DAVAO CITY — The nearly P1 billion worth of funding obtained by Davao del Norte from the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) is starting to show results in the cacao industry.

Davao del Norte, whose main agricultural products are banana and coconut, bagged P929.6 million worth of cacao-related sub-projects under the World Bank-funded program.

This includes P261.63 million for farm-to-market roads and 14 projects related to cacao production and marketing proposed by various local government units within the province.

Joseph D. Rico, PRDP-Mindanao monitoring and evaluation head, said initial assessment of the sub-projects indicates improvement in crop handling.

“(Producers used to sell) only wet beans, now they have gone into fermented beans,” Mr. Rico said during last week’s Habi at Kape forum.

Late last year, the Department of Agriculture-led PRDP launched focus group discussions with other agencies — including the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Science and Technology — on the impact of the interventions.

The next step in the evaluation is a survey of the status of beneficiaries.

“Initially, we saw marked improvement in handling the crop because by just shifting to fermentation, they earn better,” said Mr. Rico.

Joseph John Palarca, PRDP information specialist in Mindanao, said the target is to increase the beneficiaries’ income by about 15% from levels during the pre-intervention period.

“We are confident that their lives will drastically change because of the interventions that the PRDP and the other partners are providing the beneficiaries,” Mr. Palarca said.

San Isidro, home of Chokolate de San Isidro, Inc., is one of the Davao del Norte towns developing a cacao industry. — Carmelito Q. Francisco