By Joshua Angelo E. Bata

ILIGAN CITY, March 5, (PIA-TFBM-ICCC) – The success of the convergence initiative in five barangays of Marawi City has prompted concerned agencies and organizations to expand the project in 33 barangays to contribute to the food security of the recovering war-torn city.

The proposed inclusion of 33 barangays is expected to engage around 15,000 individuals, who will also be under the cash-for-work program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The convergence initiative involves the development of farmlands and fishponds to jumpstart farmers’ and fisherfolks’ production respectively.

This project is further underscored as 40% of Marawi’s economy is linked with agriculture. As residents heave a sigh of relief upon their return to their communities, resuming their livelihood or sources of income remains a challenge.

The program begins with farmers preparing the land through the cash-for-work intervention of the DSWD. Agencies such as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the local government, together with international organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations – Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO), then, distributes seedlings to farmers as soon as land preparation is finished.

Rice, corn, and vegetables are some of the seedlings planted by farmers.

Although the expansion of the convergence initiative is still in its planning stage as definite timeline and beneficiaries are yet to be decided, the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM) field office manager, Assistant Secretary Felix Castro Jr. has been keen in pushing for the realization of this project.

According to the WFP National Program Officer Baicon Macaraya, the convergence initiative aims to address food security issues in Marawi and allow farmers to contribute to the city’s recovery by producing food that will be readily available for returning families.

National Program Officer of World Food Programme Baicon Macaraya discusses issues on convergence initiatives in Marawi. (PIA ICCC)

The business and livelihood sub-committee of the TFBM; international organizations such as the WFP and the UN – FAO; Mindanao State University – College of Agriculture; SM Foundation; and the local government of Marawi convened last Feb. 27 in a meeting to discuss the gains of the convergence initiative and the possibility of its expansion.

However, the food security cluster still poses earlier problems in livelihood intervention. On top of it are the lack of baseline data and economic profile of those engaged in agriculture.

It furthers the delays of assistance in affected communities as agencies are rendered clueless at appropriate interventions without specific targets.

As a measure, the barangay and the municipal government takes up the task of profiling and identifying the beneficiaries for the program.

Other issues brought up during the meeting are the lack of farm input and tools, the inadequacy of farm equipment and post-harvest facilities, problems on supply chain and food-value chain, mobilization of personnel from select agencies, access to markets, among others.

The food security cluster will also include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to conduct environmental scanning to identify agricultural products suitable for selected barangays.

The Philippine Carabao Center and the Department of Trade and Industry will also be asked to be on-board to provide necessary interventions for food security. (PIA-ICCC/JAEBata)