Robert Estopace is the current president of the federation of CBFM POs in Northern Samar. The federation has around 200 members which is currently assisted by the Foundational Center, Inc. (FCI). He and the equally active Board members of the Federation were very instrumental in the mainstreaming of development in their area and linkage building with local and national government agencies. Because of their initiative, the people of Northern Samar especially in his area are now enjoying the benefits of their linkages. Empowering these local leaders are the crucial role of Foundational Center, Inc. in order for them to sustain and become self-reliant communities.
“Our community has been very affected by the peace and order situation brought about by insurgency. It was in the 1980s. The lives of the people were miserable.
But in 1990s, the mindset of the people changed. We started asking help from the government…and they did. The 63rd army battalion was the first to help and teach us livelihood opportunities with raw materials from the local community. Abaca is abundant in our CBFM area. They taught us how to make abaca handicrafts. This was the beginning. Then our skills were further enhanced by the help of FCI and finally in 2010, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) supported us for product designing and marketing. BAHANDI, the handicraft producers in Eastern Visayas, saw our potential and helped us showcase our products at the SM Megamall trade fair.”
After a basic training on handicraft, we started making bags from abaca. Sales from our products were minimal because of the quality, so we requested FCI to assist in upgrading training on handicraft, making bags and baskets from abaca. Through the training our products were improved and orders started to come. The LGU-Province in Catarman assisted us in terms of marketing of our products as we display our products at the Livelihood Center in Capitol, Catarman, Northern Samar and at the PO Display Center in Tacloban City. Likewise, we are assisted with DTI as we arenow a member of BAHANDI, a group of producers in Region 8. Just recently, we were able to display our products during the Trade Fair in SM Mega Mall in Manila. After the Trade Fair customer from Manila started to order from our products.
Today, we were able to establish linkages and tripartite agreements with various government, private, church and academic institutions. These agencies created opportunities for our association in various forms such as follows:
- DENR. Provides livelihood thru the National Greening Program (NGP)
- DTI. Conducts training, product packaging and marketing of abaca
- LGU-Northern Samar. Helps in capability building and trainings
- LGU-Mondragon. Supports youth development.
- FCI. Provides capability building: forest protection & education
- DAR. Provides training on fuel wood production
- DA. Provision of 5,000 seedlings of cacao
- DepED. Youth literacy program of OSY & adults
- TESDA. Technical skills training of OSY
- DSWD (4Ps). Feeding program for daycare center kids & tree planting in the CBFM area
- 63rd Infantry Batallion. Tree planting activities
- Church. Values & spiritual formation of families
- UEP. Extension programs for community development and IEC
With all these support we regained trust and confidence of the programs of the government. As stewards of the environment we denounced illegal logging in our place and totally protect our forests. With these opportunities, our PO were able to create livelihood from local available materials and has enough income. Aside from that, we achieved the following:
- Established nurseries in various CBFM sites;
- Constructed our own office with training and processing facilities as well as 1 unit desktop computer;
- Acquired a 60-hectares farm land from our project;
- Purchased a utility vehicle for hauling and transporting of seedlings and farm products;
- Purchased a carabao which help us in transporting seedlings to the plantation sites;
Now, we are developing the potential of our youth to become the second line leaders. We are doing this in partnership with appropriate institutions like TESDA, DepEd, DTI, the LGU and the Church.
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