A co­op­er­a­tive that started with just R4,215 share cap­i­tal in 1986 now boasts of to­tal as­sets of R280 mil­lion. This is the very suc­cess­ful Ma­sisit-Da­cal Liveli­hood Co­op­er­a­tive in Sanchez Mira, Ca­gayan.

Agriculture - - Monthly Agriculture - BY TONY A. RO­DRIGUEZ

IN MARCH 1986, 31 men and women of Ma­sisit and Da­cal, two ad­ja­cent barangays of Sanchez Mira, the third town in the north-western end of Ca­gayan Province, founded the small Ma­sisit-Da­cal Ru­ral Im­prove­ment Club Credit Co­op­er­a­tive, Inc. with their share cap­i­tal that amounted to R4,215. The max­i­mum loan amount that each mem­ber could take out was R500.

To­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion—now the large multi-pur­pose co-op Ma­sisit-Da­cal Liveli­hood Co­op­er­a­tive (MDLC)—has 4,710 reg­u­lar and 783 as­so­ciate mem­bers and to­tal as­sets of R280 mil­lion. The max­i­mum col­lat­er­al­ized loan amount avail­able to a mem­ber is R1 mil­lion. Each mem­ber holds three R500 shares in the co-op.

BUILT ON SOLID VAL­UES

A dis­tinct fac­tor in the co-op’s growth in 29 years is the in­dus­tri­ous­ness, con­sci­en­tious­ness, and strong fam­ily ties of the mem­bers, who are mostly farm­ers and fish­er­folk. The co-op’s founders are from the town of Paoay in Ilo­cos Norte Province, Ca­gayan’s im­me­di­ate neigh­bor to the south­west, who mi­grated to Ma­sisit and Da­cal, which are Sanchez Mira’s north­ern­most barangays near­est the shore of the Babuyan Chan­nel or, as it’s also called, Luzon Strait. The mi­grants chose the two places to set­tle in be­cause they came from sea­side bar­rios in Paoay.

The civic-minded Paoayeñas promptly joined the Ru­ral Im­prove­ment Club while their men be­came mem­bers of the Sama­hang Nayon Or­ga­ni­za­tion. They wanted to see what they could do for a bet­ter life than what they had in Paoay.

Find­ing most of their ex­pec­ta­tions un­met in the two barangay as­so­ci­a­tions, how­ever, they de­cided to or­ga­nize them­selves into a credit co­op­er­a­tive with the as­sis­tance of the thenMin­istry of Agri­cul­ture’s Bureau of Co­op­er­a­tive De­vel­op­ment so they could avail them­selves of loans for liveli­hood projects like salt and ba­goong mak­ing, meat pro­cess­ing, the man­u­fac­ture of hol­low blocks, rat­tan crafts, and bas­ket mak­ing. One of the or­ga­niz­ers was young public school teacher Froilan M. Pacris.

By the end of that first year, co-op mem­ber­ship and share cap­i­tal had grown to 72 and R36,215, re­spec­tively. The max­i­mum loan­able amount per mem­ber in­creased to R1,000. New mem­bers now had a Pre-Mem­ber­ship Ed­u­ca­tion Seminar to at­tend first.

Af­ter be­ing con­firmed by the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s (DA) Co­op­er­a­tive De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (CDA) In May 1991, the Credit Co-op amended its Ar­ti­cles of Co­op­er­a­tion and By-Laws dur­ing its an­nual Gen­eral Assem­bly Meet­ing in March 1992 to be­come a multi-pur­pose co­op­er­a­tive to meet the press­ing prob­lems of the time. Pacris be­came gen­eral man­ager.

“Fast-in­creas­ing de­mands for fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance by the mem­bers for more liveli­hood projects prompted us to seek the as­sis­tance of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions,” says Pacris. “The Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try (DTI) re­sponded with two suc­ces­sive loans, the last one at R2 mil­lion. In Oc­to­ber 1994, we added a new ser­vice to our mem­bers through the open­ing of a con­sumer store that ini­tially sold farm in­puts and gro­ceries.”

The need for ad­di­tional cap­i­tal mo­ti­vated the co-op to ap­proach the Land Bank of the Philip­pines (LBP) Ca­gayan Val­ley Lend­ing Cen­ter, now its chief fi­nancier, for fur­ther fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. In 1995 it ap­plied and sub­se­quently at­tained ap­proval to avail it­self of a re­dis­count­ing fa­cil­ity in the amount of R2 mil­lion with the LBP Sanchez Mira Field Of­fice, a fund that the co-op availed it­self of be­fore ev­ery plant­ing sea­son for its mem­bers since then, and which grad­u­ally in­creased to R6 mil­lion and even­tu­ally, R15 mil­lion.

At present, the MDLC avails it­self of a short-term loan line of R50 mil­lion and a step-up loan line (also of R50 mil­lion) with the LBP. It also tapped the Na­tional Liveli­hood De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NLDC) that ex­tended a credit line of PhP 20 mil­lion to meet the need for ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for the liveli­hood projects of its grow­ing mem­ber­ship. That credit line is now R40 mil­lion. Both in­sti­tu­tions also pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance for sus­tain­able oper­a­tions. The LBP regularly con­ducts oper­a­tions re­views; its Coun­try­side De­vel­op­ment Foun­da­tion Inc. also holds work­shops and sem­i­nars for the co-op’s man­age­ment staff, while the NLDC un­der­takes the co-op’s per­for­mance as­sess­ment ev­ery two years.

“In Au­gust 1996, af­ter mak­ing do with a small and di­lap­i­dated of­fice build­ing for about a decade, we ac­quired our own new build­ing in our 333-square me­ter (sq. m.) lot in Ma­sisit,” says Pacris. “Co-op ser­vices ex­panded rapidly and our area of oper­a­tions ex­tended from Sanchez Mira to through­out Ca­gayan and its south­ern neigh­bor Apayao, the Cordillera Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion’s

north­ern­most province. We also started equip­ping our­selves with com­put­ers and com­puter pro­grams for our daily oper­a­tions, the re­sult of our part­ner­ship with the LBP which clas­si­fies us as a Class A Co­op­er­a­tive.”

In or­der to in­crease and im­prove the ser­vices that the coop of­fers to its mem­bers, es­pe­cially the small farm­ers, and to pro­vide so­lu­tions to their post-harvest prob­lems, the MDLC de­cided to ob­tain a soft loan of R3 mil­lion payable over 10 years for a Farm-level Grains Cen­ter Pro­ject from the Na­tional Agri­cul­ture and Fish­ery Coun­cil through the DA Re­gion 2’s Agribusi­ness Depart­ment. The co-op bought as its coun­ter­part a 4,530 sq. m. lot in Ma­sisit for the ware­house con­structed in July 1999. April 2001 saw the ad­di­tion of a rice mill and the pur­chase of a four-wheel-drive trac­tor and medi­um­sized truck. Later years saw the ad­di­tion of a rice-and­corn har­vester, a six-ton me­chan­i­cal dryer pow­ered by a rice hull-fed fur­nace, and a 400 sq. m. so­lar dryer, en­abling the co-op to en­gage in a full-fledged grains busi­ness from then on.

The MDLC next es­tab­lished an In­te­grated Farm Mech­a­niza­tion and Trad­ing Cen­ter in Barangay Malekkeg, Sta. Marcela, Apayao to help the area’s farm­ers with ac­tiv­i­ties from land prepa­ra­tion to posthar­vest, and for them to be able to pro­duce high-qual­ity rice and corn crops. Pro­ject fi­nanc­ing came from the 2003 R10 mil­lion Corn De­vel­op­ment Fund of the Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity. Pro­ject com­po­nents are a 4-wheel-drive trac­tor, an 8-ton re­cir­cu­lat­ing me­chan­i­cal dryer with rice hull-fed fur­nace, a pneu­matic corn planter, a dump­ing trailer, and a ware­house with a floor area of 400 sq. m. To date the co-op has ac­quired three more 4-wheel-drive trac­tors, ex­panded its ware­house floor area by 350 sq. m., and con­structed a 500 sq. m. so­lar dryer.

LOOK­ING TO­WARDS THE FU­TURE

In Oc­to­ber 2004, the MDLC in­au­gu­rated its Train­ing Cen­ter and Beach Re­sort at its 20-hectare shore­front prop­erty in Ma­sisit. To­tal pro­ject cost was R2.5 mil­lion. Another build­ing worth R1.5 mil­lion for use as a Fish­er­men’s Cen­ter for con­duct­ing liveli­hood train­ing for its all its fish­er­folk mem­bers rose at the site in 2007, while a 350 sq. m. swimming pool was another ad­di­tion in 2009. Since its or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2013, the North­ern Philip­pines Co­op­er­a­tive Union, of which Pacris is out­go­ing chair­man and which holds of­fice at MDLC, con­ducts its train­ing cour­ses for co-op mem­bers and em­ploy­ees in North­ern Luzon at the Train­ing Cen­ter.

In 2005, the co-op op­er­a­tional­ized a 20-sow breed­ing pro­ject, a 50-head fat­ten­ing sec­tion, and a bio­gas fa­cil­ity. The breed­ing set-up sup­plies its mem­bers with F1 weanlings, gilts, and boars, and up to 2,000 piglets for fat­ten­ing each year. It also serves as train­ing ground for its mem­bers in ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion, med­i­ca­tion, vac­ci­na­tion, cas­tra­tion, and other swine-rais­ing ser­vices.

“We ac­quire breed­ing sows, boars, and feeds through a spe­cial ar­range­ment with a large agribusi­ness com­pany in Cen­tral Luzon.” says Pacris. “The ar­range­ment en­ables us to avail [our­selves] of qual­ity stock and feeds for our mem­bers who are into swine rais­ing.” In Au­gust 2007, the Co­op­er­a­tive con­structed its self-funded ga­so­line re­fill­ing sta­tion (Fly­ing V) at its own lot ad­ja­cent to the In­te­grated Farm Mech­a­niza­tion and Trad­ing Cen­ter in Sta. Marcela, Apayao, and a bio-fer­til­izer mix­ing plant the fol­low­ing year.

The co-op be­gan de­vel­op­ing two 80-hectare in­te­grated farms, one in Brgy. Sta. Bar­bara, Iguig, Ca­gayan near Tuguegarao City in 2009, the other in Malukkit, Cen­tro 2, Sanchez Mira in 2011, plant­ing these to rice, corn, co­conut, su­gar­cane, cas­sava, saba banana, cof­fee, ca­cao, and veg­eta­bles. In 2012, it started a 20-hectare re­for­esta­tion pro­ject in Malukkit un­der an agree­ment with the of­fice of the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources in Sanchez Mira, es­tab­lish­ing seedling nurs­eries for for­est trees, and those of co­conut, cof­fee, and ca­cao for in­ter­crop­ping with the for­est species.

“We plant a lot of co­conuts be­cause we be­lieve it will con­tinue to be a main­stay of our agri­cul­ture in light of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions’ re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion,” says Pacris, who re­tired from the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion af­ter serv­ing for 45 years, 25 of those as a school ad­min­is­tra­tor. “As of end-2014, we have planted 9,276 co­conut trees in 42 hectares in our farms and beach re­sort un­der a Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment with the Philip­pine Co­conut Au­thor­ity, which en­ti­tles us to an in­cen­tive of PhP 18 per seedling planted and PhP 22 per tree af­ter a year of be­ing es­tab­lished. Our co­conut trees are 10 me­ters apart so there’s space for in­ter­crops. We have also planted 10,500 Ro­busta cof­fee and 9,000 ca­cao trees.

“Our cas­sava plant­ings are part of a tie-up with the San Miguel Pure­foods Com­pany which will buy our har­vests for its feed­milling busi­ness,” he con­tin­ues. “Our su­gar­cane in our Iguig farm is less than 50 kilo­me­ters away from the Ca­gayan Robina Sugar Milling Com­pany in Piat town in the south­west part of our province. When we harvest our saba bananas, our Em­ploy­ees As­so­ci­a­tion will get a R700,000

grant from the Depart­ment of La­bor and Em­ploy­ment [to ac­quire] equip­ment for mak­ing banana chips.”

He shares that MLC’s agribusi­ness oper­a­tions grossed less than R800,000 in 2014 and has not im­pacted its rev­enue pic­ture be­cause of ex­penses such as work­ers’ salaries and in de­vel­op­ing the farms, in which it con­tin­ues to in­vest part of its earn­ings.

“Our farms em­ploy more than 100 sea­sonal work­ers to whom we pay the min­i­mum daily wage for three to six months each year,” says Pacris. “But as our agri-oper­a­tions ex­pand, grad­ual pro­duc­tion vol­ume in­creases will boost our prof­itabil­ity and en­able it to rank next to our credit oper­a­tions, which ac­counts for the bulk in our rev­enue, post­ing R22 mil­lion in 2014. Our 2014 net in­come was about R6.5 mil­lion.”

The MDLC has be­come a ma­jor player in pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth in north­ern Ca­gayan and Apayao in serv­ing its mem­bers not only by fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing their liveli­hood projects but also by pro­vid­ing ac­cess to new tech­nolo­gies in crop, live­stock, and aqua­cul­ture pro­duc­tion through train­ing cour­ses and sem­i­nars. It also car­ries out com­mu­nity and so­cio-civic ac­tiv­i­ties that ben­e­fit the barangays. Aside from pig­gery projects, mem­bers raise tilapia in cages at the Na­muac River and other trib­u­taries of the Pam­plona River. Other mem­bers raise ducks or chick­ens or grow short-term crops like veg­eta­bles af­ter rice.

“Aside from our main con­sumer store and agri-cen­ter lo­cated at Cen­tro Sanchez Mira, we es­tab­lished other agri-cen­ters in Clave­ria, Abu­lug, and Balles­teros towns and in Sta. Marcela, Apayao for such out­lets to be more ac­ces­si­ble to our mem­bers in those lo­cal­i­ties,” says Pacris. “The Cen­ters pro­vide an­i­mal and fish feeds, bi­o­log­ics, seeds, fer­til­iz­ers, and other farm in­puts at fair prices.”

The co-op is what it is to­day as a re­sult of the com­mit­ment, ded­i­ca­tion, and hard work of its of­fi­cers and staff and the con­tin­ued sup­port of its mem­bers, whose loan re­pay­ment rate is 79 per­cent. Through its years of vi­able op­er­a­tion, the MDLC has re­ceived nu­mer­ous awards and ci­ta­tions, among the most cher­ished of which are the LBP Gin­in­tuang Gawad Pi­tak (Agri-Based Cat­e­gory) in 2010, given to Hall of Fame awardees in the LBP Na­tional Gawad Pi­tak; the Na­tion­al­Level Gawad Saka Small Farm and Fish­er­folk Or­ga­ni­za­tion Award from the DA in 2004; and the Most Out­stand­ing Non­Govern­ment Or­ga­ni­za­tion Award from the DTI in 1995.

Pacris has been MDLC chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer since 1992 save for a break to ob­serve the CDA’s con­sec­u­tive three three-year terms only rule. A seven-per­son board of di­rec­tors steers the co-op’s di­rec­tions. Its cur­rent mem­bers are Ber­nic Ale­gado, chair­man; Nancita Ale­gado, Ce­sar Descalzo, Jeana Langa­man, Amante Pacris, vice-chair­man; Pepito Sacramed, Glo­ria Valdez, Ma­rina Gal­zote, sec­re­tary; and Romeo Tapec, trea­surer.

The co-op’s key depart­ment man­agers are Floren­cio Sen­sano, ad­min­is­tra­tive; Lordy Gal­zote, loans and sav­ings; Romeo Tapec, fi­nance; War­lino Sacramed, agribusi­ness; and Fely Jean Pacris, mar­ket­ing and train­ing cen­ter-beach re­sort. The agribusi­ness depart­ment has four Agri­cul­ture grad­u­ates and six un­der­grad­u­ates in its reg­u­lar staff, and over 50 farm­ers among the sea­sonal work­ers.

Work­ers tend su­gar­cane and corn crops at one of the co-op’s 80-hectare farms in Iguig, Ca­gayan.

This is one of the co-op’s seedling nurs­eries in Sanchez Mira, Ca­gayan.

Veg­etable crops are also among those grown in the co­op­er­a­tive’s farms.

The co-op’s farms are planted to Ro­busta cof­fee trees in­ter­cropped with co­conut.

Ma­sisit-Da­cal Liveli­hood Co­op­er­a­tive chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Froilan Pacris poses with three of the most cher­ished awards the co-op has re­ceived through its suc­cess­ful 29-year ex­is­tence.

Many co-op as­sisted tilapia fishcage oper­a­tions, like this one in a river in Sanchez Mira, pro­vide a source of liveli­hood for its mem­bers.

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