Monday, September 1, 2014

Sajahatra Bangsamoro boosts sustainable farming and livelihood prospects in Zambo Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): Sajahatra Bangsamoro boosts sustainable farming and livelihood prospects in Zambo Sibugay

Villagers of Barangay Datu Tumanggon in this town recently received a boost in their livelihood opportunities, thanks to the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a joint, initial socio-economic development initiative of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

On Tuesday (August 26), the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program (SBP), through the Department of Agriculture (DA), distributed substantial farm inputs and conducted post-harvest trainings to the Moro and non-Moro residents of the barangay.

The Datu Tumanggon community, heavily dependent on agriculture for livelihood and sustenance, had longed throughout the years for better means to cultivate and maximize their natural farm resources, eyeing long-term economic self-reliance.

“In the past, we could only dream of having a better source of livelihood here in Datu Tumanggon,” said Winnielyn Jainuddin, president of the local people’s organization known as Peace Loving People of Datu Tumanggon.

“High interest loan rates, along with the lack of financial windows for farmers to buy seeds and other tools to cultivate our lands, were major challenges to us villagers. With the free farm inputs provided to us by the Department of Agriculture under the Sajahatra program, those dreams can now be achieved,” he said.

DA Assistant Secretary Edilberto M. de Luna led the distribution of farm kits, livestock, and seeds to the villagers in a symbolic turnover ceremony held at the barangay hall.

“We respect and recognize your aspiration for self-determination as Bangsamoro people,” De Luna told Datu Tumanggon locals, adding that the support does not end in providing seedlings alone, but will also involve farmer trainings to ensure the sustainability of the program within their communities.

DA’s livelihood assistance manifests the agency’s commitment to the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program which aims to uplift Bangsamoro communities through the delivery of health, education and livelihood opportunities as initial dividends of peace.

De Luna said they are providing at least a thousand coffee seedlings, several vegetable seeds, and livestock to include 45 chickens, 21 goats, and two water buffaloes to enhance the agricultural activities in the village.

Tuesday’s event is the first among a series of livelihood distribution events that the DA is initiating in all 10 SBP beneficiary sites across Mindanao, which the joint Sajahatra team had identified.

Fair and equitable distribution Jainuddin said the farm inputs and livestock will be distributed to the villagers. Each family will have a fair share of seedlings and the chance to breed the livestock.

“The impact of this program is huge. Considering how the level of living conditions here is so low, the program will certainly help each family here earn more,” she said.

For Merlyn Melindres, a Visayan settler who grew up in Datu Tumanggon, the potential for prosperity that they are being given now could not have been realized if not for the strong determination and sincere commitment of the Philippine government and the MILF to pursue the path to peace.

“The good thing about the Sajahatra Program is that it is not selective in terms of its beneficiaries. Even we Visayan members of the community can still gain from the program,” she shared.

Beyond economic advantages, the joint initiative also puts in effect a grassroots-level effort to cater to the political and historical rights of the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao.

“Muslims and Christians here share a mutual understanding. Their (Sajahatra program’s) purpose upholds this and promises to bring progress to our village. We, the people here, express our gratitude to them for coming down to meet our group,” Melindres added.

Jainuddin affirmed that the southern peace process between the GPH and MILF has not only created a peaceful environment in their area, but also enabled a significant improvement in the delivery of basic services.

“We have huge regard to the [GPH-MILF] peace process. It has provided us with better livelihood and education opportunities for our children. Now, we are even expecting a health center to be constructed in our village; we don’t have to travel far to get free medical services anymore. The (peace process) has truly uplifted the living conditions of the families here,” she said.

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