The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) commended the notable improvement of the Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE) Project during the Supervision and Implementation Support (SIS) Mission conducted last November 8-22, 2021.

Among the objectives of the said mission were to review the project’s performance and progress, assess constraints, initial impacts and institutional and implementation agreements and procedures.

Led by IFAD Country Director Alessandro Marini, the SIS Mission commenced with a virtual kick-off meeting on November 8. According to Director Marini, major improvements in ConVERGE in terms of implementation and outreach based on the presentation of the project’s status and updates.

The kick-off meeting was followed by a series of virtual meetings on the project’s different sectors, along with the virtual presentation of the progress and status of its three Regional Project Management Offices.

Part of the SIS Mission’s activities are the conduct of field visits across the three regions, aiming to verify and assess the project’s outputs and its impact to beneficiaries in the actual setting.

Field Visits – Region 9

Various equipment and a farm-to-market road (FMR) amounting to approximately 27.5 million have
been turned-over to beneficiaries in the Salug Valley Cluster Zamboanga del Sur as part of the SIS
Mission field visit last November 11.

The visit was headed by IFAD Programme Director Jerry Pacturan, DAR Assistant Project Director
Agnes Maata and Provincial Project Director Judith Mantos along with the head officers of the
Campo IV CARB Beneficiaries and Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CIVCABEFAMCO) in Ramon
Magsaysay and Gabunon Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (GARBENCO).

A Recirculating Batch Mechanical Dryer amounting to approximately 1.4million pesos was turned
over to the CIVCABEFAMCO, and the completed construction of the Multi-Purpose
Building/Warehouse worth 1.2 million pesos was turned over to GARBENCO.

Meanwhile, the 2.16km Gabunon to Alang-Alang farm-to-market road amounting to more than 24
million pesos was also turned over to its beneficiaries, along with the signing of sustainability MOAs.
IFAD Director Pacturan congratulated all the beneficiaries who have received the Project-supported
inputs and encouraged them to maximize its use. “We hope that you could be able to make the most
out of the equipment for an improved production from your ARBO, and that this could be used and
taken care of for the next years to come so that it could benefit the next generation,” he added.

ARD Maata expressed her high hopes for the farmers with the equipment. “We hope that this could
fully operationalize our ARBOs in their production and their enterprise,” ARD Maata said.

Field Visits – Region 10

A field visit was conducted at Camiguin, led by IFAD Country Director Alessandro Marini, who also
spearheaded the Focus Group Discussion with the farmer-beneficiaries of LABACO ARC Cluster.
During the discussion, James Semitara of LABACO Lead ARBO NAGPAKABANA MPC presented the
current market and status of abaca fiber industry in Camiguin, where it is doing well most specially
as to the marketing aspect.

On the other hand, IFAD Country Program Officer Jerry Pacturan, shared valuable inputs on how to
improve ARBOs enterprises and encouraged ARBOs to stay determined in order to achieve better
results. “I am expecting and looking forward in the future, the province of Camiguin will become a
leading abaca industry that produce good quality”, he added.

After the FGD, the team visited the NAGPAKABANA processing site, nursery area and the abaca
bundling in Catarman.

A symbolic turn-over of various sub-projects such as the Warehouses and Solar Tunnel-Dryers in
LABACO Cluster concluded the field visit.

Field Visits – Region 13

The mission team, led by IFAD country officer Alessandro Marini and accompanied by ConVERGE key
personnel headed by Project Manager Gumercindo Tumbali visited selected abaca areas of the
Tubay, Jabonga, Kitcharao and Santiago (TUJAKITSAN) cluster in Agusan del Sur last November 11.
Having visited the Abaca plantation and nursery at Santo Nino-Jabonga Agrarian Reform Cooperative
(SANJARCO) in Jabonga followed by the demo farm and warehouse of the San Isidro Upland
Farmers’ Multipurpose Cooperative (SIUFMULCO) in Santiago, the team was given an overview of
the different steps and processes of abaca fiber production, processing and trading.

A dialogue was also conducted, participated by IFAD, Project ConVERGE, stakeholders and the
officials of the cluster’s lead and participating ARBOs. Discussions allowed the beneficiaries to
provide updates about their ARBOs along with their concerns and plans.

On November 12, the team visited the rice processing complex of the Veruela, Trento, Bunawan and
Sta. Josefa (VETREBUNS) cluster in Trento, Agusan del Sur, where they were given a tour on the
facilities and equipment provided by ConVERGE to boost the cluster’s rice enterprise.

The mission team, ConVERGE and the beneficiaries also had a dialogue, where the ARBOs described
the cluster’s practices, needs and targets as they continue to upscale their operations. The mission
team commended the rapport and dynamics among the ARBOs.

The Operations and Organizational Manual of Southern Agusan Multipurpose Cooperative
(SAMPCO) was also launched and highlighted during the said visit.

Wrapping-up and moving forward

Concluding the 2-week SIS Mission, a virtual wrap-up meeting was conducted last November 22.
IFAD Director Marini reiterated the continued progress of ConVERGE since the Implementation
Support Mission conducted last April 2021 and noted the project’s ongoing efforts on sustainability.

Department of Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Ranibai Dilangalen emphasized that the findings of
the mission will greatly contribute to the success of the project. “We will continue to rise and strive
harder for us to achieve our aim, to help in poverty reduction specifically in our target areas”,
Undersecretary Dilangalen said.

National Project Director Faisar Mambuay expressed his thanks to the mission team for recognizing
the efforts of ConVERGE and assured to sustain the hardwork given by the project. “The tasks ahead
are very challenging, but the commitment of the men and women in the project in all levels is
indeed huge”, Director Mambuay added.

By: Jullienne Tuazon, Luis Arquiza and Charlemagne Kierra Rubillos