BEC-Based Social Action Program: Vicariate of Calapan

CALAPAN’S DIOCESAN COMMISSION ON SERVICE: DISPERSING THE SEEDS OF HOPE

For the past three years, the Diocesan Commission on Service of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro conducted capacity-building activities that developed the skills of the five participating BECs in the NASSA BEC Program, to lead their communities and manage activities that will help improve their quality of life.

The province of Oriental Mindoro has a total land area of 436,472 hectares divided almost equally between agriculture and forest cover. It’s subdivided into 14 municipalities, one city and 426 barangays.

Oriental Mindoro’s major products are rice, vegetables, coconut, fruits (banana, citrus, rambutan, lanzones and mango), coffee and abacca. The region’s hog and livestock industries are one of the major sources of meat in Metro Manila. Other sources of income are high-grade marble mining and cottage industries.

Because of the province’s potential for agriculture and the immense number of farmers, it was logical for the Diocesan Commission on Service (DCS)-Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan to participate in NASSA’s BEC-Based Integral Evangelization Program with sustainable agriculture as one of the key components.

Under the said program, the DCS launched various capacity building activities that have strengthened the program participants’ financial and project management skills, and oriented them on alternative health and sustainable agriculture (SA).

Education tours, trainings and seed distribution were the three major activities undertaken to help farmers.

The educational tours directly benefited 18 BEC leaders and project implementers. Among the areas visited were Galicia Farms in Pidigan, Abra and the SA Resource Center in Butuan City. The various SA technologies seen and learned by the participants in these visits have convinced and encouraged them to practice and apply it to their individual farms. Now they are acting as key resource persons on SA in their respective areas.

At the diocesan level, a total of four trainings on SA were conducted with an average of 40 participants per training. These trainings discuss the basic principles and practices of SA, organic farming, rice production and rice breeding. Through these trainings, farmers were able to engage in breeding organic rice varieties in their areas.

Distribution of seeds for varietal testing and field trial is also a major component in DCS’ approach in promoting sustainable agriculture under the BEC program. The seeds being distributed are from the trial farms of the farmers themselves that were established in parishes. To preserve their lines and guarantee genetic diversity, the program promotes the use of traditional seeds as alternative to the commercial and hybrid seeds in the market. Currently, the program maintains and documents 70 traditional rice varieties.

Aside from rice breeding and seed distribution, the participating BECs are also into the production of bio-organic fertilizer and vermiculture. Both these technologies are done using available indigenous materials in the farm. The main goal is to encourage farmers to practice organic farming by providing an alternative to the existing chemical fertilizers that are more expensive and hastens soil quality degradation.

Other components areas of the DCS under the BEC Program include Community-based Health that focuses on trainings herbal medicine production and the establishment of village pharmacies; Microfinance with the help of Saklaw Foundation Incorporated (SFI) that uses the Grameen banking system; and Environment/Ecology protection through awareness-raising activities, tree-planting and flood rehabilitation program.

At present, with the help of the BEC Program, four of the five targeted parishes were able to establish their SA projects while the remaining parish is on its preparatory stages. Bio-organic fertilizers are being produced large-scale, while a new technology, the Korean technology on swine-raising is being practiced. The DCS also promotes native goat raising and farm animal dispersal. As regards community health, central pharmacies were established in three parishes while village pharmacies are now serving 15 BECs.

Reference: National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace Annual Report 2007, p34-35