PILAR, SORSOGON – “Papayag ba kayo?” Mayor Carolyn C. Sy-Reyes jokingly asked her constituents during the first ever Graduation Ceremony of the beneficiaries of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) in Bicol.

Sixteen (16) farmers associations consisting of close to 600 farmers, all from the municipality of Pilar, were the first group of beneficiaries of SAAD to “graduate” from the program.

Pilar, Sorsogon was one of the 18 pioneer municipalities of SAAD Phase 1 in Bicol that were selected in 2018 based on 2015 poverty incidence. The other municipalities in Sorsogon included Magallanes, Sta. Magdalena, Donsol, Juban and Matnog. Pilar will not be included anymore in Phase 2 of SAAD which will run  from 2023 to 2028.

In 2018, these close to 600 farmers barely knew each other. They seldom received government interventions due to the remoteness of their areas. But SAAD came into their lives, organized them into bonafide associations which are now registered in the DOLE, and provided them with complete packages of interventions to increase food production and income and ultimately build sustainable community-based enterprises.

Aside from consistent production of high value crops, corn and rice, livestock raw products such as eggs and meat, these associations are now engaged in food processing and are now producing cassava chips, peanut brittle, peanut butter, vegetable pickles, and corn chicharon, among others.

These 16 associations are: Poctol Backyard Farmers Association – with 33 members; Samahang Pangkabuhayan at Pangkaunlaran ng Calpi- 29 members; Naspi Agricultural Workers Association – 32 members;  Pangpang Farmers Association – 25 members; Abucay Farmers Association – 25 members; Cagdongon Farmers Association – 31 members; Salvacion Integrated Farmers Association – 43 members ; Comapo-capo Integrated Farmers Association – 42 members; Esperanza Farmers Association – 30 members; Nabuntogan Farmers Irrigators Association Inc.- 99 members; Dapdap Farmers Association – 52 members; Brgy. Pineda Productive Farmers Association – 22 members; Lumbang Farmers Association – 30 members; Maralitang Magsasaka Association (Brgy. Mabanate)- 50 members; Brgy. Bayawas Farmers Association – 20 members; and Pilar Farm Workers Association (Brgy. Sta. Fe) – with 35 members.

One of the association presidents bravely expressed his gratitiude to the DA and the SAAD despite the sadness which was evidenced in his face and voice. But he said he was consoled by the knowledge and assurance that DA Bicol, particularly the Banner Programs will not leave them on their own. “Makaka-asa po kayo na itong ibinigay ninyo sa amin ay aming iingatan at pagyayamanin. Hinding hindi po namin malilimutan ang SAAD,” he added.

Mayor Sy-Reyes also expressed the strong commitment of the LGU of Pilar to sustain the momentum set by the SAAD in terms of project implementation.

The Graduation Ceremony was held at the Pilar Gymnasium and was attended by Former Sorsogon APCO Florentino Ubalde, Jr. newly designated APCO for Sorsogon Roser Rebellon, Tomas Diesta – representative of OPAG Sorsogon,  OIC-MA Marites Rebellon, Pilar Administrator Arthur Garchitorena, Renato Acasio of DA-Bicol High Value Crops Development Program and the SAAD Sorsogon warriors.

Some of the highlights of the graduation were the turn over of 1 set garden tools, 1 unit wheelbarrow, 1 roll plastic mulch, 300 packets vegetable seeds to each of the associations and the lively competition for the search for Ms. SAAD Sorsogon’s crown won by Minerva V. Pineda, member of Salvacion Integrated Farmers’ Association.

SAAD is DA’s armor against poverty. It has four components, namely: Program Management, Social Preparation, Marketing Assistance & Enterprise Development, and Production and Livelihood Interventions.

 (Writer: Lovella P. Guarin – RAFIS 5)

Sources: Maribeth Mangalino – SAAD Report Officer
               Pauline Trixie Borja – Sorsogon Information Officer
               Mary Rose Detera – SAAD Sorsogon Coordinator
             Photo credits: Eduardo Collantes, Jr. (RAFIS)