Commentary

Sagip Saka to increase incomes

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Sagip Saka, launched by Senator Francis Pangilinan with full support from Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, is a breakthrough for farmers. In fact, it is the second breakthrough. The first occurred almost a year ago with the Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 (AF 2025) Conference held on Feb. 10, 2011. It was also spearheaded by Pangilinan in partnership with Alcala, Representative Mark Mendoza, and farmers’ and fisherfolk’s organizations.

For the first time, AF 2025 united the legislature (Senate and House of Representatives), the executive branch (Department of Agriculture), and the private sector (primarily Alyansa Agrikultura for farmers and fisherfolk, and Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food for agribusiness).

Together, they crafted an agricultural development vision for 2025, supplemented with short and long-term policies and programs. Since then, AF 2025 has been working through six clusters, with each concentrating on implementation issues for the last twelve months.

However, something was missing. There was a lack of identified specific models where these policies and programs could be showcased. Enter Sagip Saka.

Increasing incomes

A day before the Sagip Saka launch, during the Arangkada Philippines Conference sponsored by the Joint Foreign Chambers, President Noynoy Aquino identified three sectors that would propel the government’s inclusive growth strategy: infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.

During the open forum, an Alyansa Agrikultura leader suggested that agriculture, because of its size and potential, could be the most significant force for inclusive growth. He then asked what new thrust the government would have in this sector. President Aquino responded that it would be focusing on increasing farmer and fisherfolk incomes.

This is a welcome development. In the past, emphasis was given to production numbers. Rarely has there been a measure or mention of how much farmer incomes have increased, if they increased at all.

Increasing farmer incomes is precisely Sagip Saka’s thrust. Pangilinan said: “We want to focus on improving the quality of life of our farmers and fisherfolk, and in so doing, building sustainable farming communities nationwide as a means to achieve food security.” Consistent with the AF 2025 vision, he continued: “Only through strong public-private partnership can we achieve this.”

Five pillars

The pillars that will implement Sagip Saka in 24 communities throughout the country are: (1) farmer and fisherfolk organizations, (2) the Department of Agriculture, (3) LGUs and micro-finance entities, (4) business and (5) civil society. They will synergistically contribute to Sagip Saka’s seven interventions. These will be individually designed for each community’s unique needs: (1) access to investment and credit, (2) access to market, (3) infrastructure, (4) ensuring quality and consistency of supply, (5) research and development, (6) adaptation to climate change and (7) strengthening farmer communities and cooperatives.

One of the cooperatives is the Panaw-Sumilao Multipurpose Cooperative, which is affiliated with Pakisama and Alyansa Agrikultura.

Having won land ownership rights, the Sumilao farmers now face the challenging task of increasing incomes. The failure of much land reform is that land is given to the farmers without the necessary support services. The result is a decrease, rather than an increase in farmer incomes.

Realizing that the 2012 proposed P400-million budget for agrarian land reform support services was turned down by Congress, we recommend that the Sagip Saka orientation be implemented especially in agrarian-reform communities.

Conclusion

Sagip Saka will initially be implemented in 24 communities with a P130 million start-up fund. But its significance is not in its projects, but in its potential of being actual models for others to follow. The new AF 2025 paradigm of public-private partnership focused on increasing incomes and food security should be implemented with the Sagip Saka orientation.

Resources such as the redesigned Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), which now has a P1.3 billion balance, should be channeled to sustainable and credible projects with Sagip Saka characteristics. It is this kind of breakthrough that will propel our country to true agricultural development and inclusive growth.

The author is chairman of Agriwatch, former secretary for presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary for agriculture, and trade and industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail agriwatch_phil@yahoo.com or telefax (02) 8522112.

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