Gov’t help sought in consolidating CARP lands

The distribution of lands to individual farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) has “broken down” commercial production, an official from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said, hence the need for the government to assist farmers with land consolidation.

In a webinar organized by the state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Bernie Cruz said most of the lands distributed to farmers under Carp were haciendas that used to yield agricultural produce in large quantities. While it gave farmers the chance to own their respective shares of farm lots, the program also stumped the country’s food production.

Several administrations have tried consolidating lands through the creation of farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, but according to a separate PIDS study, many groups eventually become inactive due to lack of managerial and organizational skills among members.

Galalan Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Multipurpose Cooperative chair Marlon Talavera, who was also a discussant at the webinar, affirmed this situation, adding that most farmers were already old and were stuck with rudimentary practices.

He added that the lack of capitalization often discouraged agrarian reform beneficiaries to go into clustering since, without any financial buffer, farmer groups could not access loans to jump-start large-scale operations.

Moreover, many rural areas in the country do no have cell towers, making it difficult for groups to maintain communication.

“Our place is eight kilometers from the town. There’s no communication because there’s no cell tower. We don’t have any cellphone signal so we have to go to the highlands just to receive a text message,” Talavera said in Filipino.

PIDS, in a bid to jump-start real consolidation, recommended that the government conduct capacity building among groups aimed at achieving two results— the provision of shares among farmer-members and the transformation of cooperatives into enterprises.

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