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Creating People-Centered Jobs and Communities - PDI

LIVELIHOOD and social services are important parts of the Bicol Agenda to improve the quality of life of Bicolanos.

With enough income and income opportunities, they are able to answer needs like education, health and shelter, and participate in development initiatives in their communities.

Civil society organizations now engage local governments for projects which help address both – from organic farming in Camarines Sur and building water systems in Sorsogon to prevention of diseases and domestic violence in Catanduanes.

Water system

In Pilar, Sorsogon, the Provincial Alliance of NGOs and POs for Development (Pangopod) helps establish water systems in response to basic needs of residents.

One of its members, the Pilar New Life Learning Foundation, established a water system in Barangay (villages) Palapas in cooperation with the community. A memorandum of agreement between them encourages beneficiaries to plant trees around the water source to rehabilitate the water table and mandates the barangay government to give counterpart funding. The beneficiaries provide labor as their share in the project.

Pangopod project manager Nicolas Beato says the water-system project helped implement a policy requiring the barangay council and residents to form a barangay association that would oversee the operation of the water system.

Sense of ownership

“It gave the community a sense of ownership,” Beato says. The same system of cooperation, he says, could help local communities solve inadequate incomes, their most pressing problem.

In Catanduanes, the provincial government has significantly addressed the problem of a rapid population growth through its active campaign on vasectomy. Average household size now here is down to five from the previous 15, says barangay health worker Nelly Budy.

Prenatal checkup

Pregnant women are given free services such as tetanus toxoid vaccination and prenatal checkups, and free medicines like ferrous sulfate and iron supplements. Barangay health workers closely monitor the women to identify who need such services.

Feeding programs are conducted for malnourished children, and village health workers are campaigning for financial support to sustain this at least once a month. The Provincial Health Office regularly monitors the children’s nutritional status while barangay councils allot funds for the worst cases of malnutrition.

Farm productivity

Still, people continue to push the local government to prioritize other needs than infrastructure, which eats up the bulk of its development fund. Fr. Laudemer Jose Gapaz, director of the Diocese of Virac Social Action Foundation Inc., says the local government unit should support farm productivity and marketing, access to a stable supply of electricity and peace and order.

In Pamplona, Camarines Sur, farmers are getting support from the Prelature of Libmanan Development Foundation, Inc. (PLDFI) for enterprise development, organizing cooperatives, education and training, health and nutrition, environmental protection, promotion of justice and peace, and disaster preparedness.

PLDFI is the Catholic Church’s social action arm in the diocese of Libmanan. It also takes part in the Convenio project that works on the Bicol Agenda.

Organic farming

In 2005, it helped farmers switch to organic farming as a means to reduce production costs, address poor irrigation facilities, reduce health risks from chemicals used in conventional farming, and help adapt to the challenges of climate change.

In its first year of implementation, PLDFI organized five rice farmers whose one-hectare lots are adjacent to each other for better internal control and to lessen contamination from chemicals outside. These farmers are now working on their accreditation with the Organic Certification Council of the Philippines, says Wilson Orino, head of PLDFI’s sustainable agriculture program.

Consultation

Orino says government agencies like the Department of Agriculture still need to address post-harvest facilities and agricultural programs which the farmers really need.

“There is no consultation done at the lower level, so that programs can be based on specific situations and needs,” he says. “They push for hybrid rice, but do small farmers have the capability to sustain this?”

He says the agriculture department and related agencies should consult farmers to encourage them to participate in the programs.

Fr. Jose Victor E. Lobrigo

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:29:00 09/13/2009

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