Europeans cite feats in upland agriculture in Mindanao

Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, Head of Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines, announced in a press conference Wednesday they had "excellent success" in running the UDP and they have developed a model for sustainable upland development ready for replication by other local governments around the country.  

But the EC will have a lesser role in the crucial next phase, he said, adding replication can best work with the DA and the local governments using their own resources.

The League of Municipalities in the Philippines pledged to use the model among its member towns pursuant to President Arroyo's Executive Order No. 606 on sustainable upland development, LMP national President Ramon Guico, Jr. said.

But Guico could not outline as yet how they will undertake the information and education campaign and tours in recipient communities.

LMP cited the role of the Mayors Development Program in training and replicating the efforts of UDP in other LGUs.

Agriculture Undersecretary Bernie Fondevilla said sustainable upland development will be prioritized with the creation of a convergence effort between the DA, DENR and Department of Agrarian Reform . Around P3 billion has been pledged for the program.

But he said this would take time because of the need to “involve wider participation of other organizations such as the church, civil society, non-government organizations, and agrarian reform communities, “ among others, to prevent conflict.

The Department of Agriculture ran the program since 1999 with the UDP in six provinces and 38 municipalities involving 134 upland barangays in South Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, and Sarangani.  

The EC granted more than Php 1.08 billion grant for the project.

MacDonald said the program served to empower local governments to alleviate poverty, , protect the environment especially the uplands and also contribute to the work for peace in conflict-affected areas. 

He said they are marking the end of the program and the beginning of the "next steps" where the Sustainable Upland Development Model will be replicated in other local governments.

MacDonald said they chose the region in 1999, where they already had an initial program, because Southern Mindanao was "where the problem was immense but the situation showed that it also had immense potentials." 

The program engaged local governments on land-use based barangay development planning, upland agricultural extension through land management, barangay forest protection and management, and labor-based barangay routine road maintenance.

The program also covered rural financial services and upland village enterprise development, according to a press release.   

Mayor Givel Mamaril  of Malalag in Davao del Sur, said the program helped LGUs unleash their potentials to take care of their environment and teach not just the local officials but also the people about proper land use planning.

According to UDP national co-director Dashiel Indelible, based on a study, farmers in the covered areas who barely earned P500 a year nine years ago now earn at least P134, 000 per hectare per year from a crop they did not identify. 

At least around 330,000 hectares of forest in the covered area are now being managed by community-based organizations.

Renato Manantan, officer-in-charge of the DA special projects coordination unit, said the  success of the project is not on actual projects but on the shift in the process of development.

He said it is important for LGUs and communities to learn participatory land use planning to achieve better results. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)