DAR gives Catanduanes farmers info, marketing center

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 13 (PNA) — The first-ever Agrarian Reform Information and Marketing Center (AIM-C) in Bicol has been established by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in the island-province of Catanduanes.

Constructed for an amount of PhP8.6 million through funds provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the facility, sitting on a donated lot in Barangay Datag, San Andres town, now serves as a post-harvest complex cum information provider.

Its operations and maintenance have been assigned to a huge group of local agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) organized into a multi-purpose cooperative but its use is open to all other farmers, surrounding communities, researchers and students, among others, who may need its services as a venue for learning on agrarian reform and agricultural market trends.

As a post-harvest service provider, the AIM-C also functions as a crop processing, rice and corn drying and storage facility as well as a marketing arm of farmers in the province, DAR Regional Director Luis Bueno Jr., based here, said on Thursday.

The complex is provided with a concrete building housing an office, library and conference and training hall, a warehouse and a solar dryer.

“Primarily, the AIM-C was established to develop agrarian reform communities (ARCs) into more productivity by way of training and seminars, promote their welfare through continuous education and enhance their earning capabilities through proper product marketing,” Bueno said.

The project, which is the first in Bicol, is implemented under DAR’s Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Project (ARISP), a national government development strategy with the primary goal of reducing poverty via agri-enterprise development, food security and enhancement of economic activities for ARCs throughout the country.

The ARISP, assisted by JICA, involves provision of rural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities, and rural water supply systems; organizational or institutional development; and agricultural and agri-enterprise development in the ARCs through appropriate training and capacity building approaches.

The ARISP, Bueno said, was conceptualized for the development of ARCs to give greater emphasis on agri-business enterprise development, provision of support infrastructure and formation of people’s organizations (POs).

It provides ARC connectivity through support for the establishment of agri-business enterprises by promoting linkages between and among them to facilitate marketing of agri-based products with the provision of micro-finance and agricultural extension services within the province through the AIM-C, he explained.

Nationwide, the project covers at least 129 ARCs in 54 agrarian reform provinces where nearly 70,000 ARBs are targeted as beneficiaries.

Among the ARISP’s objectives, according to Bueno, are to increase crop productivity; develop viable agribusiness enterprises opportunities in ARCs, thus, improving technology, agribusiness linkages and provision of appropriate facilities; and organize and strengthen POs to improve connectivity between and among cooperatives, resource institutions and business partners.

It has also been serving the improvement of the efficiency of commodity flow and mobility of people within, to and from the ARCs in support to agribusiness, livelihood and domestic activities; improving access to and availability of potable water in the communities and strengthening water users associations (WUAs) to operate and manage facilities.

At the end of the day, the ARISP is building upon and enhancing existing project management and monitoring and evaluation systems, the DAR regional chief said.

Among those involved in its implementation are the DAR as lead agency in charge of overall project management and carrying out of the institutional development component; and local government units (LGUs) that implement the potable water supply component and maintenance of the project’s farm-to-market road (FMR) structures.

Also tapped as partner agencies are the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

The DPWH provides pre-engineering studies and implements the construction, rehabilitation and improvement of FMRs; DTI, TESDA and DA support agricultural and agribusiness development; and NIA does the implementation of irrigation sub-projects and the institutional development for irrigators’ associations’ component for irrigation.

Through the participation of these agencies, Bueno said, the ARISP uses the tripartite approach—a collaboration in the provision of rural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, FMRs, post-harvest facilities and rural water supply systems aimed at increasing average household income of ARBs by at least 30 percent by way of rendering integrated package of support services.

Before the completion of the construction of the Catanduanes AIM-C, he said selected members of agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs) in the province were made to undergo the Farmers’ Field School (FFS) on organic farming as part of their institutional development.

The FFS, which focuses on technology transfer through a combination of lectures and actual field demonstrations on what have been previously discussed in the classroom, is where farmers are given a chance to have new field experiences.

It is a three-month training program composed of 16 sessions starting from planting until the time that the crop would be ready to be harvested.

The training program also equip farmers with the technology as a measure to further increase local production as it includes pests and diseases prevention, appropriate fertilizer application and water management that contribute immensely to a more efficient and improved plant growth to attain high yield.

After completing the program, which provides them knowledge on proven agricultural practices based on organic system, Bueno said, these ARBs are expected to increase their production out of their learning on crop protection and organic fertilizer and pesticide applications provided by the FFS through experts from the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute.

They are also tasked to showcase to their peers the “miracles” of organic farming based on what they learned from the FFS using the facilities of the AIM-C, he added. (PNA)