FROM ARMS TO FARMS-WALKING THROUGH THE PATHS FOR PEACE-The kauswagan Experience

( Winner of the 2014 NATIONAL GAWAD GALING POOK AWARD OF THE PHILIPPINES )

  1. PROGRAM BRIEF

Kauswagan , Lanao del Norte has a painful experience of the past. From the early 70’s where the Barracudas ( Maranao fanatics ) and the blackshirts (Christian fanatics) causes death on both tribes and the mass evacuation of the community folks due to killings and burning of houses to the year 2000 when the municipality was nearly occupied by the MILF rebels that resulted to mass evacuations and the public announcement  of then president Joseph E. Estrada for all out war against the MILF in the grounds of the municipality of Kauswagan side by side the sounds of cannons and guns targeting the camps of MILF in the area, and lately in the year 2008 after the failed signing of MOA AD between the GPH and MILF that resulted to the burning of houses , looting, and killing of Christian innocent civilians in two barangays  of the municipality.

The destiny of Kauswagan since 1970’s is doomed by these skirmishes and killings that brought havoc in the life not only with the Christians but also with the Muslim communityfolks who are lovers of peace. This lead to the rise in the poverty incidence of Kauswagan in the year 2009 to 79 %, biases rise to an extreme levels, livelihood is affected, education , health and sanitation, and worst, relationship between Muslims and Christians in the area deteriorates. Several interventions of the different agencies poured out, but the problem never ended. Poverty incidence still rises, and intervening projects did not change the behavior and relationship between the two tribes, the Muslims and Christians, in fact MILF rebellion increased.

When the new administration toke over the government in 2010 when the new benevolent and dynamic Municipal Mayor sworn to office, Mayor Rommel C. Arnado did not waste time but find avenues through convergence and participatory approach in planning the fate and the future of our people.  Pacepaths workshop in the barangay mass level especially in the Muslim dominated areas was made with the LGU on the lead and different NGOs and POs, Religious sectors participated with the Assisi Development Foundation , the Department of Agriculture, and ATI working in convergence to finance some of the programs , projects and activities identified by the community folks themselves. In short, Kauswagan is far ahead of the Aquino administration in bottom up planning & budgeting. Kauswagan is spearheading a new paradigm in participatory planning, budgeting , implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Programs, Projects and activities. NGOs and POs with Assisi Devt. Foundation, DA, and ATI is active in implementing Peace Paths plans and programs identified by the community themselves.

For two years, since 2011  these approaches and methodologies radiates in the heart of some commanders and members of the MILF . Prior to the GPH-MILF accord , the municipality has set its legacy in winning the heart and sympathies of these rebels. Knowing and seeing the participatory approach and convergence efforts of the stakeholders , that resulted to an increase in livelihood of the people focused on Organic farming and livelihood program for the informal sectors, commanders of the MILF namely commander Saidomar Mutia, Commander Mangundato Limbuna, Kumander Hadji Ismael Solaiman, and Commander Benjie Lucsadato and their followers returned to the hold of the government, this time as an emerging Farm entrepreneurs using organic way of farming. From arms that bring them uncertainties with their families of the future, fears , and worst poverty, these rebel returnees use now plows , carabaos , and begun planting farm commodities of high valued like upland rice, corn, vegetables, and other crops on their own farms. In short , the bloody land turned to a green , healthy and abundant land true to Mindanao as the land of beauty and bounty . These commanders and followers of the MILF now becomes a busy farm entrepreneurs who works not anymore with the arms and bullets that killed several innocent civilians, but with the soil that brings them life, plants that nourishes not only their families but others needing nourishment in organic farming products , and livestock that give them not only life but abundance in the spirit of convergence and commitment for peace. This time a huge hectares of farmlots had been developed, fishponds, livestock and other forms of livelihood had been implemented that changes the lives of not only the Rebel returnees but also the poor members of the community indulged in farming and fishing.

The prime objective of the Project “ From Arms to Farms ” is definitely diminishing  the fangs of poverty and to bring back the confidence of the Muslims and Christians and Lumads in the area, and at the end bring ALL OUT PEACE in the area against the ALL OUT WAR declarations of the past.

This time, since 2011 until 2014, the difference is great, biases completely collapsed, MILF rebels started to return to the hands of the government, confidence build up is great, poverty incidence decreased from 79 % of 2009 to 47.5 % of 2013, and continued to lower with the confidence and commitment set. In short, PEACE and confidence is within the atmosphere of the municipality, a true peacepaths..

The strategies in meeting the needs and objectives is simple, a strong commitment of the Local Chief Executive who never end up a day without positive impacts of the PPAs , the strong determination and unwavering support of NGOs, POs , funding institutions, and all stakeholders of the program. And most of all, the participatory approach and the bottom up approach strategies where the people is consulted . Bottomline is participatory governance and strong commitment among stakeholders and beneficiaries that fears will be wiped out, that uncertainties overshadowed by hopes and positive results , and that Arms that leads to chaos and dis-integrations becomes farms that gives life, and help build strong confidence in building a brighter future, both Muslims and Christians and Lumads in the area.

  1. POSITIVE RESULTS AND IMPACTS

In the implementation of the “ Arms to Farms “ Program , the following are tangible results and impacts:

  1. Increase in the rebel returnees to work with Organic farming from 4 commanders and 60 members to 100  With additional commanders as follows :
    • Commander Aguila
    • Commander Batman
    • Commander Cosain
  1. Decrease in poverty incidence from 79% of 2009 to 47.5 % of 2013;
  2. Increase in income of Rebel Returnees up to 50%
  3. Increase in income of poor farmers to 40%

ere is a tangible sign of peacefulness in the area with no ambushes, killings even sounds of guns & cannons , no evacuations experience due to human induced calamities , absence  of terrorists , no more cattle rustlings as experienced in the past. In short the outcome of the Program is Confidence and Peace….Our Muslim bothers and sisters are working with the Christian community with confidence and camaraderie . There is no more fears in going to the farmland hence MILF rebels and terrorist knows the seriousness of this administration in implementing plans and programs.

Another significant outcome of the Program is the increase in visits of other cities and municipalities in Kauswagan to experience  the significant changes and transformations of the municipality in bringing peace and bridging the gaps that divides , and in experiencing the significant increase in income among poor farmers, and how these arms turned to farms among our MILF rebel returnees.

Our people especially farmers are now beginning to shift its mentalities from DOLE OUT system to COST RECOVERY  schemes. Meaning, the amount or funds given to them as initial capital will be returned back  to the LGU without interest in a monthly bases and will be rolled out again to other farmers and fisherfolks. In short sustainability of the program is ascertain by this scheme while increasing income among he stakeholders.

Another significant outcome of the project is the increase in the confidence level and consciousness of young generations to indulged in farming especially the entrepreneurial side of it. Education plays a vital role, hence the increase in scholarship and enrolment in the established school in the municipality, the product of the Public-Private Partnership for Justice Peace and Development with the Assisi Development Foundation, Inc and the LGU is significant. The Dona Laureana School for Practical Agriculture in the area significantly changes the methodologies in simple farming to an entrepreneurial farming through organic agriculture.

It is here in this school where the minds and sentiments of MILF Rebels drastically changed. The capacity building made and the technology transfer both theory and practical made our MILF rebel returnees commanders and  members spent their time and concentration in organic farming. The following are the MILF Commanders scope of farmlands as of the present with the Arms to Farms Program :

  1. Commander Saidomar Mutia          –  developed 10 has Organic farmland planted  with  corn, peanut, coffee,upland rice, coconut, with livestocks
  1. Commander Mangundatu Limbuna –  developed almost 100 has planted with  Upland rice,     corn, fruit trees, potatoe with livestocks

3.  Commander Hadji Ismael Solaiman – developed almost 50 has planted with  upland rice, natural irrigation, fishpond With livestock

  1. Commander Benjie Lucsadatu –          developed 10 has, planted with corn, beans Upland rice, coffee , fishpond, With livestocks
  2. Other members of Rebel Returnees farms – developed 120 has farmland with  Developed fishponds,

Other significant Muslim leaders who successfully indulged in Organic farming :

  1. ABC Chairman Malik O. Macabato of Tingintingin, Kauswagan – developed 50 has  Planted with upland rice, vegetables, fruit trees,

Corn, coffee with developed fishpon

  1. Former SB Member Aga Dimakuta of Cayontor,Kauswagan – Developed 100 has   Farmlands, with livestock, fishpond, virgin forest,

Farms with upland rice, fruit trees, corn, coffee,  vegetables

  • PROMOTION OF PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION AND EMPOWERMENT

Kauswagan , Lanao del Norte is one of the seven (7) out of 21 municipalities of Lanao del Norte which passes the Seal of Good Housekeeping – Silver. This means that the municipality passes the requirements of participatory good governance, transparency and good governance. This is due to the Local Government Unit’s Chief Executive commitment for accountable governance.

In the Arms to Farms Program, the community had been organized with the Assisi Development Foundation and the Municipal Agriculture Office leading the participatory governance. The Philippine Military also is active in organizing the Rebel returnees. In the SIKAD PA agenda of the present administration since 2010.. It is a mandate with this program and agenda to organize different sectors in the area, thus the Peacepaths workshops in the barangay level as a Bottom Up approach in planning and Budgeting is made with all stakeholders present. The voices of the small people is heard and given due emphasis. Community organizers were employed every barangay and immersed in the area to capacitate farmers, fisherfolks, and other informal sectors in the area including women, the senior citizens, the youths and the persons with disabilities. Organizations had been registered with proper agencies like the DOLE and SEC, and all of them participated in the planning process . Organizations are empowered in crafting and implementing policies of the organization.

There are about five to ten organizations organized in 13 barangays of the municipality. These organizations participated in the planning , budgeting, implementation and Monitoring of project implementations. They are given leeway in handling their affairs and they are given assistance for their livelihood where the organization will implement including the cost recovery schemes of funds extended for sustainability.

In special bodies like the Municipal Development Council, Local Peace and Order, Municipal Health Board, Local School Board and other mandated Boards and Council under RA 7160, the said organizations are well represented. What is more exciting in the people’s participation is that community now are actively participating in the identification of problems , needs analysis and has full participation in conflict resolutions and finding ways to solve problems of the community with the organization leading.

As a result, organizations with the Community organizers conducted its monthly meetings and evaluations, and resolve some issues involving their organizations and its role in the community. They were also active in giving reports and outputs of the project implementations. Officials and members fully participated. The following are the organizations organized in the barangay level with capacity building given on sustainable agriculture , entrepreneurial skills , and organizational management and sustainability :

  1. Womens Association
  2. Fisherfolks Association
  3. Farmers Association
  4. Barangay Water and Sanitation Association
  5. PWD Association
  6. Rebel Returnees Association;
  7. Peanut Producers Association
  8. Alternative / Herbal Medicine Producers Association;
  9. Peanut Processor’s Association;
  10. Food Processors Association
  11. Coco-Coir Producers Association
  12. Coco-Midrib Association;
  13. Conflict Mediators’ Associations

 

INNOVATIONS

It is a common phrase to say that “  Necessity is the mother of all inventions “ . The MDG ( Millennium Development goal ) has to end by 2016. Not unless a Local Government Unit will innovate or evolve an immediate strategies, these MDGs such as lowering down of poverty incidence to a zero level , and other indicators under the MDG will become futile by 2016. There is a need to fast track things and innovation is a solution.

One of the most important innovations this Arms to Farms Program  made is the shifting of strategies from the bureaucratic level to a mass based level, or the BUB Process. Its easier to implement programs and projects if the community themselves identified it and has full participation in the process. From organizing , to capacitation, from implementation to monitoring and evaluation.

The LCE likewise has championed the entrepreneurial strategies, hence this skills is transferred to farmers and fisherfolks, to reinvent strategies that has no impact to a strategies with greater positive impacts. In immersing community organizers in the barangay level as one of the few innovations, the community felt sense of belongingness and importance and likewise they felt the seriousness of the government in implementing program and projects for the future of the community. The project implementation is based on the felt needs of the community especially the Rebel Returnees who knows from their experience that they are left behind from the relms of the society. One important innovation and strategy made for the success of the Arms to Farms Program is convergence strategies  with participatory approach. Meaning, the funding Agencies and NGOs or POs shall work as one in the implementation, monitoring and capacitating the community, not to work with their individual concepts and strategies.

In Kauswagan, the military, the LGU, the ADFI, all POs and NGOs, government funding institution sat down, talk , plan and implement together the projects. Unlike other places where there is competition in project implementation and the result is that community folks begun comparing implementing agencies to one another, the Arms to Farms Project is an indicator of an Innovative Governance, where sense of belongingness belongs to everybody, not to anybody.

The Local Chief Executive likewise, Hon. Rommel C. Arnado committed his services with utmost honesty, sincerity and compassion for the poor. He never stop searching avenues to help these poor people, farmers and fisherfolks and the Rebel Returnees hence he know that in giving them the quality of life, extremism will wipe out and sustainable peace and order shall be experience not only in Kauswagan but perhaps the whole of Mindanao because noble works radiates in the heart of the peace loving people.

Another concrete innovation  to sustain and make the project successful is to constantly erased in the minds of the community folks the virus of DOLE OUT system. The Project has cost recovery scheme for its sustainability and the community forks and stakeholders understand the essence of Cost Recovery Scheme rather that DOLE OUT mentalities. This system help so much is the sustainability of the project as an INNOVATION hence our people fully understand that their hands will not always be opened for alms and donations, but strategies to earn a living for a lifetime. We always believe in Kauswagan the important words from a famous write “ Do not give me fish to eat and to live for a day, but teach me how to fish to eat and earned a living for a lifetime “

  1. TRANSFERABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY

The project had been sustained with the following strategies:

  1. Signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between the NGOs, POs, government agencies every 23rd day of April, the anniversary for SIKAD PA convergence;
  2. Approval of a Resolution declaring Organic Farming in the Municipality;
  3. Participatory Strategic Directions setting and planning with the officers of community organizations, the Rebel Returnees, the military and other stakeholders;
  4. Assignment of Community Organizers in every barangsy trained in community organizing strategies;
  5. Inclusion of Livelihood assistance and agriculture related funds for the Rebel Returnees and poor farmers and fisherfolks in the Long Term Development Plans down to the Annual Investment Plan and the 20 % MDF every planning and budgeting period.
  6. Continuation of a Cost Recovery Scheme in funds released for livelihood to be deposited in a Trust Fund of the LGU for sole utilization of Farming and Livelihood programs of the barangays and association;
  7. Formation of a multi-sector Project Evaluation and Monitoring Council made possible and sustainable though an Executive Order and Municipal Ordinance.

TRANSFERABILITY

The project is easily transferrable and can be replicated in other places especially areas in Mindanao where the GPH and MILF accord is near to its realization. The clue is commitment, perseverance, convergence and community participation. The approach is simple but needs a long process and perseverance. Its simply first, community consultations where the community shall be given time to identify their problems and needs, and that the government agencies, funding institutions shall listen to these needs and problems and find avenues to solve it. Second, plan with the different stakeholders and beneficiaries in the spirit of convergence and participation, and Third, find convergence funds with government funding agencies, NGOS, POs, Private partners and never stop asking support even with the militaries, and last come up with an effective implementation plans and strategies with proper organizational structure to oversee the project cycle implementations and monitoring.

In the implementation of the Arms to Farms Program, there are a lot of problems encountered but given solutions such as:

  1. At first attempt of peacepath workshops only few attended because some are hesitant because they are doubtful of the seriousness of the government in implementing projects in barangays due to past bad experiences, but after several workshops, they participated because they know the government with the religious sector, Philippine Army , NGOs and POs are present;
  2. Some are hesitant to receive funds because they don’t understand the Cost Recovery Scheme, but later on with capacity building made, recipient are receptive of the program after finding out that the program has greater impact to farmers and others that needed funding assistance;

 

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