The promotion of sustainable livelihood activities based on varied key commodities is the newest strategy of a recently launched foreign-assisted project in Mindanao, according to a top Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) official.

In a message addressed to farmers and officials of regions 9, 10 and 11, former DAR Undersecretary for Foreign Assisted Projects Herman Ongkiko said that the new project, dubbed as Project Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE), aims to “reduce poverty incidence in target provinces through the promotion of sustainable livelihood activities based on key commodities like rice, rubber, coffee, cassava, and coco sugar that are deemed competitive in the areas.”

The P2.3B worth venture is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and will apply an all-inclusive scheme – from seedlings, production inputs, rural infrastructures, farmer trainings and even land subdivision. It will be implemented from 2015 to 2020 and will benefit some 300,000 smallholder farmers and rural workers.

“We are aware of the difficulties experienced by the farming sector and we are grateful to IFAD for having the heart to help by way of financial assistance in supporting the asset reform agenda of the Philippines,” National Project Director Faisar A. Mambuay said.

Mambuay expressed his gratitude for the hard work from the foreign funding agency and the Philippine Government through DAR. “Today, we start to bring more smiles to our farmers in this part of the country,” he added.

IFAD Southeast Asia Manager Benoit Thierry stressed the organization’s mandate of helping the farmers who are below poverty line. Benoit also emphasized the integration of the value chain in its implementation as one of its objective not only for the project but also for the agricultural smallholders.

Project ConVERGE was officially launched last January 21, 2016 in Cagayan de Oro City. Also present in the activity were the three DAR regional directors involved in the project, namely: Director Felix B. Aguhob of Region 9, Director Julita Ragandang of Region 13, and the National Project Director Faisar A. Mambuay of Region 10.

The project will cover 11 Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) clusters in 10 provinces across Regions 9 (Western Mindanao), 10 (Northern Mindanao), and 13 (CARAGA). It is implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples(NCIP), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Mindanao Development Authority, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the local government units.