“Agriculture is a universal language.” – Brielle Wright
Agrarian reform and agricultural productivity are directly connected and the role of agrarian reform beneficiaries should curb a dramatic and pivotal impact. Yet, after decades of implementation what persists is the skepticism from both the land owners and beneficiaries. Skepticism from ARB’s would range from – land reform is pro-land owners because, it favors them from the rights to retention to just compensation. Others claim the law is bogus. On the other hand, landowners complain that the law was harsh and confiscatory. This is the reason why agrarian reform to this day, is viewed with doubts and unfavorable judgments.
1987 CARP AS MOST COMPREHENSIVE
Among the agrarian reform programs in the country the one under the Cory Aquino administration can be considered the most “revolutionary” and most “encompassing” compared to the previous ones starting from former Presidents Ramon Magsaysay, Diosdado Macapagal and Ferdinand Marcos.
It included the package of support services including land surveys and titling, credit, basic rural infrastructure (farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, and post-harvest facilities). It also included the basic social services (potable water supply, education and health care) and extension services including but not limited to marketing and management assistance. This comes with capability building as well among ARB’s. Moreover, one innovative approach in the implementation of the program was the adoption of the Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) strategy. An ARC is a cluster of rural communities or barangays (villages) where land transfer has been more or less completed where, about 50 – 60 percent of the community residents are ARBs. The ARC was conceived as a strategy to maximize resources of the government. It also extended amortization from 20 years from the Marcos program to 30 years.
CLEAR IMPACTS OF AGRARIAN REFORM
Researches have shown that ARB’s income increased by not less than 10 percent and poverty incidence declined from 1 to 3 percent among communities of ARB’s. Also, ARBs invest more in on-farm assets compared with non-ARBs. They have better perceptions of their economic and social conditions and are more optimistic about their future and they are in a more favorable position than non-ARBs in terms of – average farm income, educational attainment, access to basic health care needs and ownership of household assets.
It was also established, particularly in Negros that group managed production of any project particularly sugarcane in ARB communities are more successful than those that are individually managed. One prominent factor on this practice is the continued system instituted by the previous landowners in the cultivation up to the harvest stages. It was only the ownership that has been changed but not the production system. However, one major downside of the ARB’s is the financial management and bookkeeping. This is evident because ARB’s are not trained while landowners hired services of professional bookkeepers. Add to this, is the literacy issue whereby most ARB’s were not privileged to achieve the needed knowledge and skills to keep up with the demands of their financial management resulting from their production income.
THE PIVOTAL ROLE OF ARB’S IN AGRICULTURE
Facts above simply manifest the significant role of the ARB’s at ensuring agricultural productivity and sustainability. With adequate, timely and appropriate support from stakeholders mainly the government the agrarian reform program can spell real success by ensuring food security, community empowerment and crating niche in the market. Prerequisites in the attainment of these must be seriously considered with models from other countries can be replicated especially the commitment of their governments as in the cases of Brazil, Thailand and Australia. At the micro and medium levels our very own local experiences must be taken into consideration.
In Negros, ARB experiences in uplifting their economic condition has come to a significant extent despite issues of lack of support mainly coming from the government. These micro-models must come by the numbers and fully supported. This is one important ingredient in the development of local communities thereby empowering them.
On a macro-scale, the supply chain of products must come full circle– from production to marketing. And, it is only logical that, with its potential and available resources the government must take the lead– its role is to take full control while entrusting and capacitating ARB’s and their communities. The government’s full commitment and political will precedes all requisites. And, achieving agricultural modernization and rural industrialization appropriate to ARB communities might not be a wishful thinking after all.*