A RECENT study by the Benguet State University-Institute of Social Research and Development BSU-ISRD (BSU-ISRD) showed that cooperatives in the CAR are generally compliant in terms of allocating funds for community development as mandated by the cooperative code of the Philippines.

The total community development fund (CDF) of 56 cooperatives who participated in the study as of December 2016 is P12 million or more than P200,000 per cooperative.

On actual usage of the CDF, cooperatives in the CAR spent an average of P51,827 per year based on as survey of actual community projects and activities implemented by cooperatives in the last five years. Large cooperatives implemented at least two community development projects while those in the medium and small category implemented at least one project or activity that benefit the community they are operating in. At least 14 percent of the cooperatives who participated in the survey did not conduct any community development activities in the last five years.

The most common community development projects implemented by cooperatives are support services or programs in relation to primary and secondary education; health; environment; and culture.

Education

To support their nearby community specifically the elementary and high schools, cooperatives in the region have supported school-related infrastructure and facilities, such as perimeter fencing, toilet construction, financing or material donation for school construction, staircase and railings, septic tank, instalment of gate, and installation of lavatory. Many cooperatives also provide scholarship programs and financial aid to students to assist parents from paying the high tuition fees in schools and universities.

Over time, these cooperatives expanded its focus to address the needs of both parents and their kids. This becomes a strategy combining high-achieving schools jobs and access to economic benefits, public safety and opportunities for families to improve their communities.

Cooperatives, in some cases, also support the Brigada Eskwela by giving donations during the field work and general cleaning either in the form of food or cleaning materials.

Health

Cooperatives in the CAR are also involved in providing medical assistance to individuals needing help, or in sponsoring medical missions or programs like free circumcision, financing new born screening, and other donations for health-related problems. However, findings show that in most of the cooperatives, the program can only be availed by cooperative members, although some have also reported sponsoring new born screening for all new born babies in a certain hospital.

Some cooperatives serve their members and community by sponsoring PhilHealth Insurance. This is in addition to hospitalization benefit program that cooperatives extend to their members.

Environment

Aside from the support to education and health, cooperatives are also participating in the conservation of the environment. Around 10 percent of the cooperatives who participated in the BSU-ISRD study conducted tree planting activities in their nearby community. Seeds and planting materials are also donated to communities for this activity.

These cooperatives are either initiating these tree planting activities or collaborating with the City Cooperative Development Office, Municipal or Provincial Cooperative Council, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local government units and schools within the region in the conduct of these activities.

Sociocultural

In the community where they operate, cooperatives are also donating to various celebrations or events such as fiesta and other cultural festivals. In some instances, they donate for food and or other expenses.

They also support the conduct of Sports fest activities and other sports-related program gathering the community for a certain period of time.

Furthermore, some cooperatives are financing livelihood trainings and sponsoring seminars for members and other groups in the community giving way for the individuals to enhance their skills set and have opportunities in the workforce.

Often in cooperation and collaboration with line agencies and barangay LGUs, there is success in the implementation of these projects conducted or funded from the Community Development Fund of cooperatives.

The study also elicited problems and constraints of cooperatives in engaging in community development projects from the point of view of the cooperative managers and board of directors. Their perceived challenges include limited CDF because of limited net surplus particularly for small cooperative; lack of manpower, time and participation among members; poor coordination with partner agencies; and lack of plan for using the CDF.

Overall the BSU-ISRD study concluded that the billion worth of assets of small, medium and large cooperatives in the CAR indicate their potential to engage in community development projects that can contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals of the region.

Recommendations to enhance the cooperatives’ concern for the community include: continued support to micro and small cooperatives to sustain and increase their net surplus from where the CDF allotment is based; more proactive planning for CDF use; enhancing information dissemination on the principle of concern for community beyond its members; and enhancing opportunities and policy support to foster linkages and partnerships among cooperatives and with other agencies and organizations. Prior initiatives generally lacked more long-term and comprehensive approach to supporting sustainable development initiatives and building sustainable partnerships.