Strengthening links: partner visit in the Cordillera region
March 29, 2023
With more than 10,000 kilometers separating us, it is sometimes difficult to make contact. That is why some Belgian colleagues visited the Philippine partners in March, with whom we carry out our programs together and who come face to face with the reality of farming communities on a daily basis. Together with CDPC (Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera), our partner since 1993, we set out on the site. We share the article published by CDPC after our visit.
CDPC is a coordinating NGO in the Cordillera region that implements programs on food security, health, livelihood, formal/informal workers’ programs based on a human rights and indigenous peoples rights perspective. This tripartite development partnership supports programs and projects defined by communities. In addition to the funding from the Province of East Flanders, the CDPC program receives support from the Directorate General for Development Cooperation of Belgium.
These collaborating partners conduct solidarity missions in the Cordillera region every three years. The last was in February 2018, as the supposed succeeding visit in 2021 did not push through due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community interaction in Kalinga
The mission kicked off with the inauguration of the training center at the CDPC agroecological farm in Lacnog, Tabuk City, Kalinga. The training center supports the learning farm that advocates agroecological rice farming through the use of new farming techniques including the production and use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides. In addition, it intends to enhance farmers’ knowledge on the agroecological method of farming that complements traditional indigenous agriculture and food systems. CDPC Executive Director Rhoda Dalang with Deputy Grillaert and Director De Roeck led the ribbon cutting of the new building. This was followed by festive cultural dances as part of the traditional ritual for the inauguration.
In the succeeding days, the partners visited some of their service communities in Kalinga: Tanglag in Lubuagan, Bolo in Balantoy, Balbalan, and Dilag in Tabuk City. Going to the service areas is the core of these regular solidarity missions as it provides the partners an avenue to see firsthand the projects they have helped put up and have a personal sharing with people in the communities served.
In Lubuagan the partners paid a courtesy visit to Mayor Joel Tagaotao before proceeding to Tanglag. They hiked for about two hours to see the community’s waterworks system. CDPC closely worked with the people’s organization Tanglag Community Organization for Unity and Development (TACOUD) and the provincial peasant alliance Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon iti Kalinga in implementing the project. CDPC-PEF-Solidagro provided the funds for the materials, while the community members worked on the construction of the waterworks system through cooperative labor called angkas; the municipal government partly provided food for work. Since its construction in 2020, a potable water source has been sustained contributing to the maintenance of hygiene in the community. Moreover, it lessened the burden of women and girls who had to fetch water from distant water sources. The partners were warmly welcomed by the community with a short program that included cultural performances.
In Balbalan town, the partners were received by the Executive Assistant and Executive Staff of Mayor Almar Malannag during the courtesy visit. The mission then went to Bolo for a sharing with the community that started with an overview of the area situation by Jerry Bulaat, CDPC peasant staff in the province. He also mentioned the CDPC network’s past intervention programs in barangay Balantoy in partnership with the Balantoy Farmers Asscoiation for Development (BFAD). Among these are communal irrigation system projects, rice cooperatives, a multipurpose building for farming and community-based health programs. The most recent is the installation of solar lamps along pathways in the community.
In Dilag, members of the partner people’s organization Basao-Dilag Community Association for Rural Empowerment (BDCARE) shared how the solar-powered water system project has benefitted the community. The community belongs to the Basao tribe originally from Tinglayan who migrated to lowland Tabuk during the Martial law years in the 1970s-1980s. They were among the tribes that strongly resisted the construction of the infamous Chico hydropower dam at that time. With their relocation, lack of water had been a challenge for them, thus their expressions of gratitude for the project. In addition to freeing the women and girls from the burden of fetching water, it provided them an abundant water supply for domestic use, with almost every household or cluster of households having their own sanitary toilets. Before this, the surrounding grassland served as their toilet.
Projects strongly led by people’s organizations coupled with community members’ cooperation in their implementation through angkas/innabuyog is a key feature of CDPC’s services in the communities.
Sharing with partner implementers in Baguio City
From the community visits, the partners went to Baguio City and met with the Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili iti Syudad (ORNUS), CDPC partner implementer for the program supporting informal and formal workers’ rights. ORNUS showcased their urban gardening project with a visit to the home garden of their member Cora Loste in Springhills, Loakan. Daisy Bagni, also a member of ORNUS, said the project aims to promote urban gardening as an additional source of food. A new project introduced during the pandemic, it intends to help women ambulant vendors put food on the table, as they lost their livelihoods due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Other developments in ORNUS work on mine workers’ rights in two mining companies in Benguet and recent issues on the jeepney phaseout and corporatization of the transport sector were also briefly tackled.
Essence of solidarity mission
Struck by and grateful for the hospitality and friendliness of the people they met, Deputy Grillaert said of their mission, “I have seen some really good examples of what we are doing, of what CDPC and Solidagro are doing here, for me that is important. I have seen some important investments that made a change in the lives of the (people), that’s a very good point to go home with.” This was her first visit to the Cordillera region.
Solidarity visits are embedded in the tripartite partnership for Belgian partners to have an actual grasp of projects they are supporting and to meet with partner communities and see their own version of reality. They pave a way for a stronger link between them.
The solidarity visit is also the most effective mechanism in evidence-based monitoring, evaluation and learning as it provides concrete information and common learning to all program stakeholders – communities, organizations, CDPC and funding partners – subsquently towards further improvement of quality of services and optimizing outcomes.
We hereby kindly thank CDPC and all its members for their warmth and hospitality and for writing this article.