the DENR awarded to farmers the stewardship of some 80 hectares under its integrated social forestry program. Recognizing the potential for abaca production in the area, the FIDA was commissioned to the barangay in 1998 to accelerate development of the fiber industry, and has successfully organized 16 farmers. In 1999, the Upo Valley Multi-Purpose Cooperative was organized by 15 farmers, however, the coop was not able to operate continuously because of the unstable peace and order in the area that displaced some families.

The greater the obstacles…

In 2001, FIDA granted the coop with a mobile stripping machine to set up an abaca enterprise. The UDP started operating in 2002 where the upland barangay association was organized to implement various projects delivered to the village. The use of the stripping machine helped the coop to generate income from the 20% share of the total volume it processed. The coop starts the abaca trading with an initial capital of P1, 200.00 pesos. With only four farmers selling their abaca fibers to the coop, the trading gradually expanded and now absorbing 600 kilos of fibers from 65 farmers. At the end of 2005, the total purchase of abaca fibers is P112, 000.00 pesos. However, the volume is not sufficient for the coop to directly sell them to Davao City, and meantime, traders from Maitum come to the barangay to pick up the product.

Mang Perido’s struggle in the community…

Mang Perido Kusin, the manager of the coop, recalls that he would count his money from the proceeds of his abaca fiber in front of many people in the village to motivate them to plant in their farms. Though he is a respected member of the clan, convincing other farmers in the barangay to plant abaca did not happen instantaneously. He had to repeatedly convince them to believe in the abaca enterprise. He thought that doing this needs his commitment and sincerity to help the people in his village, this happened three years ago, when only few patches of abaca farms and four farmers used to sell abaca fibers...Aside from abaca, farmers were also encouraged to plant bananas as other major source of income to meet their daily needs. Individually they sell their bananas to traders that come to the village weekly.

Success of the different efforts however, was not easy. The coop have to deal with the challenges that came along the way, such as lack of funds among members to finance farm inputs needed to maintain healthy crop stand, insufficient capital to expand the trading business, traditional practices and beliefs that slowed down application of new agricultural technologies, and low educational level of most members that might be difficult for leaders to turn-over or delegate responsibilities.


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