By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo
ILOILO CITY — A five-year program seeking to turn Panay’s upland farmers into direct distributors of their produce will be replicated in other parts of the country, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said.
“Our farmers have been nailed to the status of just being raw material producers… Today the farmers in Panay will be moving one level higher, from just producers of bean, cabbage, or tomatoes to farmers that plant, harvest, and market their products,” Mr. Piñol said during the turnover ceremony for the P65.5 million facility and equipment to various local government units and beneficiary farmers’ associations in Panay.
The Panay Island Upland–Sustainable Rural Development Project (PIU-SRDP) funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is now on its third and final stage, which focuses on local food marketing and building an integrated mechanism between marketing and finance in 11 municipalities of Panay Island.
Mr. Piñol said the project will open opportunities for farmers to become marketers, processors, and “agripreneurs.”
“Involving the farmers in the process is a very safe way of ensuring the sustainability of the project. If it is stakeholder-driven, then I would likely assume it will succeed. This is a very good example. We can actually replicate it in other parts of the country,” he said.
KOICA President Lee Mi-Kyung, in a news conference, said, “This project is quite special. This project seeks to establish the sustainable development system run by farmers in the rural areas, especially the uplands, which remain on the outskirts of development.”
The PIU-SRDP, launched in 2015, is a collaborative rural development project between KOICA and the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The implementing offices are Hankyong National University as KOICA-Project Management Consultant, and the DA Regional Field Office-Western Visayas.
The first phase focused on community development in 15 pilot upland barangays from four municipalities in the provinces of Antique, Capiz and Iloilo.
Phase II mainly focused on income-generating projects of 10 selected upland barangays, represented by eight recipient farmers’ associations.
During the ongoing third phase, ten Bayanihan Tipon Centers (BTC) were established as drop-off points for the produce.
Serving as the consolidation center for the products from BTC, the regional Local Food Terminal (LFT) in San Miguel, Iloilo was also set up and inaugurated in February.
DA-Western Visayas Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter said with the continued growth in the region, she hopes that farmers will sustain the project and meet the food demands of the population as well as tourists.
San Miguel Mayor Marina Luz S. Gorriceta acknowledged that the challenge of sustaining the project now lies with the local governments and the farmer beneficiaries.