Harvest Time

Enhancing peace in ARMM the PhilRice-JICA way

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By Dr. Sosimo Ma. Pablico

PEACE IN the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has always been elusive. Other than political reasons, the continuing conflict between the Muslim rebels and the government is being aggravated by poverty among Muslims. To many of the rebels, winning the war that has been raging on for decades is their way of solving poverty.

Their poverty, however, is not caused by landlessness, as there is an abundance of land in Muslim Mindanao. Rather, it is caused by the lack of technology as well as poor motivation among Muslim farmers.

As noted by Sailila Abdula, a Muslim researcher at the Midsayap branch station of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the continuing conflict is fueled by the Muslims’ aspiration for a better life, as “most of the people are poor and basic social services are limited.”

Sailila, who is actually half Ilocano, his mother being from Bauang, La Union, says that to improve the Muslim farmers’ productivity, they must be equipped with new farming knowledge and information through extensive training and education. At the same time, their capabilities to make rational decisions must be improved.

Against this backdrop, PhilRice and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) arrived at a 5-year technical cooperation project (TCP) intended to address problems on low agricultural productivity. Called the “Rice-Based Farming Systems and Support Program for the ARMM”, it is the first technical cooperation project (labeled as TCP4) in the Philippines without a Japanese expert involved in its implementation.

Its overall goal is to increase farmers’ income and help attain household security that would eventually lead to the improvement of living standards in the farming communities in Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Since April 2005, 84 farmers’ field schools (FFS) have been conducted with 2,548 participants in rice production and 1,738 in vegetable production. Because farming in the ARMM is a family affair, the husbands attended the FFS on rice production while the wives and/or children participated in the FFS on vegetable production.

The project has already established 22 Palayamanan model farms to demonstrate how farmers could produce almost all the food they need. The Pagkain Para sa Masa nursery of Dr. Edwin Honrade at the University of Southern Mindanao provided quality crop seeds and livestock for the beneficiaries. Some 7,712 farmers were provided with vegetable seeds and planting materials, while others got 30 goats, 80 chicken, and 3,982 ducks.

Results of a survey covering 1,156 respondents showed that almost all of them (94%) were planting vegetables. Amazingly, 48% were engaged in commercial production. Almost all rice farmers (98 percent) have adopted at least one technology introduced to them.

In the upland farms, at least 80 percent of the farmers had increased rice yields, said Sailila. Yield increase ranged from 0.025 t/ha in Lanao del Sur to 2.0 t/ha in Basilan. Four Basilan farmers who never planted rice before harvested 0.5 – 2.0 t/ha after the FFS training. Maguindanao upland farmers registered the highest average yield at 2.48 t/ha with an average increase of 0.24 t/ha.

In the rainfed farms, Maguindanao and Sulu farmers recorded the highest average yield increase of 0.6 t/ha. Maguindanao also had the highest average yield of 3.8 t/ha

Maguindanao farmers also recorded the highest average yield (3.8 t/ha) in irrigated farms and an average yield increase (0.6 t/ha). They were followed by Lanao del Sur farmers who registered an average yield of 3.3 t/ha and an average yield increase of 0.5 t/ha.

The farmers, except 1%, achieved vegetable self-sufficiency. Almost half (45 percent) sold their extra produce with an average annual income of PhP6,925. Tawi-Tawi farmers recorded the highest annual income of PhP10,334, while Sulu farmers had the lowest at PhP2,642.

The ultimate measure of project impact, however, is whether or not the total income of the farmers has increased. From an average annual income of PhP35,620 before the project, the farmer-beneficiaries are now getting an average annual income of PhP51,540. This means that their annual income has increased by almost PhP16,000.

In general, the increased income provided funds for rice farming, generated some savings, and enabled the farming families to satisfy their food needs as well as to buy new clothes and household appliances. (With Hazel V. Antonio)

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