Tabije: MBGA - Lessons in common-sense management-A A +A
Sunday, June 24, 2012
LAST week, from Monday to Wednesday, I was with Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and party in a whirlwind swing of South Cotabato, Maguindanao, Cotabato City, North Cotabato and Davao del Norte for inspection of agriculture projects and consultation meetings with local government officials, farmers and fishermen.
In the community programs, one common refrain was Secretary Alcala being introduced as a high-level government official who practices MBGA -- Management by Going Around. I found out that the visit to Maguindanao was quite meaningful for him as it completes his goal of doing official visits to all the 80 provinces in the country for the two years that he is the DA Secretary.
It was the first time I was officially invited to join the Secretary in his provincial sorties and it revealed to me a few things, as will be described below.
During the reign of former president Arroyo and DA Secretary Yap, the country was the world’s biggest rice importer, importing more than 2 million tons a year. In 2011, the first year of the Aquino/Alcala administration, we imported only around 800,000 tons. This year, it is projected that it will be down further to 500,000 tons. The best is yet to come: this administration’s goal is that we will be rice self-sufficient in 2013 or 2014.
From the world's biggest importer country to being self-sufficient in a span of three to four years. Gee, what an outstanding accomplishment. How was this possible?
If you remember, when the new administration took over in the second half of 2010, one of the biggest findings that hit the national papers is that there were huge quantities of imported rice rotting in different NFA warehouses nationwide.
Not knowing the official details, my personal conclusion now is that the former administration was importing way above what was actually needed by the country. It was widely whispered around even back then that high level agriculture officials were very interested in rice importation because of the huge kick-backs that went with it. The current much-reduced annual import levels—based on the country’s actual need--now somehow give us reason to conclude that such previous “suspicion” is true.
In addition, there are several DA/NIA strategies that contribute to the increase in domestic rice production, namely:
1. NIA's budget for irrigation development has been significantly increased -- in the current year 2012, it is P24.4 billion. Compare that with P10.9 billion in 2008, P16.4 billion in 2010 and P10.9 billion in 2011. Previous to 2008, the amounts were even significantly lower -- amounts so low that the NIA was not able to properly repair and maintain numerous irrigation systems nationwide.
2. NIA's old system of crop production planning is such that it fit into the farmers’ traditional way – two croppings per year. Given that one cropping season, from planting to harvesting, takes only three to four months, it meant that there were a lot of months of “rest” in between croppings.
DA and NIA reworked the water distribution and crop scheduling such that now, the "rest" period in between croppings is reduced and the farmers now do 5 crops every 2 years (average of 2.5 crops per year, a significant increase).
3. In typhoon-prone provinces, the cropping season was also adjusted to avoid having the harvest season fall in the typhoon months, as was traditionally practiced in previous decades. According to DA Asec for Rice Production, Dante Delima, this resulted in additional rice areas of almost 200,000 hectares, whose plants were largely destroyed in previous decades, now successfully harvested.
It really amazes me how such practical analysis and almost cost-free common sense solutions described in items (2) and (3) above can bring about significant improvements in the government's development efforts. Surely, the MBGA scheme has done wonders to DA’s and NIA’s high level decision-making processes.
Hoping that we can have more of those in all government programs.
Engineer Tabije sits in the NIA Board of Directors as a presidential appointee representing the private sector. The NIA is an attached agency of the DA. The comments herein are Engineer Tabije’s personal opinions and don’t necessarily reflect the official stand of the DA or NIA. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 25, 2012.