THE World Bank has approved $99.3 million loan to partly fund an agrarian reform project, which is expected to benefit some 300,000 farmers and farm workers in 44 provinces across the Philippines.

The Department of Agrarian Reform will implement the Inclusive Partnerships for Agricultural Competitiveness (IPAC) Project, with the total project cost of $231 million, for over five years, the Washington-based multilateral lending agency said.

The Philippine government and the beneficiaries would also contribute $131 million and $28 million, respectively, in the project.

"The country's agrarian reform program gives lands to landless farmers, but we don't stop there," said Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano.

"The government also provides support services. Through the farmer-driven matching grants, IPAC will strengthen our efforts to help small-holder farmers and their organizations engage in sustainable agri-enterprise projects. This will raise their incomes and help them become self-reliant."

The matching grants, which are channeled through farmers’ organizations, support a number of initiatives, including: production facilities such as nurseries and green-houses; processing and marketing facilities; production of high-value agricultural products; promotion and investments in food safety; and product development.

“Through the project, farmers and other beneficiaries will be able to directly identify and implement activities that will empower them to improve their lives,” said World Bank Country Director for the Philippines Mara K. Warwick.

“As a long-term partner of the Philippines, the World Bank supports the country’s efforts to develop a competitive farming sector that may bring down poverty and vulnerability in rural areas.”

At least 30 percent of the beneficiaries are women, and 20 percent suffer from poverty.

World Bank said the targeted provinces include: Abra and Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region; La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte in Region 1; Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2; Bulacan, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales in Region 3; Batangas and Quezon in Region 4-A; Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro and Palawan in Region 4-B; and Albay, Camarines Sur, Masbate, Sorsogon and Camarines Norte in Region 5.

In Visayas, the provinces to benefit are Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo and Negros Occidental in Region 6; Bohol, Cebu and Negros Oriental in Region 7; Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar and Western Samar in Region 8;

The beneficiaries in Mindanao specifically come from Misamis Occidental in Region 10; Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental in Region 11; Sarangani in Region 12; and Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)