SAAD: Staring poverty in the face

Created on Tuesday, 14 December 2021 Published Date
When a province is selected as beneficiary of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program, it is presumed that many families belonging to the ‘poorest of the poor’ live there. It is for this reason that when the program started in 2016, the three Samar provinces automatically qualified for assistance through livelihood interventions and agricultural projects because poverty incidence in these areas was at an all–time high.
In fact, Northern Samar was flagged as among the country’s bottom poor eight (8 provinces in 2015, alongside provinces belonging to Regions IX, X, XII, and ARMM, per Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) figures. Eastern Samar and Samar were not very much far behind, in terms of high poverty incidence among families and among the population.
In 2018, the program saw it fit to include the provinces of Leyte and Southern Leyte as recipients of agricultural aid, as most farmers living here are likewise small, marginalized, and living in hard–to–reach areas that do not usually receive or are least favored in terms of assistance from government programs/agencies.
Poverty is a multifaceted problem that the government has been trying to address since time immemorial. The inevitability of global warming, COVID19 health crisis, rising prices of agricultural inputs, scarcity of farm labor, lack of farm equipment/machinery, volatile commodity prices, lack of access to credit facilities, usurious moneylenders, natural calamities, and other challenges oftentimes exacerbate the already depressed situation in rural areas. This translates to minimal production and consequent low income.
SAAD Program was established in the five provinces of Eastern Visayas to give opportunities to the most vulnerable sector of the community – farmers and fisherfolk, to unpoor the poor and serve as vehicle for mainstreaming them to the broad society.
The projects implemented were varied, yet site–specific. To ensure their success, farmers underwent a rigorous 11–step process before they were granted projects that were viable and doable. They were equipped with capability building activities, such as trainings and workshops, to ensure that appropriate technologies aid in their continuous development.
The projects, which were envisioned to develop into sustainable enterprises, created significant impact in the lives of beneficiaries. Though not all were 100% successful, somehow there are those who manifested notable change in their socioeconomic status.
Initially, majority of the projects implemented were given to individual poor farmers. The projects were on rice, corn, HVC, ube, peanut, ginger, cassava, goat, swine, native chicken, and egg layer production. Farm machineries were also provided to associations. Many did not succeed because the farmers who were then living on subsistence level used up their harvest. It became apparent during project impact monitoring that only few recipients had been successful as far as sustainability is concerned.
Due to valuable lessons learned, project implementation in 2020–21 was recalibrated. Conduct of Focus Group Discussions and project assessment became imperative. Integrated projects became the order of the time.
The predominant project that showed much potential during the period was egg layer production, while swine production showed the greatest impact in 2018. Visible changes in farmers’ condition range from purchase of a rented lot/motorcycle, house construction/ improvement, sari–sari store establishment, and funding support for their children’s education.
Though the program was able to support thousands of individual farmers, it still needs to continue its implementation to reach out to more remote areas where majority of farmers need assistance. Moreover, majority of the associations with big ticket projects are now on the phase of expanding their projects and developing them into a bigger enterprises, most especially those engaged in egg layer and swine production.
The PSA’s report on the 1st Semester 2018 Poverty Incidence among Families, by Province: First Semesters of 2015 and 2018 contained promising results. Comparative statistical data showed that poverty incidence in 2015 vis–à–vis 2018 in the four SAAD–covered provinces in Region 8 dramatically decreased, thus: from 53.8 in 2015, it decreased to 30.0 in 2018 in Northern Samar; in Samar, from 43.9 in 2015 it decreased to 32.2 in 2018; from 38.4 in 2015, it went down to 29.4 in 2018 in Leyte; and in Southern Leyte, the decrease was from 31.7 in 2015 to 22.8 in 2018. It was only in Eastern Samar that the poverty incidence remained about the same – from 42.9 in 2015 to 43.0 in 2018. In 2018, Northern Samar was delisted from the bottom ten (10) poorest provinces in the country.
Support for the farmer–beneficiaries will continue for as long as SAAD Program is still in existence, and even beyond. Until such time they are sufficiently empowered, management will not leave them hanging on a thread. Through honest idealism, solid underpinning, and dedication, SAAD personnel in close coordination with concerned LGUs vow to uplift the lives of farmers as their larger contribution to countryside development. ###
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