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.