Negros oriental, comprised of 20 municipalities, 5 cities and 557 barangays, has good climate and abundant resources. Conditions for agriculture and fishery development are ideal. But the province has problems of food shortage and insufficient supply of fresh fish protein. With agriculture and fishery initiatives confined in the lowlands, most people in the uplands wallow in poverty. Consequently, people migrate to urban centers to find jobs, adding to the worsening urban social problems.
This was the challenge faced by the provincial government led by Governor George P. Arnaiz when it embarked on a program called Barangay Agricultural Development Center (BADC) in 1997.
With people empowerment as the guiding principle, BADC set the following objectives: (i) address the needs of people in the hinterland, (ii) minimize the problem of insurgency, and (iii) provide agriculture-led government services. Specifically, it targeted to raise the income of farm households by 15% within a period of 10 years, or up to 2007.
The process of empowerment involves social preparation of beneficiaries to enable them to analyze the conditions of their own community, identify problems and solutions, and participate in development activities, such as project planning and implementation.
BADC provides a venue for convergence of resources and services provided by government line agencies. The province is also covered by the Belgian Integrated Agrarian Reform Support Project (BIARSP) of the government of Belgium, which is implemented by DAR. Through BADC, delivery of services to intended beneficiaries is hastened and ensured.
BADC also serves as a training center for agriculture and fishery development, with active participation of women. Training is focused on values education, leadership, management skills, and community participatory planning process. Agricultural practices promoted include integrated pest management, organic farming, vermi-composting, contour farming, and natural farming systems.
Results of the program indicate great promise. From 7 pilot sites in 1998, the program now has 74 sites, with 22 pending requests. There is greater cooperation, or bayanihan spirit, and active participation among beneficiaries, indicating a change in values. Local chief executives belonging to rival political parties work closely with the provincial government.
Average annual production of crops increased: for rice, from 900 MT to 6,648 MT; for corn, from 1,900 MT to 11,311 MT; for vegetables, from 803 MT to 1,800 MT; for root crops, from 600 MT to 808 MT; and for legumes, from 300 MT to 490 MT. Average annual income of farm households increased to P90,459 in 2000 from P71,524 in 1977, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).
Since 2000, about 700 inland fishponds propagating tilapia had been established in upland BADC sites, producing an average of 93.4 tons in 2003. Before 2000, fish production was zero. As a result, malnutrition rate in these sites decreased between 2001 and 2003. According to the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), malnutrition rate in Tayawan, Bayawan, was down from 20 to 10.4%; in Calicanan, Pamplona, from 19 to 13.3%; in Fatima, Pamplona, from 25.2 to 14.1%; in Pal-ew, Tanjay, from 7.7 to 7.3%; in Nalundan, Bindoy, from 13.3 to 8.1%; and in E. Villanueva, Sibulan, from 4.9 to 3.4%.
The program also facilitated farmers' access to credit from financing institutions through Quedancor and Land Bank, resulting in mass propagation of banana and abaca plantlets in coordination with the Negros Oriental State University. Market days, or "tabo," and activities in the auction markets also increased from once to thrice a week.
For sustainability, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial council) passed ordinances and resolutions in support of BADC. A community-based monitoring system has been adopted, involving monthly and quarterly conferences and bi-annual reviews and assessments. Rural-based organizations and other groups are continually strengthened.