By RICARDO PACLAY JR.
Barangay Alunogan is one of the eleven (11) barangays of Natonin in Mountain Province. Barangay Alunogan consist of 203 households and 384 families. The main source of livelihood is still from traditional agriculture just like all other barangays in Natonin.
Rice production is primarily intended for household consumption. They have two (2) cropping seasons called “Tiniyercao” and the “Tapiac”. The palay (rice seed) varieties planted on both croppings are both the traditional and introduced varieties.
Due to the limited area for rice production, occurrence of disasters, pest infestations and insufficient water supply from the irrigation systems, about 10-15 % of the total households suffer rice shortages especially during the months of January to March. In order to cope with the situation, people seek for jobs or paid labor within or outside the municipality such as gardeners for hire in the farm areas of Benguet Province or as small scale miners also in Benguet for additional income to support the basic needs of their respective families.
The people in the community have an existing organization called Alunogan Farmer’s Association (AFA). They recalled that in 2004 there was a privately owned rice mill with a thresher powered by diesel engine in the community which they used for a share in their cropping. However, in 2017, the owner decided to transfer the rice mill to another province. However, just after the old rice mill was pulled out, another resident installed a new rice mill with thresher powered by the grid (local electricity) and charged a milling cost which ranged from PhP 70.00 to PhP 90.00 per can of palay depending on the variety. But because of the preventive cost of milling, a significant number of families milled their rice produce manually, with the wooden pestle and stone mortar.
In 2008, through AFA the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services or CorDisRDS struck a partnership with the community for capacity building activities. By 2012, community projects were jointly identified and implemented by CorDisRDS, AFA and their barangay officials.
The CorDisRDS supported some community projects such as repair of irrigation systems and water works. Based on the plan of AFA, a dapilan or sugarcane crusher was prioritized but later on, the community people realized that a rice mill system is more essential to the community because it benefits most of the farmers of the community. Given that situation, CorDis RDS conducted a feasibility study with the participation of the people’s organization, AFA and some of the barangay officials from March to April 2017. The results of the feasibility study supported the great need for a rice mill. It was agreed that the rice mill with thresher will be installed at Sitio Emisan where it was practically accessible to all, it was at the center of the community and near the rice fields.
The people also identified particular objectives for this project which included: to unburden the women, people with disabilities (PWD), children and elderly from the hardship of manually pounding rice so that they can have more time devoted to other family concerns. Especially for the children to have more time for studying and the elderly for other productive activities like broom- making. The rice mill will also strengthen the unity and cooperation of the community members since it is community managed and implemented through bayanihan (shared labor).
To achieve these Cordis facilitated project management and skills training wherein the AFA drafted their implementation plan. CorDis RDS then delivered the rice mill on September 2017 while the thresher and engine was delivered on November 2017.
The materials needed were hauled and the construction of the rice mill housing was done by the community by way of the traditional bayanihan. While it was CorDis RDS share to provide the rice mill, the engine, thresher, and some of the construction materials for the housing of the rice mill, It was the community’s counterpart to render labor to build the housing and secure the area, the needed local materials such as aggregates, lumber and the site for the rice mill. The barangay local government also legislated some funds to provide some of the construction materials.
There were considerations during the implementation such that it took almost a year to complete. In the implementation plan, the agricultural cycle of the community, graduation of schools, barangay & municipal fiestas and barangay elections where the most community members are usually involved were taken into consideration.
In organizing the implementation, the members of the community were grouped according to their skills such as carpentry, steel work and masonry. The people’s organization (AFA), CorDis RDS and the BLGU initially tested the system and ironed out minor problems. Today, the rice mill project is 85% complete, the installation of some windows, a door, the palay drop box and concreting of its floor is still on-going. It is expected to be fully operational by June 2018 – the successful community built and community owned rice mill of Alunogan, Natonin, Mountain Province.#nordis.net