MuCAARD gets a mention
At around 24 mins MuCAARD is cited as an example of Christians and Muslims working together.
Romy’s Report for the 2021 Garden Party
Soldiering on . . . . .
The pandemic has not been a help. It has been damaging, disruptive and a big obstacle to community organizing work. Though we have been crippled, we are soldiering on in our work. We are quite fortunate, compared to some of our neighbouring municipalities because Damulog has very few cases of Covid 19.
2021 has been a bleak year for farmers. Since the municipality is an agricultural economy, it has been a painful and difficult year. Our estimate is that only 20% of last year’s corn fields were replanted this year. We had a very short dry season. Since the fields cannot be ploughed by tractor, soil preparation takes a lot of time. There was not enough time to prepare the fields for planting. Another factor that stopped farmers in some specific areas was rat infestation. Sections or areas in Omonay, San Isidro, Tangkulan, Anggaan, Migcawayan, Kiraon, Lagandang and Kitingting.were severely infested.
- Rubber Cup Lumps
From 2007 to 2016 the Local Government Unit, in partnership with BISAP, promoted the planting of trees. Three species were quite popular for this project. Gmelina and falcatta were planted and intended to be harvested in seven to ten years. Gmelina is a fast-growing tree and popular in building houses. Falcatta is an even-faster growing tree for the paper industry.
The LGU of Damulog during this time set aside P500,000 each year for the planting of rubber trees under the ‘Plant Now, Pay Later’ programme. Today there are a thousand hectares planted with rubber trees. BISAP did a lot of the organizing of farmers groups. By 2014 the first batch of project participants started to tap their trees. But at the end of 2016, the LGU stopped supporting the rubber program.
It is unfortunate that about two weeks after the Bukidnon Rubber Industry Development Association was organized in March 2020, the COVID 19 pandemic was declared. The Department of Agriculture, backed by the Department of Trade and Industry, spear-headed the venture. Then there was a stand still. There were just too many ‘don’ts’.
In November Poblacion-Old Damulog Farmers’ Association (PODFA) decided to take an initiative. The price rubber cup lumps went down to P18.00 per kilo. A number of rubber tappers and small rubber farmers decided to stop tapping their trees. In March the price was between P22-24/kilo. Mico, Cef, Inday, Dodong and I went to Mountain View College. The college has about 200 hectares of mature rubber trees. It sells its produce through the internet by publishing its asking price. The college bases its selling price on the international buying price of Malaysia and Singapore. The big buyers in Bukidnon bid against each other. MVC sells its cup lumps to the highest bidder.
During the special seminar organized for us by MVC, we learned that the biggest factor in the rise or fall of rubber cup lumps was in the hands of the tappers and the owners.
There are only local buyers and a handful of them, as many as ten. But the big buyers used to come to Damulog to buy rubber latex. They all stopped coming around five years ago. Damulog was known to have the dirtiest raw rubber blocks in Bukidnon. Damulog farmers sold their raw rubber in blocks of 1’ x 2’ x 3’. Farmers mixed water, coagulating chemicals, mud, stones – RUBBISH – hidden and buried in ‘rubber’ blocks.
After the seminar, BISAP staff went to the villages where there are significant number of rubber farms and met with the farmers and tappers in small groups the whole of November and December. We called our initiative: QQ Campaign. We explained that they could help increase the price of rubber if their products were clean – Quality. They could further increase the price, if they brought their rubber products in designated pick-up points. PODFA would NOT rubber blocks.
Tappers collect rubber latex using half a coconut shell. To speed up the solidification of the rubber latex into cup lumps, we campaigned that the farmers can only use formic acid diluted in water. This is organic and does not make the dried latex crumbly. If they tap the trees in the morning, the cup lumps can be harvested in the afternoon and stored into sacks. The Manager of Mountain View College the company buyers. At first, they declined because of their previous experiences. He pleaded with them to give a chance to one organized group of farmers – PODFA. At the end of January two big buyers came to Lagandang at different times. They took a look at the collected stocks and telephoned PODFA their bidding prices.
Three buyers now come every 15th and 30th of the month to buy our cup lumps. Currently, the price of rubber cup lumps in our neighbour municipalities is P24 per kilo in the town centres of Kibawe, Kadingilan, Dangcagan, Kitaotao and Don Carlos. In the interior villages the price can go as low P18 per kilo. In all the designated pick-up points in Damulog, PODFA purchases cup lumps at P28 per kilo. Our total purchase at the start was only 5,000 kilos every 15 days. It gradually went up and in the last two purchasing days, we already total 20,000 kilos.
One of the big buyers informed us that he is willing to sell our cup lumps to Malaysia. He will provide the lorry and all the necessary documentation. He will just charge us a service fee. But he will do this on two conditions: 1) Each shipment must be, at least, 22,000 kilos. 2) All the rubber must be as loose cup lumps. We need to go back to the villages and meet with the farmers and tappers. DELTA is behaving as a KILL JOY.
- Banana Chips
The Bukidnon-wide enthusiasm for the banana project was short-lived. We were invited to join the China International Fair on Investment and Trade. We participated in a Zoom conference on September 10, 2020. Six hours after the conference we received inquiries from three Chinese firms to supply 30 tons of banana chips every month. Unfortunately, we could not move forward because there was no interest in the plantation and processing development phases.
The local market for banana chips remains quite vibrant . But at the moment, we are focused on plantation development. In 14 months, we should be producing banana chips from the initial investment from MuCAARD-UK in San Fernando. We have also established contacts with banana tissue seedling producers. Using local resources, BISAP has facilitated the purchase of 5,000 seedlings worth Php 175,000.00 pesos for Damulog-based groups. We are also in touch with two export corporations who are willing to sign purchase orders when we are ready. Full production of this first batch of tissue culture planting materials will be in two years’ time. We have five women groups from five different barangays who are interested in the banana chips project. We are not planning to go into the export market, but it is in our plan to manufacture chips for the local Mindanao market.
There are agricultural production resources available from different government agencies. But the said agencies will only help organizations registered with the Cooperative Development Authority. The National Government is tightening its control of cooperatives because of the abuses committed in the past through ‘fly-by-night’ cooperative organizations. BISAP has decided to apply for registration with CDA. 20 of us attended a Zoom webinar on Pre-Registration Seminar (PRS). We will download the application form this week and, hopefully, submit our application the following week.
Global warming, climate change or whatever name we give it, is now a FELT reality. We’ve been experiencing extremes of weather conditions. Before July 15, we were groaning over the strong winds and blustery winds. The barrages did not last very long but enough to damage crops and dirt trails and road construction projects. But since mid-July, typhoons hit Luzon one after another, but left Mindanao very hot and very dry. In just a week, the ground started to crack.
The loss of the planting season and the disappearance of a clear rainy and dry weather pattern is an experiential warning of the environmental crisis we are facing.
Many houses now are no longer using wood because of the shortage wooden building materials. Lumber is also getting very expensive. People who do not like plastic or metal alternatives are looking at bamboo. Bamboo furniture and housing materials are growing in popularity. There are bamboo industrial plants in Bukidnon producing semi-processed bamboo materials for export to the United States. There are also small and local initiatives producing home and office furniture and floor boards and bamboo plywood.
With the assistance from an American NGO, Bamboo Ecologic Corporation, we provided slightly more than twice the number of planting materials we targeted. We produced 12,000 seedlings. We are presently asking the groups make an inventory of live bamboo plants to determine how many seedlings we need to carry out a re-planting scheme.
Bamboo has a bright future and a very suitable farm project given the terrain of Damulog. But one hitch is that farmers will have to wait for six years before they can earn P20,000 per hectare per month. This is the estimate given by the Mindanao Development Authority under the former Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Manny Piñol.
Projects on hold:
There are other projects and we are seriously looking into their suitability – viable and sustainable – as economic ventures: integrated coconut processing, piggery and corn production. We are also waiting for the suitable time to revive the whole of PuLPuG. There are still three active health organizations functioning: Kiraon, Lagandang and Pocopoco.
Best wishes – Romy.
We have to go to Migcawayan in an hour.
June 2021 Updates on BISAP Areas and Projects
In a month or two there will be wide-spread hunger in three barangays, namely, Omonay, Anggaan and Tangkulan. Less severely affected are the villages of Kiraon, Migcawayan, San Isidro, Kitingting, Pocopoco and Lagandang.
The three barangays have been severely attacked by a rat. Unharvested corn cubs but approaching maturity have almost all been devoured by this pest. Until now, farmers have not replanted because the rats would just eat the seeds. In some of these villages even the barks of ipil ipil (Leucaena) and bungalon, grass used by farmers as fodder for their working animals, have been eaten by the rats. We expect hunger because farmers are dependent on corn crop. Even middle traders who have given out production loans are giving up hope that the loans will be paid. This gloomy projection arose after couple from Pocopoco committed suicide. They suffered two crop failures.
We hope that what is happening in Lagandang will not spread out to the rest of Damulog. This week we heard of army worms attacking corn plants. Army worms are more devastating than rats.
BISAP has not ‘interfered’ with rat infestation because we do not want to raise hopes for something we cannot deliver. We didn’t make any surveys to avoid any false hopes. But we know that the Government is struggling to cope with the needs of people due low harvest caused by a spell of dry weather just when the corn started to tussle and followed the rat infestation and COVID miseries.
Over-all, we are pleased with the bamboo project. For the 5,000 culms planted up to the end of December, the mortality was less than 5%. But those that we planted at the end of January and the whole of February, the mortality rate went up to 20% and there was one area, Mikasili, where the loss went up to 40% percent.
Pag-asa, the National Weather Bureau predicted that the La Niña would last until the end of May. This was why we still planted in January and February. But by the end of February and in March and April we went through very dry and hot months. The mortality rate in Mikasili was aggravated by the damaged to the culms during their transport. The percentage is high but in real numbers, we are talking about 40 culms dying out of 100 seedlings.
A total of 10,000 culms were planted along river banks, watershed area protecting village water supplies and steep lands to prevent soil erosion. Seven farmers organizations and two women’s associations took responsibility of the planting.
BISAP’s of our agricultural livelihood projects, namely: rubber, coconut, bamboo, and banana, the last has the highest chance of succeeding.
There are inquiries about banana chips from China, the middle East and Japan that reached the Provincial Office of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. These inquiries arose from the virtual participation of the Banana Industrial Development Association of Bukidnon (BIDAB) in September during the China International Fair on Investment and Trade (CIFIT). Unfortunately, the interests were all focused – a total of 30 tons of banana chips every month – on the purchase of banana chips. There was no inquiry on investing in agriculture and the processing of chips.
In San Fernando, very opposite results arose from two groups of Manobo farmers that participated in the program. Datu Inggo’s group had a 95% success rate in its banana planting project. But Datu Moroy’s group had an 80% failure. Unfortunately, Datu Inggo’s group allocation of planting materials was only 25%. The political turmoil between the Local Government Unit officials and the leaders of the Indigenous People is a big hindrance for us to visit the area.
The first delivery of seedlings went on very smoothly. Each of the 50 participating families were allocated 10 plantlets each. They had prepared the holes and planted the seedlings as soon as the families received their allocation.
We thought that the same arrangement was made with Datu Moroy’s group. After all the meetings were held at the training/meeting centre of Datu Moroy. We didn’t know that majority of Datu Moroy’s farmer members refused to receive the seedlings. They wanted the equivalent in money. Datu Moroy held his ground and refused the demand of the members. The minority who was willing to receive allocations of a hundred seedlings or more were completely unprepared. We were no longer in the area when this turnover happened. The members who were given a hundred or more planting materials were all from the San Fernando Poblacion. They did not expect to handle so many planting materials. The resultant delay stressed the planting materials. A good number of the banana plantlets were planted in the dried-up rice paddies. When the rains came, the tender plants were drowned.
We stopped the funding from Manoy Zubiri. We have not yet sorted the situation. Datu Moroy’s group behaved just like the Manobo people in the centre of Anggaan. We will go back to area to help the Lumad population of San Fernando but we will spend more time to get to know the group and not just trust the recommendation of the leaders of municipality. We will more closely into the community organizing work that needs to be done before going into any project.
When PODFA formally started its marketing venture, the price of cup lumps among the traders in Damulog was P24 per kilo. In Kiraon and other hamlets, the price went as low as P18 per kilo. PODFA buys at P28.50 per kilo in its buying station in Old Damulog. But in the buying centre in Kibawe, the price is only P22 per kilo.
Today (May 29) buys rubber cup lumps at P28.50 per kilo. There are three companies that are involved in the buy-and-sell of cup lumps and rubber crumbs processing. We sell to the highest bidder. These companies were introduced to PODFA by the Manager of a Seventh Day Adventist-owned Rubber Plantation.
Before PODFA entered the cup lumps marketing scene, no big-time buyers entered Damulog. They were not interested in buying rubber sap blocks because they were adulterated and dirty. These buyers made it clear that they were interested in buying cup lumps, NOT water, stones, ground lime stones, mud. But apparently, Damulog farmers (some) refused to change their ways. The big buyers stopped coming to Damulog.
We started our 2Qs campaign in late November. On January 30 we undertook our first buying venture and we purchased 5,991 kilos. The Manager of the SDA Rubber Plantation persuaded the Managers of Pioneer and FARMA processing companies. They both very pleased with our commodity. 2Qs advocacy made a difference.
We visited rubber farmers in several villages and shared Manager Ric Aperocho’s advise that the most critical factors in the increase and maintenance of the price of cup lumps, aside from the international price, are the QUALITY and QUANTITY of cup lumps. Farmers are cooperating.
The start of the construction has been much delayed. During the dry spell the construction firm started to bulldoze the road from Sarawagon to Kimadsil. The access road from Anggaan to Kimadsil was ‘abandoned’. So, when the rains came, the construction stopped and Kimadsil became inaccessible to bring construction materials to Kimadsil. When the weather permits, we will start the cement work to build the pedestals so we can then erect the posts. When the posts are up, the rest of the construction will follow.
Annual Garden Party (2019)
A good crowd turned up to hear updates on the work of MuCAARD member agencies and share food and friendship.
BISAP is one of the member teams of MuCAARD Mindanao based in Damulog, Bukidnon. They have two main programmes:
CHARGE TO CROP (CtC) corn production project
The issue: farmers are too poor to have savings. They feel that as farmers they are failures. They have no money so every planting time they have to ‘buy’ a production package from a local trader, this package includes – seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The trader charges the famers between £205 – £235/acre for this package. At harvest time the trader takes his cut many times leaving farmers with nothing.
BISAP decided to use their small amount of capital to start an alternative CtC but only had enough capital to fund 55acres. They then linked up with the local radio station and a small company developing alternative seeds to compete with multinationals like Cargill, Pioneer. The company is called ‘My Mates Seeds’ and they also aim to wean farmers off chemical to organic foliar fertilisers within 5 cropping seasons. Also includes teaching how to rehabilitate the soil, burning of farm waste is forbidden and composting is taught.
BISAP have been able to increase acres covered to 180 acres and only charge the farmers £130/acre. At the last harvest the farmers in the scheme were earning £70 – 105/acre depending on soil fertility. If the harvest is good the demand for the seeds could skyrocket. Planning to establish an 11acre seed production area in Damulog.
At the moment we offer this project to families who are members of PuLPug/GRACE set up over 2 years ago. Families/communities who joined this had to resist pressure from the then mayor and his supporters who denied them government help and threatened to and did discontinue their employment as daily workers / day care workers.
PuLPuG / GRACE
The government provides free basic health care, PhilHealth is free at the point of delivery. Health care at local government health clinics provides free access to a doctor/midwives and medicines are free (if available) also at Government Hospitals emergency care is free BUT e.g. blood, reading of x-rays and non-urgent operations not free.
The problem: why were so many of the poorest not taking advantage of this service and still delaying going to a hospital until the situation became critical
It was identified working with the local health team that the health programme known as PuLPuG in Visayan or GRACE (Grassroots Response Against Catastrophic Expenditure) that the biggest cause was the cost of transport to get to the hospital. They would delay until critical and then have to Prenda or pawn their land / coconut tree/ water buffalo/ motorbike to get the cash to pay their medical bills. The Prenda system dates to Spanish times.
The problem: the Lender takes all the income earned from the pawned items until the loan is repaid in a single lump sum. This is impossible to achieve as they have often lost their main/only source of income.
We had no idea of the extent of the problem until we were approached by families asking for help, some pawned their land for £300 over 20 yeas ago.
GRACE is the missing link in understanding why poorest were not taking advantage of the government PhilHealth programme.
Alongside the Charge to Crop production project BISAP are also advocating that farmers learn to save, cash in their pocket is easily spent! Maramag Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MACO) (Maramag is a big town about 40min away) approached and came to Damulog to promote their savings schemes. Farmers have to attend pre-membership seminars. From an initial 10 there are now 60 people who have joined. BISAP has a highly ambitious target of recruiting 450 by the end of the year. When one local indigenous farmer asked why he joined he said ‘ I joined MACO because I want to liberate myself from the exorbitant charges that the traders impose on the charge-to-crop production loans!’ This is a major change in attitude from a subsistence mentality to seeing himself as an entrepreneur.
PuLPug/GRACE was the gateway through which these 2 economic projects could be introduced. With the new mayor and the ant-poverty projects of BISAP being adopted by the local government there is hope that these programmes will expand.
BBC Report on the situation in Marawi
CoSEED: Root Crops and Vegetable Production and Marketing Update
Key areas of development:
1. Coaching and mentoring of individual farmer-beneficiaries for project orientation.
2. Project Orientation and Vegetable and Crop Production Training. 11 attended the training and developed individual Farm Plans. Crops identified for the project are peanur, vegetables, ginger and tumeric.
3. Procurement of seeds and organic fertilisers.
4. Land preparation and planting
View the full Project Update.
Mecha Grace and her mother Lilibeth.
After visiting the Rural Health unit in July with a fever, Mecha was sent to the hopsital. Support from PuLPuG meant they were able to pay for her treatment.
Lilibeth says, “we really want to thank PuLPuG so much for helping us when our daughter was sick. We were lucky that we only had to buy a few medicines from outside the hospital but it was still a problem as we have no money saved for illnesses. We would have been forced to go to a money lender who charge really high interest rates.We had to sell our cow last month to pay for our children’s schooling and other necessities. We had nothing left.My family is not afraid to be part of PuLPuG because its aim is to help people which is our aim too. We want to other families to be helped the way we have. P50/month is not much compared to the help we got from our local group and the Federation. We cannot predict when we will get sick but we don’t want to get sick.We are happy to pay our monthly dues to our group just in case but we’d prefer it if we never needed to use it again.”
Mary Jane’s story
“Lea Jane is my 4th child. I spent a long time in hospital because as I had to have an emergency Caesarian my baby needed to be incubated.
It would have been very hard if we hadn’t been a member of PuLPuG. We were so happy that the Federation were able to help as we had no-one else to turn to. It would have made life very difficult if we’d been forced to borrow money as interest rates are very high (at least 20percent a month).
Our monthly dues are small compared to the enormous help that we were given by our local PuLPuG and the Federation.”
The assistance of the Federation was a huge help to our family and we are extremely grateful.
We didn’t have to pay any expenses as we kept all the receipts from the medicines we had to buy that weren’t available in the hospital.
I am encouraging families in my village to join PuLPuG as it is clear how much we can help each other and our families.
The monthly dues are nothing compared to the help we receive if members of opur family get sick.
Even if the local officials are unhappy with us for organizing PuLPuG (because they think it is a political organization) in our village we will continue regardless as it is a great help at times when we are sick.
I am 38 years old, with 2 children one of whom is now married and expecting her first baby so soon I will be a grandmother!
We are happy we have PuLPuG as there is no-one else who will help us if we don’t help ourselves.We are really happy and grateful for the help of the Federation it gives us confidence that we can buy the medicines we need if they are not available in the hospital.If there was no PuLPuG we would have to borrow at high interest rates to pay for the medicines. We could be forced to sell our chickens and pigs which is not possible as they are our only source of income and only just enough for our needs.
Despite threats from local officials I am not afraid to attend meetings as the group’s aim is to help each other.
The P25/month is affordable as it covers the travel expenses if we need to go to the hospital and food for the person who has to stay and look after you. The group buolds up savings and pay a monthly membership to the Federation to cover any expenses not covered by the Government health scheme (PhilHealth). I have received a lot of help from the Federation.
The local government have their own health insurance scheme but it doesn’t help in getting you to the hospital and they only reimburse expenses which have complete receipts but no travel cost
The siege of Marawi City in May 2017 left over 300,000 people displaced, more than 94% of them sought refuge with relatives and fellow clan members in towns and villages surrounding Marawi City and Lake Lanao. This placed greater strain on already stretched resources.
The Ramadan Assistance programme funded by MuCAARD UK extended assistance to forty displaced families with nutritious food needed to survive during the period of fasting.
Read the full report: Ramadhan Assistance Narrative & Financial Report
Sometime ago, the farmers only produced corn and upland rice. Today, they already tap the rubber trees that were planted through the “Plant Now, Pay Later” rubber production program in 2008.
“We no longer teach our children how to dismantle and assemble guns. Instead, we teach them how to tap rubber trees”, one leader said.
Coconut and other permanent crops (coffee and cacao) are on the bearing stage. Those engaged in banana production have been enjoying the good harvest. Backyard poultry and livestock are prominent. These are the dividends of peace.
Once, the people relied on animals of burden (carabao and horses) in bringing their products to the town. Now, the people transport their products using motorcycles and four-wheeled vehicles.
Ustadz Anwar Montawal calls: “We used to start our journey to Damulog centro at dawn and arrive home at seven in the evening. Now, we can go to the town at any given time because of the road that the local government built. Today, many of us own a motorcycle. Ustadz Thong Ibrahem (another leader) owns two Suzuki multi-cabs, he contined.
CRISTENE AND ALTHEA ARE MY TREASURES!
Cristene and Althea are Gretchen Siva’s treasures. She is a young mother who would do everything to keep her girls safe and healthy at all times. With that in mind, she believes that the self-help concept of PuLPuG is relevant to her family’s need as preparation in times of sickness.
“It is heart-warming to be able to help others. I never wish for my loved ones to get sick. My P20.00 per month contribution is a small amount. What inspires me is the spirit of cooperative endeavour in the community.”
Cristene and Althea were admitted to the hospital on November 23, 2017, due to fever convulsions. Cristene contracted UTI, while Althea had pneumonia.
“We received financial support from our local group without delay. My worries lessened knowing that I can quickly bring my two girls to the hospital. The Federation also reimbursed all the medicines that we bought outside the hospital. We are grateful for what this project has done to my family and to our community.”
Rheana, Gretchen: ‘Please Don’t Forget What They Did for You.’
Life is tough for Romeo and Gina Ybañez. They have two children; they are also taking care of their three nieces. Romeo is a farmer but he doesn’t own a farm. He is a share-tenant of two landowners.
“I am thankful for our Pastor because it was through him that we heard of an organization called PuLPuG. With eagerness we joined the organization. Php 20 per month per household is not a heavy burden.
We will have a good harvest if take care of our maize farm. This is my perception of the program. Even if we do not benefit from the money we contribute, it will be a joy to know that our monthly contribution can help a neighbour in need.
We do not want to get sick, but when my daughter Rheana and my niece, Gretchen, had pneumonia at the same time, we were able to bring the two sick girls to Kibawe Provincial Hospital because our group paid for the transport and provided food for the watchers. The Federation also paid Php 2,210 worth of medicines which were not available in the hospital pharmacy.
Without PuLPuG we would have been in a complete loss where to find the money. We are very grateful that we bonded together to help each other in times of need. We will continue to do this and pray that more families will join the organization.