The Soil and Water Conservation foundation, Inc. (SWCFI) began in 1985 as an informal network of persons of several nationalities concerned with the global ecological challenge and the need of broad-based local initiatives to respond to that challenge. The network’s extensive experience in natural resource management in the Philippines and other parts of the world lent itself to a bottoms-up approach to planning, a participatory system of management, an equity-led development focus, and a facilitative style of assistance to public agencies and private organizations involved in environmental projects.
SWCFI was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in March 1988. In 1989, it embarked on a comprehensive integrated and cooperative venture to assist the rehabilitation of three major watersheds in the provinces of Bohol, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental. All projects used the watershed as the operative planning and implementation unit. Since these three initial projects, the Foundation has completed implementation of 91 projects in four regions of the country. Common to these projects were program activities in reforestation, agro-forestry, integrated livestock management and dispersal, inland fishery, biodiversity protection and conservation. Almost all activities were anchored in cooperative development and strengthening.
Since the start of its project implementation, the Foundation received grants and assistance in the implementation of its project from 21 various foreign agencies and government and 14 national and local funding institutions.
History of the relationship with DISOP
SWCFI’ partnership with DISOP started in in 1998. DISOP together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) funded the project – “Micro-watershed Management Component of the Phil. – Visayas Communal Irrigation Project.” The 5-year project dealt with soil erosion control in the upper Wahig River watershed and developed people’s organizations (POs) as anchors of the communities’ livelihood programs. Six POs in six barangays in the uplands of Sierra Bullones were the beneficiaries. These were followed by 3 phases of community development in the upper Wahig River watershed catchment and the latest which is in the upper catchment of the Loboc Watershed. These resulted in the formation and strengthening of 21 people organizations in 21 barangays of five towns of upland Bohol. These POs are at varying levels of maturity. Environmental management and livelihood development were the main focus of all the project phases. Environmental activities like assisted natural regeneration, cave protection, bat conservation education and soil conservation and organic production were given equal importance with the common income generating activities such as revolving funds for farm inputs and livestock production, inland fish production, sari-sari store establishments, and small business enterprises. As of May 2013, it is estimated that SWCF’s relationship with DISOP has benefitted 757 members of people’s organization as well as 1,500 indirect beneficiaries and governance in 5 municipalities. As of May, 2013, SWCF’s partnership with DISOP covered 15 years.
Integration of lessons learned from the previous project
Examples of Lessons learned in social, technical and strategies for project implementation:
- Project success depends mainly of its first liners, the technicians. SWCF purposely selects technicians to work in development project who have grown up with situations similar to that of their beneficiaries. Technicians possess different technical skills which they use to complement one another. The project continually upgrades their skills training either in-house or outside training opportunities. Their being community-based also increases their effectivity. This is reflected in the project’s many excess in target accomplishments.
- Accessing other funding agencies to fund activities that DISOP will not fund but are important to the project such as the UNDP-funded assisted natural regeneration in the Eskaya area; the Bat Education which was funded by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the Dipterocarp survey and education by the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF) greatly enhanced the DISOP funded projects.
- Training (technical and institutional) is fundamental in any community development effort. There is no substitute for it.
- Diversification of on-farm income sources contributes to the sustainability of farming.
- Strong linkage of people organization with local government agencies contributes to its sustainability.
- The training bears results if it is accompanied by practicum and inputs to enable the trainee to practice what he has learned.
- Continuous education is paramount to sustainability of POs.
- Engaging the farmers in environmental monitoring is an effective strategy in teaching them biodiversity and protection.
- To ensure capability building among farmers, one cannot do away with training. But training must answer the needs of the farmers in terms of skills, level of education/knowledge, attitude and capital outlay.
- Bamboo shoots grow faster than bamboo cuttings are now technology used as an approach in new project.
- Some dipterocarps grow fast in open areas, contrary to the belief of farmers that these species need the forest cover to grow.
The above learnings will be part of a document that will tell the story of SWCF’s 25 years engagement in “ assisting communities restore it soul.”
Way how the context analysis was made
SWCF looked at experiences over the past 16 years, results of project implementation including strategies used and what should be future directions in keeping with the vision and mission of the organization to determine the context of a new project.
SWCF has been in rural development work with the assistance of DISOP for sixteen years. The development work has resulted into twenty – three associations / cooperatives in various levels of maturity.
After careful analysis of its history with DISOP, SWCF staff and director decided that rather than add new barangays, the assistance of the project should be directed to the strengthening of what has been accomplished. It was further decided that in order to meet this objective the implementer should consolidate the cooperatives into a single management unit, a federation. The reasons for forming a federation are: 1)Advocacy for sustainable environmental management, good governance and transparency, equitable business dealings and the value of cooperativism; 2)Sustainability in diversified farming and marketing systems for climate change adaptation; 3) Sustainability of the primary cooperatives and members through facilitating trainings, monitoring and evaluation of its member cooperatives; 4) Influencing and lobbying the Federation’s development agenda with the national government agencies and local government units; 5) Pressuring local government agencies to implement national laws such as the Anti-Wildlife Act, Organic Agriculture, DRRM, Waste Management Act at the local level; 6) the ease in dealing with public and private institutions for accessing financial and other resources; and 7) The empowerment of individuals and POs.
Short analysis of the political, economic and social context
Political – Currently, the political situation in the province is sympathetic to efforts of the agricultural sectors to organize themselves for their betterment. This is visible in the way the provincial department of agriculture and other related agencies supported and assisted POs in DISOP initiated projects in the province. In a letter(May 9, 2013) addressed to all NGOs in the province of Bohol, the governor of Bohol announced that the poverty incidence of the province has decreased by 16%. He points the achievement as “a fruit of the combined partnership of the government and the NGOs.” He encourages the continued strong collaboration and teamwork from the NGOs for the attainment of the common vision articulated under sections 34 and 35 , Chapter V of the Local Government Code.
Economical – The enterprises initiated and developed by the project in the last 15 years have not yet elevated the cooperatives to a level where they can be major players in the economies of their towns or the province. Economic activities such as rice or livestock production have remained basically individual efforts using the cooperatives as the investment umbrella. In this situation, the individual farmers are still vulnerable to the big business entities that dictate the prices of their produce. At present, there is only one federation of cooperatives in the province. This federation is open only to cooperatives based in the town of Loboc, Bohol.
The existence of a bigger and non-inclusive PO federation should stimulate a robust business growth in the agricultural sector. A strong federation can lobby for governance that would provide the atmosphere for creative enterprise. It would have more leverage in dealing with the local cartels that tend to limit the growth of the business of the farmers.
Social – A majority of the officers of the DISOP-assisted POs are already aware of the strength and advantage of federated POs. This idea has long been broached by municipal governments. A general lack of trust of politicians has hindered the development of local PO federations. These POs will be more amenable to the idea if it is facilitated by a private agency that has the trust of both the POs and the local government.
Environmental – The rhythm of the seasons has gone awry. Farmers need guidance in how to deal with the effects of climate change. The federation should play an effective advocacy role in the dealing with the environmental changes such as what structures to put in the farm, the climate change adaptation crops to plant and emergency measures for drought. A strong and big federation of like-minded POs can be an effective agent in educating the farmers in developing proper sustainable management strategies to deal with the changing environment. The federation can also be an effective watchdog in the government’s implementation of environmental laws.
Relevance of the project
Description of the problem and reasons why it was chosen to work on these problems.
The major problems facing the cooperatives are: 1) the generation of production volume needed for commercial scale marketing is minimal thus preventing access to bigger markets; 2) the erosion of management standard of cooperatives over time; 3) weak linkages with private, public and business institutions; 4) inability of primary cooperatives to sustain continuous technical training, monitoring and evaluation assistance; 5) inadequate knowledge of climate change adaptation with regard to agriculture, agro- forestry and biodiversity and 6) absence of the common institutions to address the above problems.
The project will address the current situation through improving the employability and income generation in the proposed target cooperatives and members by providing: (1) advanced technical skills training to diversify and develop sustainable agricultural enterprises; (2) further capacity building for selected cooperatives and formation and strengthening of a federation; (3) assistance for sustainable management and conservation of the environment including climate change adaptation.
Activities included in number one above are: value chain marketing research, training, monitoring and evaluation.
Activities included in number two above are: formation and strengthening of a federation of primary cooperatives and strengthening the individual cooperatives.
Activities in number three above are: establishment and maintenance of assisted natural regeneration, biodiversity monitoring system, environmental education for elementary public schools and cooperative members
Geographical location of the project
The proposed project is located in Bohol Island, approximately 700 kilometers south of the Philippine capital, Manila and thirty kilometers southeast of the Philippine’s second largest city, Cebu City. The island is approximately 411,700 hectares in size and consists of almost 70% karst limestone. These formations are important since they contain underground fresh water and are the sources of numerous springs and rivers that feed the lowland areas of Bohol. During the past sixty years many of the natural forest resources of the island have been cleared for agricultural and urban land development. The remaining forests are generally found in very dry and rugged limestone areas of the island.
All project beneficiaries are located in the Karst landscape central part of Bohol namely the selected barangays in the towns of Batuan, Carmen, Sierra Bullones, Pilar, and Duero.
Description of the target communities and final beneficiaries
There are two groups of participants in the project. One group is the federation and the second groups are those primary cooperatives that will form the federation. These primary cooperatives are located in the following barangays: 1) 9 from Batuan namely: Aloja, Cambacay, Cabacnitan, Garcia, Janlud, Rizal, Rosariohan, Sta. Cruz and Quezon; 2) 1 from Carmen; 2) 1 from Duero; 3)1 from Pilar and 4) 3 from Sierra Bullones.
The basis of the selection were the following: a)Ten of these cooperatives have been functioning actively for more than five years; b) all have legal personalities; c) except for one all are considered active by the Cooperative Development Authority or other accrediting institutions; d) 5 were organized in 2011 and show good potential as federation members.
The DISOP project will strengthen and federate the 15 selected cooperatives that are or have been assisted by DISOP/SWCF.
- Local actors: Local civil society and public authorities, including decentralised
- Description :
The project will improve linkages between various stakeholders in Bohol and the region. This will involve the cooperatives, the federation, various national and provincial agencies such as the Offices of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPV) and Provincial Agriculturist (OPA), the Bohol Environment Management Office (BEMO), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), Department of Agriculture (DA), Bohol Island State University (BISU), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau Of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) other non-government organizations on Bohol, private business that may provide technical or marketing for products from the community as well as potential funding sources for the POs.
Analysis of the ways used to strengthen their capacities – The exposure during the project will help teach local PO members how to act and relate to the various groups, agencies and institutions. Study-visits will also help stimulate linkage development and inter-barangay cooperation.