PLEDGE's community-based enterprises move forward in Barangay Koronadal Proper (Published: August 18, 2015)

Polomolok, South Cotabato, August 18, 2015—82 Programme for Local Economic Development through Enhanced  Governance and Grassroots Empowerment (PLEDGE) beneficiaries from Barangay Koronadal Proper completed five months of community-based enterprise trainings on home décor and garment making; catering and food processing; rice and corn production and equipment rental; and banana processing. 

Formed in 2012, PLEDGE provides business training, market linkages, and business tools and equipment as a means to promote local economic development and create livelihood in 12 conflict-affected communities in Mindanao. 

Of the 12 target barangays, Koronadal Proper serves as the program’s frontrunner, while the remaining 11 sites are currently at the procurement and planning phases. Among Barangay Koronadal Proper’s four enterprise projects, banana processing under the Salam Care Women Association—a People’s Organization comprised mainly of Muslim housewives—is reaping promising gains as their banana chips, banana fries, banana cakes, and banana vinegar have established steady patronage in neighboring sari-sari stores, the Pablo Valencia National High School, and a Pasalubong Center (gift shop) in Polomok.  

Expanding market networks

“Our bestseller is the banana chips,” People’s Organization President Maisara Abpit-Macabangen reported as she declared the group’s net earnings of PhP 17,000 since March 2015. “The students buy them like hotcakes and we resupply the Pasalubong Center at least 40 bags every month. Our banana cakes are specially ordered for weddings or meetings. The income we get from these, we deposit in the bank as savings, and the other half we use to buy more ingredients and packaging materials, as well as pay our members who did the labor.”

Macabangen partly attributed the steady popularity of their products to Victoria Motril, their TESDA food training officer. “We are inspired by her. In our two-day training, she taught us how to prepare the products in a quality level at par with more established banana businesses.  Her support did not end after the training. Ms. Motril helps us advertise and sell our products by inviting us to food fairs and TESDA-sponsored events,” she added. 

Already an active member in the community, Macabangen encouraged younger members to be equally invested in their banana business. “Most of our members are hardworking but very shy. In these five months they are opening up. They do not only earn from cooking the banana chips but they are beginning to understand why we need to attract more customers outside our sitio to maintain and expand our business. I take them to barangay and city committee meetings to introduce our products. Last month, we went to the Koronadal International Folkloric Festival and sold our banana chips to the Sri Lankan, Indian, and Polish delegations.” 

Empowering women

Maria Fe Sulpico, president of the Kalipi People’s Organization, who leads the home décor and garment making enterprise in Barangay Koronadal Proper said that as a Christian People’s Organization in a diverse community, “we have always lived peacefully with our Muslim neighbours. We were not really very familiar with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) before PLEDGE representatives and the Barangay Captain invited us to the meetings. We were interested to join because unlike other programs, PLEDGE provides skills enhancement that we can continue even after the program ends.”

As part of PLEDGE’s design, People’s Organizations identify, plan, and implement their own enterprise projects based on existing resources and capacities in the communities. 

“We chose home décor and garment making because we already know how to sew but the training provided by TESDA gave us the confidence to sell our products,” Glenda M. Sobrepena, a People’s Organization member explained. “It gives us extra income. We are mostly housewives, so this is an opportunity for us to work at home and still take care of our families.”

Joy Valencia, another People’s Organization member, discussed how their People’s Organization raised nearly    PhP 6,000 in revenue. “We sold school uniforms and envelope bags to the students in Pablo Valencia National High School and our throw pillows are now on consignment in the Pasalubong Center in General Santos.” 

In Barangay Koronadal Proper, PLEDGE identified 145 direct beneficiaries across the four enterprise projects, 63 of whom are women. 

Strengthening trust and understanding among diverse groups

Other People’s Organizations attributed the smooth PLEDGE implementation to strong local government support. Gani Salipoden, a member of the Sukor People’s Organization, said “before, there was tension between the Muslims and Christians, not violent, but you could sense that the previous barangay captain preferred to help one group over the other. With Barangay Captain Juner Magbuanua, he is fair and supportive of our food catering business.  Because we just started, his office lets us borrow the barangay van and chairs for our bigger events.”

Arvin Nait, BDA Community Enterprise Development Officer (CEDO) in Polomok recounted how the Polomolok City Office opened its doors to PLEDGE. “In many of our meetings, the Mayor herself would see us even with her busy schedule. She and Barangay Captain Magbanua would always ask us and the People’s Organizations of our progress and offer assistance.”

Vice Mayor Eliazar Gupiteo Jovero, who attended the PLEDGE ceremony on behalf of the Mayor, explained the professional rapport between the BDA and the city office. “We worked with BDA before when the Mindanao Trust Fund helped Barangay Koronadal Proper build a Community Learning Center (CLC) under the Community-Driven Development and Community-Driven Reconstruction Program. When the representatives from the BDA Central Management Office (CMO) met with us to discuss PLEDGE’s enterprise initiative, we welcomed it because it supplemented our limited livelihood program. PLEDGE, as an enterprise project, was what our residents needed.”

Next steps

After the graduation, the PLEDGE Community Enterprise Development Officer and the International Labour Organization (ILO) will work with the beneficiaries on product marketing to expand their current business network to private and public enterprises in Polomok, General Santos, and nearby municipalities. 

Julhaina Cadon, BDA PLEDGE Program Officer, noted that much work remains to expedite the pace of program implementation. “The graduation is only PLEDGE’s first step. BDA and ILO need to exert more effort in fast tracking our trainings, particularly in the remaining 11 areas. We are motivated as several People’s Organizations such as Salam Care Women Association and Sukor expressed interest to apply for Department Trade and Industry (DTI) and Bureau of Food and Drug Administration (BFAD) accreditation. This is so they may later sell their products to bigger establishments such as SM and Gaisano.”

The four enterprise projects of home decor and garments making; catering services and food processing; banana products processing; and rice and corn production and equipment support rental totaled PhP 1.1 million. These covered the provision of tools and equipment, training supplies, and overhead costs of the People’s Organizations as the BDA rolled out enterprise implementation. 

 

 

Date Published: 
Tuesday, August 18, 2015