Monday, July 4, 2011

Cagawasan residents found
HELP as way out of poverty

CAGAWASAN, Dagohoy Bohol, June 27, (PIA) -- EVERY messy situation has got to be a way out, and people of Cagawasan, Dagohoy believe that.

Here in this barangay, accessible only by a cart trail more than a dirt road, residents have lived through farming in the way crude societies do: manually.

Barangay Cagawasan boasts of about 85% farmlands, only a few however are owners of small patches, most are tenants who have long resigned to their being perpetually tied to peasant life.

But when residents started to unite to muster strength they would eventually master, lives changed as people slowly see an exit from the trappings and freedom from hard life.

In 2004, after organizing ourselves following the distribution of some farms as an effect of the land reform, a window of opportunity opened, said 75 year old Villacis Geloca.

Geloca came in from Cebu when he was younger to work on farms and has long resigned to the fate as a manual farmer.

“We could only farm as much as our brute strength can allow,” he shared in Cebuano, while humbly rubbing his calloused palms.

While huge portion of the village is ricefields, some patches grow corn, coconuts and cassava, with very few farmers using carabaos to plow them.

“Carabao has always been a luxury here, and not all of us could get one to help work on the field,” he said.

Then, a livestock dispersal program came through the Provincial Government’s Livelihood Enhancement Towards Sustainable Human and Environmental Paradigm for Bohol (LETS HELP Bohol), Phase II, which allows their organization the chance to get some ten female carabaos.

We were able to get carabaos that help us enlarge our tilled farms, allowed our children to do some work gathering grass feeds and we can keep the farm animal as our own after giving two calves, that is fair enough, Geloca said.

The agreement was for the organization members to care for the farm animal until it sires a calf.

The first offspring would be passed on to their organization’s eligible member. The second offspring would be passed back to Lets Help Bohol for another round of dispersals for other towns, he explained in Cebuano.

Then, one can own the carabao for life, said Geloca who sits as the chairman of the Cagawasan CARP Beneficiaries Farmer Multi-purpose Cooperative (CCBFMC) Incorporated, the beneficiary organization.

We use the carabao to plow the field, we also earn a little from helping our neighbors plow their field and get paid in return, added Geronimo Husain.

We also get organic fertilizer when we mix carabao and pig dung for our backyard gardens, Husain, who garnered an award for organic farming during the annual LHB Celebration.

A year and four months after June 9, 2004, one of the dispersed carabaos gave birth, which was quite fast, shared Geronimo Husain, cooperative member who keeps the records as secretary.

By August 11, 2010, or five years and six months, our carabaos produced 20 calves, the first ten we passed on to our members and the other 10 we passed back to LETS HELP Bohol, he said.
We are just so happy we have paid in full what we committed when we received the carabaos, Husain said highlighting palabra de honor in this agricultural community. 

The CCBFMPC feat was so impressive that the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPV) through Dr. Stella Marie Lapiz said despite its being in the phase two of the project.

For that Cagawasan overtook past other people’s organizations in paying back the carabaos through their passing on the gift activities to its members and passing back to LETS HELP Bohol.

LETS HELP Bohol started with a convergence of funds and efforts from Heifer Project International (HPI) and local governments implemented by the OPV sometime in the late 90s.

First phase include seven beneficiary towns from the first district. The second phase, with 11 second district and a town from the third district started in 2004 and among them, only Cagawasan in Dagohoy has fully done the pass on and pass back scheme agreements, sources at the OPV said. 

But what is so impressive is that Lets Help Bohol has made organizations like CCBFMPC lift living conditions in the rural areas bringing Bohol off the list of the country’s 20 poorest provinces.

Then Governor Erico Aumentado issued Executive Order No. 2, Series of 2004 declaring every July 4, 2004 as Let’s Help Bohol Day.

The declaration is in tribute to the great success achieved in the implementation of the project, and for the partners and beneficiaries to commemorate a special day, to instill the values of sharing, caring and responsibility; to encourage sustainability and self-reliance; and to remember the contributions and/or financial assistance from Heifer International and its donors.

Then, we pay for carabaos to plow our fields, further depleting the little savings we have from our harvests. Now, we do not have much but we do not pay for the plowing services now that we have a carabao to help us out.

Data from the OPV bared that the actual value of the ten carabaos when given was P120,000.

In a tabulated income from animal labor and by product, the LHB project in CCBFMPC has accumulated 45,900 in personal family gains for some 306 animal service days, 2,250 in hiring services at P150.00 day and some 8,400 in waste utilization.

Then, when gather firewood in the hills, we have to carry them on our bare backs. Now, we transport them in carabao drawn carts, and we ride on the carabao backs whistling a tune, Husain points out.

Now, that’s a sure way out of poverty for Geloca and Husain grandchildren, if only they too would help themselves with the lessons of freedom LHB has offered to Cagawasan. (Rey Anthony Chiu) 

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