Finally, the IDAIT convergence platform, championed by Rep. Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano of the first district of Ilocos Sur, was formally launched on June 20, which signals a new era for economic and social development partnerships not only for the province, but for the Ilocos region and its surrounding areas in the North Luzon Growth Quadrangle as well.
InangLupa Movement, which I founded and currently head, is proudly part of the IDAIT effort, having made major contributions in its conceptualization and design as it is envisioned to play a big role in its implementation in key strategic locations throughout the country. IDAIT, which means “to sew” in Ilocano, stands for Institutionalization of District-wide Agro-industrialization, Innovation and Tourism — which emphasizes inter-regional convergence in strategic areas such as rural enterprise development, ecozone establishment and key infrastructure network.
During the launching of IDAIT at the National Convergence Initiative for Sustainable Rural Development (NCI-SRD) Summit and Unveiling of IDAIT held in Vigan, Ilocos Sur on Tuesday last week, the four major partners namely the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) was well-represented by their respective undersecretaries and was graced by no less than Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Senator Cynthia A. Villar and Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Singson. Indeed, IDAIT is the culmination of almost a year -long of preparation and consultation with grassroots partners and is a good jumping-board for the modeling of public-private- community partnership where community-based organizations, cooperatives, farmers and fisher folk can become the real drivers of rural economy by creating local jobs and employment and most importantly, ensure the reliable source and sustainable supply of clean and safe food. With IDAIT convergence platform being rolled out, our catching up with Asean neighbors may not be too far behind, after all.
Further, IDAIT is reflective of the increasing role of women in rural development. The undersecretaries of DAR and DA, Rose Bistoyong and Evelyn Lavina, respectively, took extra effort to engage with a large consortium of cooperatives based in Ilocos Sur, by highlighting the pivotal role of organized groups in IDAIT as it can lead to the unfolding of scalable models for inclusive financing, support cross-organizational learning and promote innovative practices to grow rural enterprises. I agree with these key points as we are enabling the transformation of micro and small enterprises to sustainable businesses.
To ensure the active participation of our grassroots partners, the IDAIT team was instrumental in mobilizing the Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperatives (NSCC), an umbrella organization of 200 primary cooperatives with 30,000 individuals as its members, boasting of an asset base of more than P2 billion. Yes, that’s P2 billion worth of resources; truly amazing!
During the dialogue with cooperatives, members of the consortium led by its president and chief executive officer Divina Quemi, expressed optimism in the IDAIT convergence platform. And I believe the participation of the consortium will fast-track IDAIT’s roll-out in key strategic growth areas because the cooperatives are very much connected to the grassroots, which are mostly made up of small holder farmers, fisher folk and rural poor that IDAIT aims to empower and lift out of poverty.
Through the IDAIT platform, the farmers, fisher folk and local producers takes the center stage as NSCC can transform itself to a conglomeration of supermarket chains and trading posts similar to the farmers’ cooperatives in South Korea and Japan. I believe the consortium, with its governance structure in place, can achieve this considering that the consortium members’ own and operate farm production clusters, schools, hotels, micro-lending facilities and warehouses. Truly, cooperatives are the way for “collective action,” which is a dictum of IDAIT.
The basic IDAIT framework is anchored on the “four strands” for collective action and is iterative as much as it is information-driven — for it involves the original four government agencies: DA, DAR, DENR, DILG and with the active participation of local government units (LGUs), community, private sector, the academe, scientists and researchers, and social scientists.
The IDAIT strands lead to social transformation where Public-Private-Community Partnership means attainment of inclusive growth with equity; and ensure food and income security and freedom from poverty as it is supported by science-based approaches and market-driven solutions and is enshrined with institutional governance mechanisms for sustainability.
The IDAIT platform takes cognizance of agriculture as the lynchpin of rural economy, where inclusive agribusiness and mainstreaming of small holder farmers and fishers to regional value chains is a must. It is beyond borders and can serve as a jumping board for the development of rural growth hubs in the region, within the North Quadrangle Development Area and in strategic development areas throughout the country!
With the launching of IDAIT, the DA, DAR, DENR and DILG are starting to identify budget activities from the 2017 General Appropriations Act that are aligned or can be aligned with IDAIT’s development strategy. Furthermore, the budget for projects and programs in IDAIT are being proposed not only to the four aforementioned agencies but also to the Department of Tourism (DOT), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), for funding by the Department of Budget and Management.
IDAIT has three major platforms: Agribusiness Incubation; Ecohistourism; and Regional Innovation Network.
Rural Enterprise and Agribusiness platform (REAP) is a pioneering, public-private-community partnership initiative with a mission to benefit the small holder farmers, fisher folk and entrepreneurs through an inclusive market-oriented approach through innovation and value addition. This platform encompasses farming, the development of value-added products, marketing and sales, and integration to regional value chains.
Ecohistourism, a coined word which stands for ecology, history and tourism, focuses on “travel for leisure, recreation, and holidays,” which aims to package UNESCO historical sites, faith and farm tourism, promote local practices and traditions that appeal to tourists, health and wellness, pilgrimage and religious (back to basics) encounters aimed to attract local and foreign tourists. Foreign cruise ships and tourists, while not the main market for local products from Ilocos Sur, can be a high-priced market that should be tapped soon.
Finally, the Regional Innovation Network is a window that establishes links with international development partners, donor organizations, national line agencies and local financial institutions to fund special programs and projects, promote international cooperation and provide soft-landing for Philippine micro, small and medium scale enterprises in key markets around the world.
In summary, IDAIT convergence adopts the Ecosystems approach — where a holistic platform is anchored on participatory development planning, equitable management of community-based resources, innovative practices in value-creation and coordinated policies to ensure sustainability. It also emphasizes a close working relationship with local people, guidance and support measures based on demonstration of practical, scalable techniques, at the appropriate scale.
All told, I strongly believe that with much candor and commitment from partners and stakeholders, IDAIT can prove to be a jewel in President Rodrigo Duterte’s rural development agenda. It offers a very practical way of engagement, collaboration and partnership that eventually can be scaled-up, replicated or modified to fit regional preferences and resource endowments in any part of the Philippines.