It was a festive day, for the first time in the history of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, rice and coffee farmers received machines. In partnership with Catholic Relief Services and USDA and the Local Government Unit, 44 Barangays (villages), received 6 Tractors, 5 Turtles, 28 weeders, 2 collapsible driers, 2 units water pump for irrigation, 1 coffee huller machine and 2 system new dam for irrigation. Four units threshers were also given out of the intended 7 units, since 3 units was burned last march 21, 2014 during the Palimbang Municipal Hall burning incident. This infrastructure support was designed to achieve the two strategic goals of FARM Project which are, to increase in production and income. A total of 1,590 farmers are expected to benefit from the infrastructures.
During the turn-over ceremony last Saturday may 3, 2014, Municipal Agriculturist Jaime Magana said, “This may be the happiest day for you”, talking to the farmers. Indeed it was.
PALIMBANG, SULTAN KUDARAT- A huge flame burned the 2 Administrative Buildings of the Municipality of Palimbang where the Pasali’s 3 new rice threshers were included in the incident, Saturday March 22, 2014, 1 o’clock in the morning.
The 3 new threshers with 10 HP Kubota engine with complete accessories together with the old Municipal Hall and a new building were burned resulted to a great loss for the Municipality and for the Pasali’s FARM project.
Around 6:53 in the morning on the same day, the Municipal Administrator of Palimbang reported the incident to Pasali Philippines. Right away, Mr. Paquito Estrebilla, the Managing Director of Pasali Philippines asked McDonnel Ty, the Project Coordinator of the FARM project to check the burned units and have an individual investigation.
The 3 units were delivered on March 21, 2014. This is the first set of the delivery for the Pasali FARM Project. The accessories of the threshers were concealed beside the Mayor’s office while the whole 3 units were placed in the empty space between the two administrative buildings that were burned. The units were about to turn-over to the Project’s beneficiaries on March 26, 2014 after all the purchased units for the project will be completely delivered. But because of the incident, the schedule for the turn-over ceremony has been cancelled.
McDonnel Ty told Mr. Cachuela, the supplier of the threshers, about the incident. “When the metal from rice thresher suffers from burning, it will cause all the shafting and bearings to bend, hence, it will affect the efficiency of the equipment,” Mr. Cachuela said, adding that he will repair the 3 burned units for free as soon as it will be delivered on his shop. But, as of the moment, the burned units were still in the area of incident while the investigation is still on process. The Bureau of Fire promised to give a copy of BFP report as soon as the investigation has completed.
Nomoh in Maasim Sarangani province is an upland area dominated by indigenous T’boli group. It is the only coffee area in Maasim. The road is passable by motorcycles and vehicles provided it is a 4 Wheel Drive for uphill terrains. Only two Puroks in Nomoh has access to electricity while the rest are remote areas. The centro can be reached in 15-20 minutes motorcycle ride but the coffee farm is far from the center of the community. Farmers in the area don’t depend on Coffee only but also in Abaka, Copra and corn production. Being the only coffee area in Maasim, the local Department of Agriculture (DA) actively implements projects specially in the production aspect but last year when the FARM project started, farmers are assisted in marketing. The FARM project clustered a total of 150 coffee farmers in two sitios/ villages ( 100 farmers in Sitio Macnit and 50 in Sitio Malaklong)
The selling of fresh coffee berries is the trend in the area since no drying facility is available. A plenty of agents go up to the area to buy their fresh coffee produce at extremely low price of 15-16 pesos per “gantang” which is equivalent to 2 Kilos. These agents do the drying of the beans for the trader. Some agents cunningly bring canned goods, rice, fish and bread to trade for coffee beans. This is why coffee farmers have a debt even when their coffees are not harvested yet. If a farmer incurs debt on a trader, he is obliged to sell his coffee berries to the trader. Therefore, farmers are subject to the price of the latter. This is when the cycle of debt starts and what the FARM project is trying to minimize, if not break in order to sell to institutional buyers with far better prices. At first, only 2 farmers gave green coffee beans for a mini test-delivery to Nestle’. They were hesitant at first, thinking they might not pass the quality standards. It resulted to a grade 2 quality ( for the first time!) and they realized they can achieve Nestle’s standard. After that, more farmers joined. As of February 2013, they have perfected grade 1 quality for the third time already after the very first mini test-marketing. Also, only last March 2013 as a result of our clustering efforts, 50 farmers in Sitio Malaklong registered themselves in DOLE as Holik Farmers Association.
As a result of successful deliveries to Nestle’, Pasali assisted these two associations to access to financing from KPS-SEED, Inc. Last September, Maasim Coffee Growers Association, accessed a loan amounting to Php 200,000. This October, the newly formed association Holik Farmers Association, with 50 members, also accessed a loan worth Php 262,500 for their member’s weeding & harvesting expenses, since these two labor costs are the main reason why they have to borrow from local traders. Also, with the accessing of marketing fund, the groups now engage in buying of coffee from non- member for additional income.
As an immediate result, the members don't have to borrow anymore from local traders and therefore, more farmers can join a collective marketing to Nestle' this harvest season. Many times, farmers utterly express their gratitude to us who facilitated them and promised to work harder to have a good track record in KPS-SEED,Inc. so that they can borrow bigger amount in the next round.
Alabel is a first class municipality in the province of Sarangani, Philippines. It is the capital municipality of this province. It is largely based on agriculture with a high level production of coconut meat. Other agricultural products includes rice, coffee and barely vegetable.
The economy of Alabel has accelerated in the past decade driven by advances in global communication technology and the finishing of a modern highway that tremendously improved trade and transport. The agro enterprise of Pasali-FARM project in coffee is located in Barangay DatalAnggas. There are 29 Sitios/puroks in this barangay.
The communities of Barangay Datal Anggas are mostly IPs, belonging to Kalaga/Kaulo tribe with around 50% of the population and the remaining 50% are B’laan tribe. Because of their situation and the distance of community from the town proper of Alabel, the area became isolated and the level of education is very low. They also lack knowledge on proper technology especially on coffee production. Most of them are practicing manual hulling of coffee beans. Another problem is theclimate change and since the area is in high elevation, ripening of coffee berry is not on time. The peak harvest in the area is in December to February. The farmers have difficulty in marketing their products in the nearby coffee station or fair traders because of distance and impassable farm to market road. Most of the time, traders from Malita-Davao del Sur and Alabel are going to this community to buy their green coffee beans at a lowest price. In the same way, the peace and order situation is also a problem especially that the activities of the NPA are active in the area.
With the FARM project, the community has appreciated the intervention on moving farmers to modern markets through collective marketing. They were motivated by the experience of other municipalities that was shared to them by Pasali. Also, the exposure visit was done to selected cluster leaders to personally see Nestle buying station and learn the quality check processes.
In the last harvest season, the farmer group attempted to move to a market for the very first time with the facilitation of DA-Alabel and assigned MAEF. They consolidated 5,279 kilos of green coffee beans which is manually dehulled. The community was force to sign a guarantee in behalf of the association to ensure payment that will be paid back to the group. They have targeted to deliver in Nestle, Tagum. Unfortunately, their products were rejected because of the excess in moisture content but with the help of the project, the marketing officer found a contingency buyer in Davao City. The initial test marketing of farmers had gained them more than P20 pesos/kilo margin compared to the traders’ price. According to the cluster, they will again try marketing their product in the next season despite the challenges that they have encountered.
The municipal agriculture office of Alabel is very participative with the project. They have assigned one (1) Agricultural Technologist (DA-AT) for the Pasali-FARM project. The LGU of Alabel and PASALI are closely working together in this project and is a concrete example of public private partnership.
The Datal Anggas small independent group is planning to strengthen their association for sustainability and they are seeking help of Pasali in the facilitation. In conclusion, the 28-month intervention is not enough to come up with a higher goal or impact of the project. In order for the farmers to be on AE step 8 which is on scaling up, long term project should be materialized.
Palimbang is identified to be Moro Community. It is characterized by a varied topography ranging from plain to hilly mountains. From the coast, stretching north and south upward are mountain range over 500 meters high above sea level with plains and wide inner valleys. A vast area of land in Palimbang are agricultural land of which, 14, 081 hectares are plane alluvial found in the 24 coastal barangays where some of the target community like Banbanen, Domulol and Napnapon is a part of. The agricultural land requires erosion control measures and conservation practices. This area is best for rice and vegetable farming. Palimbang is home to undiscovered tourism sites due to its unstable peace and order situation but has recently improved a lot owing to the growing economic and political developments in the recent years.
The situation of rice farmers in Palimbang are the same in other municipalities. The absence of financing institutions in the area resulted to force engagement in usury to traders with high interest rate. Most of the villages in this area are rainfed and irrigation systems are limited. Also, because of lack of pre and post-harvest equipment the farmers are not practicing synchronized farming which resulted to failure of their cropping season. The peace and order situation is another problem in this area because this is where the biggest camps of Moro National Liberation Front(MNLF )and Moro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF) are situated. Most of the project’s cluster leaders and members especially in the Moro areas have admitted to be members of these groups. With this situation, marketing consolidation is nearly impossible.
Pasali Philippines is the only NGO that is based and working in Palimbang, this gives the farmers the willingness to participate in the project. As a result, community organizing is not a problem especially with the help of DA-AT’s.The entry of Pasali-FARM project saw small openings of intervention in the farming situation of the farmers. They were initially grouped into clusters with a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 15 members each clusters. In each clusters, one leader is appointed to guide and coached its members as provided by the project. The clustering approached with the objective of moving farmers to modern market were first given to each clusters through their leaders who cascaded it to its members. The farmers started to re-adjust their farming practices for collective marketing. Some of them are now practicing synchronous farming even if the farm equipments are limited. They also undergo massive production technology training on rice production with collaboration on the local government unit (LGU) of Palimbang through its municipal agriculture office.
The exposure activities are the eye opener for these farmers, not only on good agriculture practices (GAP) but also on the modern markets that are waiting for their products. They were linked with the National Food Authority (NFA) and fair traders in the neighboring municipalities that offer fair prices. After the sample test marketing that was facilitated by Pasali, some of farmer cluster leaders and members are collectively marketing their “palay” product to fare traders and modern market even without the presence the MAEFs. They are only informing them about their initiative. Some of them formed their group into legal entities for sustainability and to allow them to have marketing arrangement with NFA which is one of the requirements. Last cropping season, the farmer beneficiaries of southern and northern Palimbang consolidated around 166,621.5 tons combination of fresh and dry palay. The project is also in the process of providing them with pre and post-harvest equipment and selected new dam for irrigation.
Kalamansig and Lebak are one of the first municipalities in the province of Sultan Kudarat that have been conducted with community-needs assessment. Kalamansig is a Manobo term “Kulaman-sig” or literally means “the Manobo of Waters”. Later the name evolved to “Kalamansig” and became its official name. Transportation in the town is difficult since natural roads have not been well-developed. Though the area is surrounded with bodies of water, farming is still one of the main means of livelihood of the people other than fishing. While, Lebak is a coastal town separated from the mainland of Sultan Kudarat, it is marked with hilly, mountainous ranges. It is about eight feet above sea level. The plains range from level to nearly level while uplands range from nearly level to hilly. Mountainous and gently rolling slopes are suitable for intensive corn farming. Aside from corn, coffee is one of the main commodities of this municipality.
The municipality of Kalamansig and Lebak are one of the top producers of coffee in the Philippines, yet despite of their abundance of coffee they are still behind in terms of technologies especially on production, marketing and post-harvest. The presence of armed groups and militants are main factors that affect the peace and order situation of the areas, making them isolated.
There are three (3) barangays (village) in Kalamansig that are identified by the value chain enhancement. These are Barangay Limulan, Hinalaan and DatuWasay. In these barangays where there is Agro-enterprise, the top products are coffee with an average of 3000 to 4000 hectares, rubber, corn, high valued crops and fruit trees. The accessibility of market from these areas isstrenuous with its rocky slope terrain and earth swampy road. On the other hand, two (2) barangays in Lebak which are Barangay Bululawan and Ragandang have been recognized by the coffee value chain enhancement. In the same manner, the condition of their farm to market roads is not easy that is why most of the coffee farmers are selling their products to local traders. Most of the coffee farmers are IPs belonging to the Manobo tribes. Since the level of education is very low and lack of facilities, farmers are usually abusedby traders. Before the project implementation, these farmers cannot directly market their coffee to institutional markets like Nestle. They are usually forced to submit to the whims of the traders who controlled the prices of coffee ranging from 10-30 pesos per kilo.
The entry of PASALI- FARM project in the area hasaffected the tradition of these farmer beneficiaries. They were oriented on Agro-enterprise Clustering Approach that links small farmers to modern markets. Not all farmers were convinced at the start of the implementation. The marketing consolidation is quite impossible for them especially that they still have standing loan on traders and they lack post-harvest equipment that contribute to the green coffee beans which will pass the quality requirements of Nestle. Another factor is the fear that this will affect their relationship with traders. It is a challenge for Pasali to redirect the mindset of farmers and the culture that exists for more than decades already. The situation even reached the point that Pasali’s Municipal Agro-enterprise facilitators (MAEF) were threatened by traders.
Pasali responds to these gaps and constraints by conducting activities that would enlighten and encouraged the farmers. The project conducted exposure visits to institutional markets like Nestle. These coffee beneficiaries were brought to Nestle buying station in General Santos. They were able to observe the actual process of product testing as well as looking into the green coffee beans delivered in the station. They have found out that the process was simple and that their coffee beans are better compare to what they saw at the buying station. This activity led them to do the sample test marketing and this test marketing was also scheduled across the municipalities covered by the project.
Initially, they only commit certain amount of their harvest to be consolidated in their cluster to avoid conflicts with traders. Most of their harvest will still be paid to the local traders. Yet, after they have paid their debts through this collective marketing, they can be able to commit most of their harvest and be able to achieve increase income. Also, all clusters will undergo the 8-step clustering approach and will be provided with post harvest equipment so that they can achieve the quality requirements of Nestle.
The threats to the MAEFs were also addressed. Pasali had re-planned the activity with the local government unit (LGU) of Kalamansig and Lebak. First, they seek the approval of the mayors of the two municipalities in appointing focal persons among the staff of the office of the municipal agriculture to support the FARM project. The MAO will be the main actor on consolidation especially in the preparation of the community with the assistance of Pasali’s MAEFs. With this, the traders and farmers will see it as an LGU activity and as part of their deliverables in their offices.
The sample test marketing resulted to series of marketing conducted. The farmers were able to prove that the actual sales in Nestle are bigger than the traders and the margin on Nestle price against traders is very high. They have even conducted one big test marketing with 12 tons of green coffee beans delivered to Nestle coming from their last harvest season in the two municipalities. According to the municipal agriculture offices of Kalamansig and Lebak, this is the first time that the farmers are collectively delivering their green coffee beans to Nestle. Also, Mr. Solangoy, the Bgry. Captain of Hinalaan in Kalamansigsaid, that because of the marketing activities made by the clusters, all local traders re-adjust their pricing in favor of the coffee farmers. He added that they are very thankful to PASALI and the FARM project for this kind of intervention.
Excited coffee, vegetable and rice farmers flock in droves of 10 as they arrived from 7 municipalities of Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani in preparation for a agri-technology exposure in the last week of November 2012. Rice farmers went to Kidapawan, vegetable farmers went to East west, and coffee growers went to Mahintana project site, Green Tropics and Nestle' Gensan.
The exposure is part of the Farmer Alliances for Resources Strengthening and Marketing (FARM) - a project focused on increasing the marketing knowledge of Tri-people communities - that Pasali conducts in partnership with Catholic Relief Services and USDA.
Their arrival at Pasali's office made the work day festive and particularly inspiring, given that farmers were present from Northern Palimbang, which just last year was torn by armed conflict.