BULUAN, Maguindanao: The Department of Agriculture (DA) launched its Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program to support farmers in food production to hasten recovery of the conflict-affected province.
DA Assistant Secretary for Planning and Special Projects Lerey Arevalo Panes and Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led the launching rites here attended by hundreds of growers from 19 towns.
SAAD, which means “promise” in the Visayan language and “equitable share” in the Maranao dialect, is a locally funded project under the DA that focuses on the most marginalized agricultural and fishery sectors in the country.
“Maguindanao is a sleeping giant. It has vast fertile lands and huge human resources that can be tapped to transform the province into a giant economy of the south,” Panes, SAAD program national director, said.
Mangudadatu encouraged farmers to avail themselves of all government support provided to them and realize the goals of the program.
He also announced that instead of P150 million earlier committed through the SAAD program, President Duterte has doubled it to P300 million.
Maguindanao is ranked fourth among top 10 poorest provinces in the country which the SAAD program will prioritize this year, officials said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority recently identified the 10 areas with the highest poverty incidence as Lanao del Sur – 67.3 percent; Eastern Samar – 55.4; Apayao –54.7; Maguindanao – 54.5; Zamboanga del Norte – 48; Sarangani – 46; North Cotabato – 44.8; Negros Oriental – 43.9 and Northern and Western Samar, both with 43.5 percent.
SAAD area coordinators said the DA has an initial fund of P25 million for the implementation of the first phase with 270 corn growers in the upland area of Maguindanao, particularly the towns of Matanog, Buldon, Barira, South Upi, Upi, Datu Udin Sinsuat, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Abdullah Sangki and Ampatuan.
Another 300 beneficiaries in lower areas – Buluan, Pandag, Mangudadatu, Rajah Buayan, Sultan Sa Barongis, Datu Piang, General SK Pendatun, Paglat, Datu Muntawal and Datu Salibo – will be given support for rice production in the second phase.
The local SAAD program is assessed and supervised by the provincial government in partnership with DA-Region 12.