CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The Department of Agrarian Reform in Northern Mindanao (DAR-10) said Tuesday it has been given a one-year extension in implementing the agency's Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVerge).

“They (national government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development or IFAD) gave us until December 2022 for the completion (of the projects); it was extended because of the (Covid-19) pandemic,” DAR-10 Director Zoraida Macadindang said during a press forum.

Macadindang said ConVerge was implemented in 2015 as a poverty-alleviation program for farmers who are agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the region.

She said the program is funded by IFAD for PHP2.3 billion, which also includes the ARBs in Regions 9 and 11.

Six sustainability plans have been prepared after the termination of the project that will continue to support ARBs in the program areas of Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, and Bukidnon provinces, she said.

“I'm proud to say that the ARBs who are under this program have increased their household income to 40 percent (maximum),” Macadindang said, adding that it was 10 percent more than the initial 30 percent target for ConVerge.

One of the program recipients is the Maraymaray Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative in Don Carlos, Bukidnon, which benefited from farm-to-market roads. The group also received a muscovado sugar processing facility and equipment last year.

Tribal beneficiaries

In Bukidnon, most ARBs come from indigenous people (IP) communities.

Milagros Cambari, an IP beneficiary from the Manobo tribe, said the newly-built roads are a great help in delivering their products to the urban centers.

Madiluz Cabelis, a Talaanding IP member of the same cooperative, also said the project has provided them a “voice” in terms of the decision-making process in the value-chain business model.

Meanwhile, Mauro Alcemar, a farmer and manager of the Linamo Agrarian Reform Multipurpose Cooperative in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, said despite the pandemic, they managed to survive because of the ConVerge project.

Even if the project comes to an end, Alcemar said the next generation of farmers and traders can continue their agricultural production because the program has made their business sustainable. (PNA)