Lakbay Panayam team with Itogon Municipal Agriculturist Dr. Prudencio Pedro talk to Mayor Bernard Waclin during their visit with MAFC Itogon officers and members.

In the series of interviews with the Agricultural and Fishery Council (AFC) officers and members of the Bicol Region and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for the Lakbay Panayam, there is one thing in common.

It is the support of the local chief executives (LCE) and the local government units (LGU) to the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries’ (PCAF) AFCs in their functions as the voice and the bridge of farmers, fishers and other stakeholders at the local level.

AFC is PCAF’s mechanism for private sector participation in the development processes at the national, regional, provincial and municipal levels.

Over the years, some LGUs have been acknowledging the importance of AFCs by providing logistical and financial support. The LCEs have also involved the AFCs through participation in planning, monitoring and evaluation, and resolving issues confronting the agriculture and fisheries sector.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some AFCs are not recognized by their LCEs for various reasons. 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has been vocal in advocating and establishing a strong collaboration among the LGUs, academe, and private sectors, like AFCs, in promoting DA’s programs, activities and projects down to the grassroots level.

RAFC Chairperson Palunan listens to Jay Sano, Agricultural Extension Worker of La Trinidad in Benguet. Also with them are MAFC Chairperson Andy Colte, Sr., RAFC Coordinator Karen Christine Ganga and the rest of Lakbay Panayam team.

This was proven during the height of the pandemic when the partnership between the LGU and the AFCs was strengthened. Hand-in-hand, they worked to boost agricultural productivity, provide nutritious meals to every family, and increase the incomes of small farmers and fishers in their communities.

“During the pandemic, agriculture has proven its worth. LGU in Baguio City launched a lot of programs. This resulted in active participation of youth in agriculture, a rise of urban agriculture, strengthening the existence of farmers and fisherfolks groups and associations, widening the scopes of credit and loans for agriculture, and more,” said CAR RAFC Chairperson Ryan Palunan.

Its LGU tapped the expertise of the AFCs in bringing the programs to the outskirts of the city. 

The young RAFC chairperson also shared how the municipality of Itogon strengthens its farmer cooperatives and associations. 

He mentioned that with the support of its LGU, the Municipal AFC (MAFC) of Itogon can regularly conduct orientation on various agriculture programs and can help the town in organizing groups at the barangay level. 

This would create opportunities for the farmers to know more and access suitable programs for their commodities. MAFCs in Itogon are also part of their local development council (LDC) where they can express their needs and suggestions for the sector.

“Through the help and expertise of the AFCs, we want to tap the potential of agriculture here in Itogon. As we all know, Itogon is a mining town and gold is a finite resource. We also want to develop the agricultural sector,” said Itogon Mayor Bernard Waclin.

Itogon Municipal Agriculturist, Dr. Prudencio Pedro also said that on top of the mining industry, the first-class municipality has the potential for growing lowland and highland vegetables and livestock production.

Meanwhile, the AFCs in La Trinidad maintain close coordination with their LGU. They are regularly invited to their management committee meetings where they share the issues and concerns of the industry. 

Chairperson Palunan also added that in La Trinidad, Benguet, the integration of MAFC in its LDC proves its importance for the passage of ordinances needed in agriculture. Farmer groups can freely discuss their issues and concerns and actively participate in public consultations to propose ordinances for the agriculture sector.

“Maliban sa mga issues, nakakabigay rin kami ng mga suggestions at recommendations namin sa LGU. Kapag may mga projects at programs sa agriculture, katulad ng seed distribution, kami sa Barangay AFC hanggang sa MAFC ang pinagkakatiwalaan nila. Kami rin ang nagmomonitor ng mga programs nila,” shared La Trinidad MAFC Chairperson Andy Colte, Sr.

With the support of the LGUs and LCEs to the AFCs, private stakeholders can bring about collective action for the agri-fishery development initiatives in their respective areas.

As strategic partners, AFCs can also help the LGU to evaluate programs, policies and projects and give feedback on how these are implemented and can affect the lives of their constituents. 

The complementation of both sectors’ efforts with the national government can create meaningful steps toward achieving competitive and sustainable growth in agriculture. | JC