‘Peace ponds’ help provide food and cooperation among N. Cotabato villagers

The 300-square meter "Peace Pond" at Barangay Kapinpilan in Misadayap, North Cotabato. Twelve more "peace ponds" were made in 12 other barangays in Midsayap as part of the rehabilitation efforts after the war in 2008. Mindanews photo by Keith Bacongco

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato (MindaNews/17 Feb) – It all started as a “quick response team” (QRT) in times of armed conflicts and natural calamities.

But since armed conflict and natural calamities rarely happen in the village of Kapinpilan these days, a local group, which became known as the Magungaya Center, thought of making something to make the QRT members busy in these times of “relative peace.”

Junalyn Gayak Sumlay, executive director of Magungaya Center, told MindaNews that the digging of fish ponds in 13 barangays has become a reason for the villagers, particularly the QRT members, to gather and spend time together.

“Instead of going to other places and look for economic opportunities, they will spend their time in their fish ponds,” said Sumlay.

She added that the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion based in nearby Aleosan town helped them organize the 43-member QRT in October last year.

“Since there’s already relative peace in the community and natural calamities rarely happen, we thought of something to hold the QRT members together,” said Lt. Col. Rosalito Martires, 40IB outgoing commander. “The idea of a fish pond came to mind,” he added.

Kapinpilan is one of the 13 barangays that initiated what they now call as “Peace Ponds,” which is part of the rehabilitation efforts after the war in 2008.

The other barangays are Tugal, Mudseng, Rangaban, Sambulawan, Tumbras, Kadingilan, Olandang, Kadigasan, Damatulan, Lomopog, Malingao and Central Labas. (Midsayap has 57 barangays.)

These were among the conflict-affected villages when fighting erupted between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels following the aborted signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza speaks before villagers at Barangay Kapinpilan in Misadayap, North Cotabato Tuesday during the inauguration of the "Peace Ponds" project. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday MoreOn February 15, Cotabato Gov. Emmylou “Lala” Taliño-Mendoza inaugurated the “peace pond” in Kapinpilan.

Mendoza said the provincial government provided 1,500 fingerlings of Pangasius (a catfish) per pond.

“We don’t need big projects just for the sake of doing something for the communities. This small effort can also make a difference for everyone,” she said. “These small efforts can even contribute in maintaining harmonious relationship among the people,” the governor added.

Dats Sumlay, Junalyn’s husband, said that the “peace ponds” are still considered as “demo” ponds.

“We are hoping that these demo ponds will be successful because we also want to replicate these in other barangays, particularly those along Rio Grande de Mindanao in the towns of Aleosan, Libungan, Pigcawayan and Pikit,” Sumlay said.

The United Nation’s World Food Program, he said, assisted them through the “Food for Work” program.

Aside from QRT members, several other villagers also participated in the “Food for Work” program during the digging of the 300-square meter pond beneath the small coconut farm owned by one of the QRT members.

Sumlay added that it took them 45 days to dig the 10-foot deep pond. Those who helped received about 40 kilos of rice, he said.

The farmers are expecting a gross earning of Php135,000 per pond if they decide to sell the fish. Pangasius is expected to reach 1kg in six months.

As it is now, farmers divide their time between the “peace ponds” and their rice fields. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)