Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Organizations (ARBOs) in Zamboanga del Sur could not just close their eyes and wait for government support, but in their own ways of respond to the community’s needs while in the COVID-19 crisis.

The implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the province left its people with limited access to purchasing goods due to the lockdown and no one allowed to step out of their households for too long. Most businesses have stopped their operations for an indefinite period of time until the ECQ has been lifted. This also includes some labor operations that needed to be stopped for a while, which causes the workers to have no other source of income in the time of the crisis.

However, some Project ConVERGE-supported ARBOs took the initiative to provide amid the crisis in their province. They heroically stepped out and promoted bayanihan in their own innovative ways to support those in need.

Continuing Operations to Provide Supply of Milled Rice

Campo IV Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries and Farmers’ Cooperative (CIVCABEFAMCO) responded by continuing milling operations to deliver 25 sacks of well-milled rice for the Provincial Agrarian Reform Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PAREMCO) in Pagadian City last April 22, amounting to a total of PHP 26,250.00. The 25 sacks of rice received by PAREMCO DAR will then be redistributed and provided for each employee-member in this time of crisis.

Rosevilla Salceda, Manager of CIVCABEFAMCO explained why they had to continue their milling operations. “It would have been a waste if we stopped our operations. There are buyers like PAREMCO-DAR who are currently relying on us in milling, and our harvest is ongoing.” She also added that there are times where palays are given to them by their farmers as a form of payment of their loans, which CIVCABEFAMCO mills to be sold.

Bayanihan through Provision of Relief Goods

Gabunon Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (GARBENCO) responded to the needs of their farmers and members is through the provision of relief goods during the Enhanced Community Quarantine. The cooperative distributed 2 kgs rice and other relief goods to the members/availers of fertilizers/farm inputs and some 70 farmer-members belonging to the poorest sector in their area.

GARBENCO’s Manager, Gilbert Batoctoy, emphasized their heart to provide for their farmer-members amid the crisis. “We provided our members some rice and relief goods to help them get by while we are awaiting harvest season. GARBENCO looked for ways to help those who are currently in need.”

At present, GARBENCO continues their ConVERGE Production loan/assistance through farm inputs to members and rice milling services in the locality of Tambulig.

A heart for the members; supporting front-liners

Mahayag Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MAFAMCO) initiated provision of rice for their farmer-members and also delivered food packs for the front-liners in Mahayag. They recently delivered  food packs to the front-liners last April 17.

The rice they have prepared for their members will be distributed as soon as possible, since there are some members from other municipalities and MAFAMCO is currently looking for ways in delivering it to them despite the lockdown. MAFAMCO is currently stocking on the rice as their harvest season just concluded. The rice will be distributed to prioritized members.

In addition to that, they extended their help for their farmer-members by giving them a 30-day grace period for their loans falling on the ECQ days, with no penalties and additional interest.

Christopher Reselosa, MAFAMCO’s Manager, considered this to be one of MAFAMCO’s assistance to their members for them to be able to focus on providing for their families without worrying about their loans at this time. “We are currently facing hard times due to the COVID-19 crisis, some people don’t get to have no income at all. This is our way of supporting our members.”

He also added that the cooperative is hopeful of God’s provision in times like these. “We are praying and hoping for God to provide for us, helping us in the cooperative’s needs, its operations, as well as its members.”

Project ConVERGE has been supporting these ARBOs through various programs through the years it was implemented, and have guided these ARBOs to market their produce, manage their organizations, and the like. The Project has been on the move in leading these ARBOs with their produce during the pandemic.

These ARBOs act during these times with their members and the needy in mind, willing to lend a hand and assistance amid the crisis. The Bayanihan attitude becomes prominent as we support one another, and in turn, we heal as one.