FORMER members of underground mass organizations are now empowered to transform their lives as they learned new and innovative ways of farming that they could apply on their farms back home.
Now proud members of various People’s Organizations (POs) formed through the Philippine Army’s Community Support Program (CSP), some 20 participants from Davao Oriental and villages situated at its borders, including some members of Mandaya tribal council, recently visited farms in the municipality of Tupi, South Cotabato.
During the three-day tour of the demo farms, members of POs were given a series of lectures on agriculture innovations and practical demonstrations on farming, livestock-raising and aquaculture production.
The participants enthusiastically toured the state-of-the-art farming facilities of Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center, Department of Agriculture-Central Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (DA-Cemiarc), and the family-run fruit park Kablon Farm that boasts of a range of innovative agricultural practices – from the ideal diversified farming system to food processing.
Also included in the places they visited were the sprawling commercial flower gardens of Mariano’s Blooming Farm and Eden’s Flower Farm.
The educational tour, which was initiated by the Philippine Army’s
701st Brigade under the leadership of Brigadier General Reuben Basiao, is only the army’s first step in helping the PO members build a niche on agriculture.
The army plans to further assist the POs by organizing them to become a SEC-registered organization or cooperatives for them to be able to easily access and avail assistance from the government.
Participants during the tour include members of POs under the 701st Brigade area of responsibility which covers the areas of the 28th Infantry Battalion in the province’s second district, 67th Infantry Battalion in the first district, and 66th Infantry Battalion that covers area in the boundaries of Davao Oriental, particularly in the neighboring Compostela Valley Province.
A game-changing tour
Coming from formerly identified “New People’s Army-infested” barangays in Davao Oriental and bordering villages in the neighboring province, the participants say the trip was indeed a game-changer and a transformative one.
Having seen the success of the farms they visited, the participants say they saw great potentials of their farms back home in Davao Oriental which is widely known as a suitable area for agriculture.
Despite seeing standard designs that are too large and expensive for small farmers like them, they said they were inspired, adding that everything can be possible with persistence, determination, and a bit of support from the government.
Participants say they have learned a lot especially in terms of good farming practices. They gave particular emphasis on multi-cropping and diversified farming techniques which if applied would allow them to grow other crops on the rest of their farms, maximizing the use of their land.
For Erlinda dela Rosa, member of Magandang Buhay Women’s Association, the tour has taught her a big deal specifically on raising livestock which is their association’s major business.
“For farmers like us, the tour is an extraordinary learning experience. It taught us not only the best practices in farming but it has also made us realize the goodness of the government and our soldiers. This tour has really inspired us to dream and unlock our potentials as farmer-entrepreneurs,” she said.
Creating sustainable peace and development
Recognizing that poverty and insurgency are closely interconnected, the government and the army are steadfast in their efforts to address the deep-seated poverty in the communities.
The Philippine Army says that the educational tour is only among the many interventions implemented under its CSP which is piloted in the province of Davao Oriental to back the local government units in their peace and development efforts.
Aiming to counter insurgency, it has become an effective venue in helping empower marginalized communities transform their lives, create jobs, and arming them to become self-sustaining, thus also empowering their communities to become conflict-resilient.
The CSP is also poised to pave the way for more sustainable economic programs especially to beef up the government’s footing for development interventions.