BEC-Based Integral & Sustainable Development Program in Sorsogon Diocese

The BEC-based development program implemented by NASSA and Sorsogon Social Action Foundation Inc. (SSAFI), in partnership with Caritas Espanola, ran from April 2009 to June 2011. The project was designed to address the poverty situation within the six (6) pilot Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) in five (5) parishes in the Diocese of Sorsogon. The overall goal of the project was “to promote the enhancement of the living conditions of the members of the six BECs.” The project dealt primarily with the agricultural sector, with integral components of health and good governance to generate greater impact in the target communities. Three specific objectives were identified, namely; (1) increased agricultural productivity and income, (2) improved health services, and (3) promotion of better government and community service.

A total of 206 farmers were given Basic Orientation in Sustainable Agriculture, (BOSSA), Organic Farming Technology, Diversified Integrated Farming System and other related activities on organic farming. At the end of the project cycle, 82% of community members attained higher income in sustainable agriculture.

For organic rice production, each area is producing 6 varieties of rice namely: aromatic red rice, aromatic black rice, M9, RC10, RC18, and violet rice.

A total of 38 community health workers from the 6 BECs were given basic health training. Thirteen (13) of them completed the course on basic health education and alternative medicine, which was done in partnership with INAM Philippines and San Carlos Social Action Foundation, Inc.   The trainings included:  Course on Philippine Integrative Medicine (level 1-3),  Training on Tina Massage; and Training on Health Program Management.

Each area formed a health team (from the trained health  workers) that is in-charge of the implementation of the community health plan that included:

- Conduct of health education by cluster in the community;

- Promotion of herbal and alternative medicine;

-  Monitoring of sickness in the area;

-  Documentation;

-  Maintenance of the herbal garden.

For three (3) months, a weekly radio program was aired over DZGN Spirit FM that focused on the three (3) components of the project. They were able to promote organic farming, alternative medicine/herbal, and good governance.
Improved Productivity and Income

The project-end survey indicated a mean average of 39% of farmers saying that they have lesser farm production cost and 27% declaring that they have increased farm productivity. They also observed that their organic produce is favoured by consumers who appreciate not having to eat low quality rice from the National Food Authority.
Better Health and Nutrition

Farmer-beneficiaries have reported that the health status of their families have improved since they started consuming organic food and a variety of vegetable from their diversified gardens.
Improved Knowledge and Awareness on Health

The beneficiaries, especially the mothers, have received training on alternative medicine (herbal medicine and massage therapy), sanitation, solid waste management and good health practices. As a result, most mothers have improved knowledge and enhanced capacity in providing health care, sanitation and prevention of common illnesses in their communities.
Capacity-Building Sessions and Trainings

A better participation in good governance is noticeable among beneficiaries as a result of the capacity-building sessions and trainings. Regular BEC sessions have helped a great deal in organizing beneficiaries and making them act as one community. Trainings in good governance, advocacy skills, program management, financial management and a basic orientation on social action works were conducted to family-beneficiaries to enhance their capacity to participate and lead. During the course of the program, the community members have observed better unity, cooperation and collaboration among them.

The BECs have managed to elect councilors from their communities last barangay election with mandates to supervise the sustainable agriculture and health committee of the barangay council. All BECs have a good collaboration and partnership with the barangay local government unit especially in the conduct of barangay activities.

With the goal of replicating the Caritas Espanola (CE)-funded BEC-based program in a participatory and systematic manner, SAC
staff and BEC leaders from the Diocese of Iba, Maasin and Tandag joined the National Training on Community Organic Participatory Action Research (COPAR) organized by the Advocacy, Research and Communities (ARC) Program in May 2011 at the BEC Development Center,Tagaytay. The trained participants then conducted the COPAR in four (4) BECs in their respective dioceses, where programs are expected to be implemented in 2012.

(from CBCP-NASSA Annual Report 2011, p8-11)