• Empowering LGUs for agriculture



    (Last of three parts)
    It has been about 26 years since the enactment of the Local Government Act of 1991, or Republic Act 7160, and most local government units (LGUs) are still not trained, equipped, or empowered to deliver agricultural services as mandated by the law.

    So are LGUs to blame? I think not. Should the Department of Agriculture (DA) give up its function of developing national agriculture programs, and just let LGUs have their own programs for their farming and fisheries sectors? Definitely not.

    As I have stated last week in the second part of this column-series, the national government through the DA should forge a partnership based on the “steering and rowing” arrangement, and have a shared mission and vision. It is the DA, however, that should finalize the shared mission and vision.

    Under the steering and rowing arrangement, it is the DA that performs the task of steering while the LGUs, also through partnerships and collaborations with other entities including state colleges and universities, perform the rowing function.

    The principles set by RA 8435, or the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act (AMFA) of 1997, can also be the basis for the shared vision for the DA and LGUs: Poverty alleviation and social equity; food security; rational use of resources; global competitiveness; sustainable development; people empowerment; and protection from unfair competition.

    The IMOD framework can also be adopted by the DA and LGUs to set goals in delivering agricultural extension services to smallholders. IMOD stands for Inclusive Market-Oriented Development for the agriculture sector that builds on four powerful principles: that markets motivate growth, that innovation accelerates growth, that inclusiveness ensures the poor benefit, and resiliency sustains growth.

    The principles of IMOD and the AFMA are almost the same, and the end-result should be inclusive growth, where smallholder farmers and fisher folk also enjoy the fruits of increased production in the agriculture sector. AFMA’s principles of poverty alleviation and social equity clearly state that, while in IMOD, it simply means inclusiveness ensures the poor benefit.

    And since the DA has demonstrated that it can formulate and conceptualize national agriculture programs, what needs more focus now is capacitating LGUs to effectively deliver agricultural extension services down to the grassroots level, where poverty can be at its worst. Doing this, however, will need funds. I would even say a massive amount of funding.

    Section 3, which sets the Operative Principles of Decentralization of RA 7160, has a provision on the need for LGUs to have adequate funding to perform devolved functions.

    Funds needed

    Specifically, Section 3 (c) specifically states: “The vesting of duty, responsibility, and accountability in local government units shall be accompanied with provision for reasonably adequate resources to discharge their powers and effectively carry out their functions; hence, they shall have the power to create and broaden their own sources of revenue and the right to a just share in national taxes and an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas.”

    The need to address the funding needs of LGUs so they can perform the functions devolved to them was underscored by Dr. Cielo Magno in her paper “The Devolution of Agricultural and Health Services” published in 2001.

    “Although some LGUs have been able to source international assistance and to design more efficient programs of delivering services, the majority of the LGUs are very dependent on the IRA [internal revenue allotment]and lack the initiative to source and mobilize their own funds, the funds that are needed to address their responsibilities,” Dr. Magno, now an assistant professor in the University of the Philippines’ School of Economics, further said.

    Equally important in empowering and capacitating LGUs are policies and programs, and the need to have an agribusiness approach in developing their farming and fisheries sector.

    Section 3 (k) of RA 7160 clearly states this: “The realization of local autonomy shall be facilitated through improved coordination of national government policies and programs and extension of adequate technical and material assistance to less developed and deserving local government units.”

    When I say capacitating, it simply does not mean training LGUs to effectively and efficiently deliver agricultural extension services to smallholders, although this is very important and can be provided by the DA, and state colleges and universities (SCUs). Of equal importance is the provision of programs, projects, and platforms that enable LGUs to accelerate the transfer of technology, establish enterprises, create more wealth, and reduce poverty.

    The end result should be the improvement of the entrepreneurial ecosystem for agriculture.

    The agribusiness incubation platform

    One of the most viable platforms to capacitate and even empower LGUs to deliver agricultural extension services from the context of agripreneurship is agribusiness incubation (ABI).

    ABI was derived from technology business incubation and was applied in India through the joint efforts of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), which was then under my leadership, and the country’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), starting in 2002.

    The success rate for participants for the groundbreaking ABI program was 80 percent, which was achieved in six to seven years. Previous ABI programs in India without ICRISAT’s support had a success rate of only 10 percent.

    Based on the success of the ABI program jointly undertaken by ICRISAT and DST, the following components should be put in place: Technology consulting, capacity building and training, access to funding, business facilitation, and infrastructure and facilities.

    Partnerships, especially with LGUs as in the case of the Philippines, are also an important component in getting ABI programs down to the grassroots.

    One good example of a program that emulates the ABI platform is the “Community Level Coco Water Processing Technology Pilot Testing and Business Incubation Project” for smallholder coconut farmers that aims to transfer the technology of processing and bottling coco water at the community or farm level.

    The participants in that project are the DA-Bicol region office, Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization under the DA, Philippine Rural Development Program, Central Bicol State University of Agriculture, and of course, the Camarines Sur LGU.

    The project also aims to develop supply chain linkages for community-level coconut water processing and production.

    Programs like the Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program (KAMMP) can also be integrated into ABI initiatives. Under KAMMP, aspiring entrepreneurs are trained through coaching and mentoring sessions conducted by business owners and entrepreneurs. KAMMP is a collaboration between Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, the Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, and the DA under the leadership of Secretary Manny Piñol.

    Fostering agripreneurship may be something very alien to most LGUs, as they are more concerned on increasing production at the farm level without any regard for value adding. This is also missing in RA 7160.

    But the tools to improve or put into place the entrepreneurial ecosystem for agriculture and agribusiness down to the grassroots level are already existing, one of them being ABI. And ABI is not rocket science and LGUs can be trained to undertake ABI programs that should be guided and supported by the DA, in the form of technology transfer, market linkages, and training.|

    While this is the last part of my three-part column-series on empowering and capacitating LGUs to deliver agricultural extension services, this is definitely not the last time I will discuss this topic. So watch out for my next columns on the issue.


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