THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is positioning the Hacienda Malaga Cuenca Agrarian Reform Cooperative (Macarben) in Barangay Robles, La Castellana town as the country's model in sugar block farming.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rosalina Bistoyong, who visited the organization’s farm last week, said members of Macarben used to be critics of the agency.
Their previous belief was that the only person who can elevate or redeem them from their situation is the land owner, Bistoyong said.
“Now, they have proven that wrong,” the DAR chief said, adding that “by cultivating the land distributed to them, they have showed their ability to manage and make it productive.”
Bistoyong said that sugar block farming keeps the very spirit of the law, which is to continue cultivation, management control, and ownership of the land by organized farmers.
Under this farming scheme, lands should be consolidated by way of management and the minimum area should be 30 hectares.
Macarben is an agrarian reform beneficiary organization (Arbo) with an area of 168 hectares.
Of which, 80 hectares were temporarily leased back by the group to its previous owner to raise capital on top of P70,000 given by the municipal government.
The DAR has also helped them set up a techno demo farm and nursery.
Bistoyong said the nursery is part of the concept of sugar block farm. It provides high-yielding variety of seedlings as planting materials.
The techno demo farm provides demonstration of sugar block farm technologies being applied to the group's 80-hectare farm.
“They started sugar block farming last year. From an initial production of 60 tons per hectare, the first harvest projection is 90 tons per hectare in December this year,” Bistoyong said, adding that this will enable the organization to take back their leased land next year.
She also lauded Macarben for practicing diversification and venturing into social enterprise like food processing.
"This a breakthrough and the organization is a model Arbo. The sugar block farm practices they adapted could be something that can also be replicated in other cooperatives in the country,” the DAR chief said.
Of the total 92 areas in the country, Negros Occidental has the most number of sugar block farms, at 35.
The DAR, meanwhile, said it will lobby with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for farm-to-market road support for the Arbo.
Farm manager Pedro Ogatis said they are thankful for the support of the local government and the DAR.
Ogatis added that the organization will continue to work and make us of the government's program and services to further help their members and community.