Ananada Marga cooperative news from Phillipines

Farmers in Davao del Norte reap profits from vegetables
DAVAO CITY -- Vegetable farmers in nearby Panabo City who had refused to lease their land to banana plantation operators a decade or two ago are now reaping the rewards of their decision.

While her neighbors jumped at the offer of sweet-talking representatives of the banana companies years ago, 55-year-old Anita A. Monsanto stuck to her farm. "Now, we earn about P3,000 per harvest for one week, or P12,000 a month," she said, referring to a hectare of land that her family could have leased out years ago.
A hectare of land planted to banana in Panabo started at a lease of P7,000 annually about a decade ago. The rate has since increased to P15,000 per hectare annually, tantamount to just P1,250 per hectare a month. Each farmer holds one to five hectares.
Panabo is known as the "banana capital" of Davao del Norte. Based on its own Web site, the city has dedicated nearly half of its agricultural land, or around 10,000 hectares, for export-quality bananas.
The Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao concedes that vegetable growing is not among the major sub-sectoral contributors to the country’s agricultural sector.
Davao Region produces 3,000 kilograms of assorted vegetables per day. During the dry spell that struck in the first half this year, output was even cut to a mere 300 kg/day, industry leaders claimed.
But the demand for vegetables from Davao Region’s consumers is always present. It also helps that Panabo City is just 30 kilometers away from Davao City, whose population is now about 1.5 million.
Ms. Monsanto is one of 13 women of Sitio Tagurot, San Nicolas village who formed their own cooperative, Tagurot Center 1, to also serve as bagsakan center for the vegetable produce of adjacent villages.
The cooperative is helped by the Baba Foundation, Inc., a nongovernment organization formed by the Ananda Marga group in October 1987.
Starting as a social service group with a capital outlay of P200,000, Baba Foundation has ventured into microfinancing and now has a loan exposure of P20 million.
Emely S. Comaling, technical support officer of Baba Foundation, said her group now offers small "Alalayan sa Kabuhayan" loans ranging from P3,000-P30,000. -- Joel B. Escovilla