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Helping Cordillera Folk Create their Agricultural Development Projects

Instead of creating agricultural development projects for the Cordillera folk, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has helped indigenous people (IP) develop their own agricultural projects.

The DA has applied this strategy called “participatory and processed-oriented approach” in the implementation of the Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resources Management (CHARM) Project. In this approach, the IP community conceptualizes agricultural development projects with the help of a non-government organization (NGO) that the DA hired to organize and mobilize the IP.

The IP’s line up of projects would then be their Barangay National Resources Management Plan (BNRMP), which barangay officials would endorse to the Municipal Management Group (MMG). The MMG would initially assess the projects under the BNRMP, and the projects that would qualify would be included in the municipal development plan.

The MMG would endorse the municipal plan to the Provincial Management Group (PMG) for it to be included in the provincial plan, which would be endorsed to the Regional Coordinating Committee (RCC).

The RCC would further assess the projects and endorse these to the CHARM management for implementation. The projects that were not included, on one hand, would still be part of the BNRMP and would be endorsed to other government agencies or institutions for support and financial assistance.

The RCC is composed of the stakeholders of CHARM and they are representatives from the IP community, Office of the Municipal Agriculturist, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, Provincial Engineering Office, National Irrigation Administration, the community environment and natural resources officer, the municipal and provincial development officers, and the provincial coordination officer who represents DA.

Unlike previous approaches on project implementation which leaves only little room for community participation, the participatory and process-oriented approach is a progressive and democratic project planning for it gives IP the chance to develop projects. In this way, the IP who comprise 92 percent of population in Cordillera become planners and not merely beneficiaries of CHARM.

“This strategy has ensured the active participation of beneficiaries [as well as their] continuous interaction with other stakeholders … This approach was designed to enhance the convergence of stakeholders in ensuring the success of the projects,” CHARM Project Director Dr. Cameron P. Odsey said.

More importantly, the projects developed through this approach were relevant to the culture, tradition, and lifestyle of the IP. Thus, the indigenous practices on reforestation and natural resources management, agriculture, agribusiness and rural enterprise, and community empowerment projects were also adopted in the CHARM.

Among the practices adopted are the Lapat system, Lampisa system, Ob-ob fo, and Kombinyo. The Lapat system is a natural resources management system in Abra, while the Lampisa is a system of equitable distribution of irrigation water in Northern Sagada and Mt. Province.

The Ob-ob fo and Kombinyo, on one hand, are community service in Bontoc, Mt. Province, and Abra. These are what most Filipinos know as bayanihan where community members help each other harvest, build houses, construct irrigation canals and foot paths, and reach out during calamities.

These practices along with other agricultural development projects were implemented through CHARM from 1998 to 2004 in 82 barangays in 16 municipalities in Abra, Benguet, and Mt. Province. This coverage was 20 percent of the total number of upland barangays in the said provinces.

Since CHARM received financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of United Nations, the ADB and IFAD conducted a series of assessment on the implementation of CHARM. The reports showed that the implementation of CHARM was successful and that it had significantly improved the socio-economic well being of the target beneficiaries.

Due to this, the Regional Development Council members, political leaders, community leaders and farmers in the Cordillera region endorsed the approval and implementation of the second phase of the CHARM. This will also be implemented using the participatory and process-oriented approach in Abra, Benguet, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Apayao in 2008.