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Credit access flows to farmers

Fifty-two Agrarian Reform Beneficiary (ARB) cooperatives already benefitted from the microfinance (MF) capacity development program partnership of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Inc. (CARD, Inc.) since the partnership started in 2008.

ARB refers to farmers who were granted lands under Presidential Decree No. 27, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, and Republic Act No. 9700 or the “Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Extension with Reforms”.

The implementation of the joint project for partner organizations is to provide sustained credit to ARBs. The project is largely designed as a capacity-building of ARB cooperatives in selected Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) to become MF service providers.

According to DAR BARBD Director Susana Evangelista-Leones, the project provides interventions that would further enhance the existing cooperatives’ credit and MF services as well as to develop new MF products, which is preferably micro-agriculture. “Through this, financial services will be made more available to members and be able to assist these ARBs expand their existing enterprises,” Director Leones added.

THE PARTNERSHIP

“CARD started to establish training-focused communities, which also extends livelihood assistance program for landless coconut workers in 1986. This is where we started and this is the reason why we forged this partnership with DAR,” said CARD, Inc. Chairman Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, adding that the partnership is very relevant to its mission of poverty eradication.

Leones further mentioned that CARD, through Dr. Alip, had been aware of what DAR is doing. “Our goal of reaching more ARBs and contribute to poverty eradication matched with CARD. It is just really having some champions to help us out along this point,” Leones added.

It was also in 2008 when CARD received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service.

SUSTAINABLE INTERVENTION

“CARD’s methodology is quite different compared to other partners we had. The intervention is customized through mentoring and technical guidance (MATG), which made the whole process systematized,” shared Leones.

The two parties also shared that they have to look at the complexity of these ARBs and the realities they are in so they can really identify appropriate responsive intervention, and ultimately sustain the partnership. “I felt it’s something needed by the farmers because you cannot give a standard response to all of them,” Leones added.

SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS

In their effort to respond to a wider market for goods and services involving many ARBs, DAR and CARD then expanded the existing program coverage to 30 additional ARB cooperatives in 2012. The implementation of the program is simultaneous across all batches but is customized to the needs of the cooperatives.

The areas of Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, MIMAROPA, Western and Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Davao Region were first reached when the initial three-year MOA between DAR and CARD was forged.

The development is slow, which is normal, but if these things will work out well then this will be sustainable. “We are empowering the farmers to do it by themselves to let them ultimately handle the operations,” shared Leones adding that there must be next generation of beneficiaries like their children, who will then manage the cooperative.

Moreover, out of the learnings generated by DAR’s field offices and implementers, a significant number mastered the MATG. “I told them to tag along with CARD staff, learn from them and imbibe the process,” said Leones adding that an experiential learning is always the best way to learn.

They then replicated it to other cooperatives not covered by CARD. “This was not planned. It just came out,” shared Leones realizing that farmer learning from co-farmer is very effective.

The partnership is no longer delimited to ARBs and ARB Households as beneficiaries, they also cater the non-ARBs and rural women. As of November 2015, the project served 59 partner-cooperatives with 35,012 active borrowers and depositors. More than 7,813 of them were insured to CARD Mutual Benefit Association (CARD MBA), the microinsurance arm of CARD. It also extended R749 million loan, mobilized R42 million savings and generated R59 million share-capital.

A scholarship grant is also given to the children of qualified beneficiaries. There were already nine scholars from Cagayan Valley and Agusan Del Sur. Further, they were able to identify 26 profitable crop-based enterprises, which will be linked to the market. They are proud that the project is now becoming a viable MF capacity building methodology.

“We are thankful with CARD for bearing with us. DAR-BARBD will continue to look at each one of our ARBs to identify what more we can work out further in the future,” said Leones.

According to Alip, the project will continue to provide and develop agri-based enterprise in the rural community through provision of business development services, continuous access to different services not just credit but also savings, scholarships and insurance (life, non-life and crop insurance) to strengthen and increase the outreach.

“We will also continue to tap these cooperatives to have microinsurance partnership. Also, we will transition cooperatives to medium and large categories this year,” Alip added.

DAR is the lead implementing agency of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). One of DAR’s core mandate and functions is to provide land tenure security to landless farmers through land acquisition and distribution and delivery of support services. CARD, on the other hand, is a social development organization that aims for poverty eradication in the country.