IT DOES not make sense really to talk about a “perfect” program designed to fight poverty in the country and even Cordillera for that matter.
No matter how much we want our government to create and implement such a program, it simply cannot.
Instead, the government implements multiple programs, projects, and interventions through its different agencies and institutions, that are all designed to fight, alleviate, or provide the needed safety nets against poverty for the citizens.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” program that can serve as a model or development package that fits all aspirations, situations, and conditions in any area where it is implemented.
At the Department of Agriculture (DA), our regular programs on rice, corn, high-value crops, livestock, organic agriculture, urban agriculture, Halal foods, along with our foreign and locally funded special projects are all designed to increase food production, and provide livelihood and income to our farmers.
Designed with their own focus, specific objectives, area coverage, target beneficiaries, strategies, approaches, and expected outcomes and results, these programs and projects are implemented too, directly and indirectly, to fight poverty in the agriculture sector by increasing the income and enhancing the livelihood of our smallholder farmers.
During meetings and consultations to announce or launch new programs or projects, it is quite understandable to hear local government executives, operatives and farmers complain when their province, municipalities, and barangays are not included as coverage areas of these development interventions.
These activities are a regular occurrence in our life as development workers all these years. Notwithstanding the grateful and positive comments that we hear directly from the beneficiaries, I have also heard about many old complaints that get repeated each year, even by our people, for lack of understanding, or that we just seem to take the problems for granted.
For example, in a recent meeting, I was surprised to note the inability of our field personnel to explain why the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) is implemented only in identified coverage areas of the region.
Unless they were fully engaged in knowing and understanding what we do for the people in CAR, they could not have missed how people then talked about our insensitivity and lack of ability to address the unique problems of our farmers in the highlands, when the rice and corn programs were launched and implemented only in the lowland areas of the region, in the early days after the creation of the Cordillera Administrative Region.
In the implementation of rural and agricultural development programs, projects, and activities, “just no one must be left behind.” That is a comforting slogan, but when the high-value crops development program and livestock program were launched, some people were disgruntled where they were unable to avail of the services of these programs.
Several special projects were later implemented in the region, with their unique scope and implementation arrangements, just like any other development intervention. These were not meant to directly benefit everyone, and the lamentations about our insensitivities were repeated in almost every forum meant to discuss agricultural and natural resources management and development.
Today, the DA implements multi-million agricultural and rural development programs and projects, and rural credit in the Cordillera that is meant to promote community development, ensure food security, address issues and concerns on sustainable livelihoods, increase income, and most of all, alleviate poverty in our rural farming areas.
With the gradual increase in the number of programs and special projects and the commensurate increases in investments, one would think that we have gone past the jeremiads and lamentations about our insensitivities and inabilities to help our farmers.
I can see how our earlier programs and projects helped transform rural farming communities into urban centers. The farmlands have since been converted into subdivisions and services and industrial zones. You do not see people mourn or complain when developed irrigation canals do not feed farms with freshwater anymore but flow with silt, sewage, and municipal waste. And yes, the constructed multipurpose drying pavements have since been transformed into basketball courts, and storage bodegas or centers have been upgraded into convention halls.
Meanwhile, all these years, there are marginalized and geographically isolated and “forgotten and ignored” communities in our midst needful of immediate attention that responds to the people’s multiple and worsening issues and problems.
There are 43 of these types of barangays all over the Cordillera that the DA-CAR has listed to be assisted under the agency’s Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD), End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NCRTF ELCAC) program, and other programs and special projects being implemented by the agency.
According to our field operatives, our LGU partners and the communities not included as beneficiaries of the ELCAC and SAAD Programs feel they are being set aside and neglected. I tell them that the DA implements several programs and projects in all areas where they are best suited and contributes to community and nation-building. Not all of these programs and projects are meant to serve all people in all localities of the region.
I hope they return to their areas of assignments, talk to their LGU partners, and the beneficiaries, about our programs and projects, and how each of these development interventions could be of help to them. Perhaps, they should remind them how agricultural and development took shape in the communities out of the DA’s investments, and the programs and projects implemented in partnership with the LGUs and local communities.
In the process, they might see great value in this partnership and sustain their capacities in the conservation and protection of natural resources for food production ventures as profitable income sources. If it is not for this purpose that we generate and implement our programs and projects, I really wonder what agricultural and rural development is all about. Every work done well and serves its purpose is perfect.