The Success Story as told by the women of PARBUF-MPC

Set against a rural backdrop, Barangay Pasig of the Kiblawan town in Davao del Sur is an Agrarian Reform Community. From the 300 hectares of land distributed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, 3.36 hectares was awarded to Pasig Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries and Upland Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PARBUF-MPC).

Before reaching the barangay, a good two-hour ride must be endured from Digos City, Davao del Sur. Along the way, vast sugar cane, banana, and coconut farms will greet you; while houses made of nipa and bamboo would draw the picture of how simple the people lived in the community.

“We were organized in 2003, it was not PARBUF-MPC then. The Department of Agrarian Reform assisted us in the processing of our CARP claims.  The DOLE SRO-CARP project of DAR and DOLE enhanced the capacity of the organization and its members. It also led our organization to be recognized and be entrusted by different government agencies. One of the first projects we received assistance is the Banana Chips-Making. The Department of Labor and Employment-Region XI (DOLE-XI) provided the equipment, utensils and other tools for our production,” said Evangeline Barsalote, the PARBUF-MPC president.

Evangeline is a jovial character who tells her story with a hint of smile in her face. One can never deny her pride for the accomplishments and experience of the group. Her enthusiasm radiates even if the room temperature is three degrees higher than the normal because of the two couldrons  frying chipped saba bananas. The other women, masked while doing their respective tasks, listens and sometimes nod their heads with approval as Evangeline narrates the story of the organization.

What was initially started as a community initiative by the women-members is now reaping the fruits of their labor. The women recalled voluntarily working for the cooperative and spared their afternoon siestas to augment the cost of labor. It was not an easy success since the women, and the other ARB members of the cooperative, initially have to set aside personal benefits from the project. Peeling the bananas, double frying them, and packing each to retail sizes were at first labor of love. They joined trade fairs, free tasting their products in school canteens and networking to different offices to sell the product.

Right now, they are alternating schedules in the production and each worker is paid for their labor. The simple project of banana chips-making yielded an NFA Rice Retail Store, a Catering Service, and had capacitated the organization to donate a generous amount to the barangay elementary school.

As Evangeline concludes, “Women should always assert their place in the development of society. In rural areas where poverty is always evident, our contribution does not end in besting domestic chores. We are more capable than what tradition dictates. We are part of the society and therefore we are also responsible for molding the future hardworking men and women.”

PARBUF-MPC, in Barangay Pasig, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, is an Accredited Co-Partner of the DOLE-XI. The cooperative is composed of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries, and Evangeline Barsalote is their president. •LGGallegos-Ugsang