With the aim of mainstreaming the indigenous peoples and their welfare in the over-all implementation, the Project Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE) hosted the Indigenous Peoples Forum in Butuan City last November 7-8, 2017.

Attended by over 100 members of the various indigenous peoples group from the areas covered by the project in Regions 9, 10 and Caraga, the forum expects to integrate the indigenous peoples in the entrepreneurial activities.

DAR 13 Regional Director and the Project’s Regional Manager Engr. Felix Aguhob explained that the project targets to benefit not only agrarian reform beneficiaries but also the indigenous peoples, women and youth.

Indigenous peoples group like the Subanon of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte; the Higaonons, Tala-andig and Camiguin IPs of Region 10, attended the forum.

Further, indigenous groups like the Mamanwa’s, Manobos, Tubano, Tausog and Mandaya in Caraga Region were also. These participants are selected from the areas covered by Project ComVERGE.

During the forum, five IP entrepreneurs shared their practices in their existing enterprise operations. They are Daniel Viscaya of Trento, Agusan Sur; Heidy Ilaga of Santiago, Agusan Norte; Rosilito Rosell of Libona, Bukidnon, and Rosalinda Camarador and Rolando Penuela of Zamboanga del Sur.

Rosell, production manager of the Kapehan Multi-Purpose Cooperative shared that IPs are involved in entrepreneurial activities. “We are starting and we are seeing where we are going. From our initial capital, we have blown to some assets”, he added.

IFAD Management Consultant for Project ConVERGE Gomer Tumbali shared the existing profile of IP enterpreneurs in the three regions. He furthered on how the sector can be of help, and how they can benefit from the project.

Under the project 30% increase in income is expected to include at least 15% of the indigenous peoples in areas where it is possible.

Faisar Mambuay, national project director said that this IP Forum is only the initial stage of the many sectoral consultations for the project. “We are also holding forum for the youth and the women, to ensure that they will be benefitted by the project”.

Caraga Regional Director Atty. Jake Dumagan of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) expressed support in the endeavor. “I am happy that the DAR has this project which will benefit the IP’s which is expected to improve their living condition”, he added.

Dumagan also recalled how the DAR and the NCIP have worked in the past projects like the Northern Mindanao Communities Initiatives and Resource Management Project (NMCIREMP).

Like NMCIREMP, Project ConVERGE is a joint partnership of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).