FARMERS' BIZ. Left photo shows the general merchandise and agricultural and veterinary supplies store of the Uswag Casala-an Sustainable Livelihood Program Association in Siaton, a conflict-affected town in Negros Oriental. In the right photo, the farmers, who are now businessmen, pose with their motorcycle used for deliveries and purchasing of their products. (Photo courtesy of DSWD-7)

CEBU CITY  – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Region 7 (Central Visayas) on Wednesday cited a business venture organized by 32 farmers in a conflict-affected area for standing out to learn merchandising amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a statement, DSWD-7 regional director Rebecca Geamala said the agency granted a group of village folk in Siation, Negros Oriental with PHP300,000 for its micro-enterprise project selling general merchandise, agricultural, and veterinary supplies to the community.
Geamala said the farmers who are members of the Uswag Casala-an Sustainable Livelihood Program Association have been able to manage well after a year since they ventured into such business despite the lack of knowledge, experience, and expertise.
“The farmers have no diplomas to boast (about). All they have is the vision to improve their economic condition,” she said.
The Sustainable Livelihood Program-Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (SLP-PAMANA) project of DSWD provides opportunities to the residents or individuals in a conflict-affected and vulnerable area to improve their economic status.
Misael Jaugan, president of Uswag Casala-an SLP Association, said they proved to the community that they can contribute to the local commercial activities, and help to recover the local economy.
“We were overjoyed when we received the money. With this assistance, everyone hopes and strives to improve our lives),” Jaugan said in a dialect.
Maura Gaitera, the association's treasurer, said when they started the operation of their business, they were met with difficulties in recording the transactions and the inventory of stocks as their background was in farming.
She cited the assistance of the SLP-PAMANA staff from DSWD-7 which made them persevere in their ventures.
The DSWD-7 cited the cooperation and understanding of the members and their abilities to put their association’s by-laws as their guide in managing their business by heart and made them to unite and stay focused on their vision to grow. 
According to the DSWD-7, the association now has an estimated monthly income of PHP7,000 and a total of PHP53,373 cash in the bank, with collectibles amounting to PHP48,696.75.
The association has PHP300,000 total financial assets and a motorcycle used for their business deliveries and purchases of goods.
Apart from the cash assistance, the agency’s livelihood program also provides training on micro-enterprise development and simple bookkeeping. 
The agency also cited the role of the municipality of Siaton in the association’s successful business venture. (PNA)