Bagsakan project uplifts barangays
By Emily B. Bordado

Contrary to predictions by some doomsayers and superstitious, the Barangay Bagsakan projects of the Department of Agriculture are not doomed to collapse just because the word "bagsakan" sounds ominous and does not augur well for business.

The Barangay Bagsakan project in San Antonio Iriga City of Camarines Sur province is one such project that is doing well and uplifting the lives of people in the barangay. Located 5.3 kilometers away from the city proper Barangay San Antonio with a population of over 3,800 and a total households of 867 is one of the barangays now enjoying the benefits of development projects of the government.

The concrete road leading to the barangay is one of these projects. The residents now enjoy the convenience of commuting to the city without the humps, and bumps nor the dust they used to endure several years ago. In 2007, the barangay was one of the project sites of the Infrastructure for Rural Productivity Enhancement Sector Project (InfRES) of the Department of Agriculture and the LGU of Iriga City. Some segments of its existing farm-to-market roads were upgraded.

Last year, the barangay council under the leadership of its very active barangay captain Loreta E. Agapito applied for the Barangay Bagsakan project, of the Department of Agriculture. The council as the project proponent prepared the project proposal, set up the equity and subsequently operated and managed the barangay bagsakan which serves as the food depot and distribution system offering affordable, safe and quality food products.

Part of the project package is the provision of a zero interest loan amounting to P100,000 as operating capital for the barangay bagsakan operator or management . This amount was provided by the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) an attached agency of the DA. For its part, the Department of Agriculture provided storage facilities and other paraphernalia which included a chiller, freezer, electric coconut grater , 2 weighing scales and 10 plastic crates. The DA thru its Agribusiness Marketing and Assistance Division (AMAD) provides technical assistance during the pre-operation and actual operation thru trainings or seminars and also links suppliers with the Barangay Bagsakan.

As its equity, the San Antonio barangay council shelled out a total amount of P53,000 for the construction of the structure or sari-sari store . This amount represented only the supplies and materials for the structure. The labor was provided for free by the barangay council and community members through a "rabus"- a voluntary community participation to undertake an activity without any renumeration. When the bagsakan began its operation in June 2008 the council decided to hire 2 storekeepers with a monthly wage at P2,000 each. Mrs. Agapito serves as the operations manager and the rest of the barangay council serve as members of the management team.

A year after its operation , the San Antonio Barangay Bagsakan stands not just a landmark or an added structure in the barangay but a thriving micro business enterprise operating as its was envisioned to be - as a food depot and a market outlet for the local produce of the farmers and fisherfolk in the community and in the neighboring barangays. Aside from saving on time and fare cost in going to the city market the households also save on the cost of the commodities they buy in the barangay bagsakan ay they are much cheaper compared to the price in the city. More over, farmers and fisherfolk in the barangay have found an outlet for their products without spending for transport cost.

The barangay council has already fully paid its P100,000 loan from NABCOR. For its one year of operation it recorded a gross sale of over P93,877 and a net income of P57,340. Their daily gross sale is P3,000 to P3,500. The goods on sale are rice, vegetables, fruits, rootcrops, tilapia, frozen meat,. canned goods, noodles, bottled drinks, sugar, cooking oil, candies, cookies, spices and other personal necessities like soap, toothpaste, and other grocery items.

According to the Mrs. Agapito , the best sellers are vegetables, fish, rice, meat and frozen or processed meat. sugar The demand for rice though, has its peak only during lean months where the weekly allocation of 20 sacks from NFA lasts for only 3 to 4 days. But during harvest months the demand expectedly declines. There is also big demand for frozen or processed meat like hotdog , tocino, longanisa and embotido. as these are cooked as "baon" for the students who take their lunch in schools either in or in the city proper.

Twice a week the bagsakan management team butchers a pig and the pork meat are sold in retail. They earn a net profit of not less than P2,000 according to Mrs. Agapito. "The freezer is a big help. We don't have to worry about the perishability of our food stuff.

A number of households in the barangay are into backyard tilapia production mostly for family consumption. For lack of market outlet and limited production volume, whatever excess produce they have are given to neighbors or friends But now, these fresh tilapia are being brought to the bagsakan. Per week 60 to 70 kilos of tilapia are sold in the bagsakan at P80 to P85 per kilo.

The same thing with the local indigenous vegetables like camote tops, young cassava leaves, banana heart, fern, upo , pole sitao and eggplants. They are usually grown only in the backyard for home consumption. The excess are usually given to neighbors. But now, they have found their way into the barangay bagsakan and have earned added value thus, giving additional income to the farm families. The establishment of the bagsakan is also very timely as it absorbs the vegetables produced in the locality under the "Gulayan sa Barangay " project undertaken both by the city government and the DA regional office.

One resident said the establishment of the Bagsakan is great saving for them. Before, they have to buy their food stuff and other goods at the city proper. They have to spend P 18.00 for a round trip trimobile fare daily or P126.00 weekly. Others do their marketing three to f our times a week to save on fare. Still, they have to spend P54 to P72 pesos weekly. But with the Bagsasakan now right in their own barangay they have to just walk a short distance to buy the food stuff they need.

The Barangay Bagsakan which is strategically located along the main road is now catering not only to the residents of Barangay San Antonio but also to its neighbors: barangay Medalla, Salvacion, La Trinidad and Sta Cruz. Mrs. Agapito says they are looking forward to the opening of the newly constructed bridge linking their barangay to yet another barangay of the adjacent town of Polangui as this will open new trading and business opportunities for them.

The dynamic and active leadership of the barangay chairperson cum operations manager coupled with the all-out support and enthusiasm of the members of the council and other members of the management team is a big factor to the success of the Barangay bagsakan in San Antonio. Effective governance and sound management accountability and transparency could really spell the success and failure of any project undertaking like this Barangay bagsakan.

True to its goal, the Barangay Bagsakan project in Barangay San Antonio, Iriga provides affordable, safe and quality food products which generates saving for the household ; directly links farmers and fisherfolk producers to the consumers and affords opportunity for the barangay folk to participate in retail food distribution system and earn additional income thus, mitigating hunger and poverty in the rural area and uplifting the lives of the people. been the priority concern of President Arroyo's administration. Barangay Bagsakan project concretizes and operationalizes the government's advocacy embodied in the slogan: "Negosyo sa sakahan, Laban sa Kahirapan".