Annual Garden Party
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.