25 Years of FARMCOOP
|1988-1994||PASSAGE OF THE AGRARIAN REFORM LAW|
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) mandating the government to acquire commercial farms and distribute them to farm workers, aims to liberate farmworkers from poverty and uplift their quality of life. To this end, the National Federation of Labor (NFL), an affiliate of the International Union of Foods (IUF), prepared its union members in the banana plantations in Mindanao for their transformation from workers to entrepreneurs through cooperativism.
|1995||FOUNDING OF FARMCOOP|
Leaders of agrarian reform beneficiaries’ (ARBs) associations and concerned individuals organized FARMCOOP to help the ARBs attain the objective of agrarian reform. SEARBAI, CFARBAI and DARBAI – ARB associations in the banana plantations of Dole Philippines, Inc. (Dolefil), served as pilot areas. Regretably, the ARBs’ change in orientation, FARMCOOP’s lack of knowledge of the banana business, and complicated by Dolefil’s aggressive interference, drove the associations to sign onerous contracts with Dolefil.
|1996||ARBs WORSE OFF UNDER AGRARIAN REFORM|
The onerous contracts enchained the ARBs to deeper poverty. Their P145 daily wage before CARP plunged to P92. Their union benefits vanished and SSS premiums were unpaid. Thus, intra-coop conflicts raged, splitting SEARBAI into three, DARBAI into two. The year-end marked their conversion from association to cooperatives: SEARBAI to DARBCO and SEARBEMCO; DARBAI to DARBMUPCO; and CFARBAI to CFARBEMPCO.
|1997||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
The year began with the cooperatives’ urgent clamors for renegotiation of their onerous contracts. But Dole refused, compelling them to organize an ALLIANCE and prepare for concerted action. At dawn of December 7, 1997, they launched “PEOPLE POWER”, paralyzing farm operations in 2,000-hectare banana plantations and defying the court order to comply with their contracts to deliver bananas.
FARMCOOP partnered with German funder Bread for the World (BftW) and launched the project “TRANSFORMING PLANTATIONS IN MINDANAO” to help the “poorest of the poor” banana farmers overcome poverty.
DAR and HPI (Hijo Plantation, Inc.) divided the CARP-awarded 1,350-hectare banana plantation of the ARBs three-ways sans their prior consent, breaking them into three cooperatives: HEARBCO 1, HEARBCO 2 and HARBCO, and leaving them without recourse, on pain of depriving them of their separation pay, but sign the onerous MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT (MOA) – the “mother contract” which sealed the ARBs’
|1998||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
As hunger and hostilities worsened, IUF warned Dolefil of a global boycott of its products if it does not heed the cooperatives’ just demands. On February 3, 1998, Dolefil agreed to abrogate the contracts and negotiate anew, leading to the signing of the Banana Production and Purchase Agreements (BPPAs), which set fair terms and box price of $2.60 (P110) from less than P25. Remarkably, the BPPA has become the model contract in most ARB banana plantations.
The PARAD annuled the HPI-HEARBCO 1 contract, enabling HEARBCO 1 to forge a fair BPPA with Dolefil. On appeal by HPI, the DARAB reversed the decision, compelling HEARBCO 1 to stop delivering bananas to Dolefil and sign an onerous Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA) with Lapanday Fruit Corp. (LFC) to whom HPI earlier assigned its contracts with the other cooperatives.
|1999||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
Five cooperatives of small-scale banana growers sought FARMCOOP’s help to abrogate their onerous contract. They were supposed to join the ALLIANCE “PEOPLE POWER”, but quit believing that pre-terminating a contract with Dolefil is imposible. Dolefil agreed to renegotiate, but withdrew its offers after four months, triggering “PEOPLE POWER”, which led to the resumption of negotiatons facilitated by Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario, and signing of fair BPPAs.
|2000||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
FARMCOOP founded the Federation of ARB Banana-Based Cooperatives of Davao (FEDCO) to develop the capacity of the cooperatives for co-production and direct marketing. First business was export of Class B bananas to China. Later, CEO Apuzen assigned the management to a colleague who unfortunately distanced FEDCO from FARMCOOP. Since then, FEDCO ceased to serve its purpose.
CASAMA COOPS and AMS Farming Corporation (AMS) engaged in an odd negotiation: AMS wanted leaseback, CASAMA wanted contract growership. Two years and no headway, PARO Gumbao advised CASAMA to deal with a third party, but a court order struck-down such contract, bringing the parties to back to the table with the same position. The impass ended with CASAMA signing a fair BPPA with UNIFRUTTI.
|2001||INDIVIDUAL FARMING SYSTEM (IFS)|
DARBCO initiated the INDIVIDUAL FARMING SYSTEM (IFS), an innovative production boosting scheme, in which each ARB earns what he/she produces in his/her assigned area. True enough, DARBCO IFS consistently increased its production and income by 35%. Significantly, IFS became the model production system in most ARB cooperatives in the banana industry.
|2002||FOUNDING OF MOVE|
FARMCOOP, FEDCO, ALTER TRADE JAPAN (ATJ) and ALTER TRADE CORP. (ATC) formed MINDANAO ORGANIC VENTURES ENTERPRISES (MOVE) to produce and export low-chem and organic bananas to Japan. The former executives of HPI supplied low-chem banana, while the Tupi Banana Growers Association (TUBAGA) of Tupi, South Cotabato, produced organic banana. MOVE was dissolved after three years of existence.
|2003||PROVIDENTIAL INVITATION TO GROW ORGANIC BANANA|
The Barangay Council of Sibulan invited FARMCOOP to help its tribal farmers grow organic banana for export. FARMCOOP acceded but drew questions from cynics as it had no money, no market, and no technical know-how. By faith, Dutch funder, CORDAID, and a Japanese buyer, Tanaka Seika, Ltd., came in the nip of time and the project went full swing in the same year without field trials.
|2004||FOUNDING OF OPEC and SOBAGROMCO|
OPEC is not only about fossil oil that causes climate change. OPEC is also about organic farming that mitigates climate change. It’s the Organic Producer and Exporter Corporation or OPEC, which FARMCOOP founded as its production and marketing arm of organic products. Simultaneously, the tribal farmers organized Sibulan Organic Banana Growers Multipurpose Cooperative (SOBAGROMCO) to manage their banana production in partnership with OPEC.
|2005||BIO-FERTILIZER AND PESTICIDE COMPLEX|
After two years of search for an area for production of organic compost fertilizer and bio-pesticide, FARMCOOP found the most suitable site right in Sibulan – an eight-hectare property – which the owners were about to lease to a big banana company. This is now home to the Organic Training Center, organic vegetable garden, POPCOBAGROW’s office, and SETOPA’s banana chips processing plant.
|2006||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
Contrary to the notion of big banana companies that production of exportable organic banana in the Philippines is impossible, the tribal farmers nonetheless grew organic banana amid extreme difficulties, and OPEC made its first shipment to the Japanese market. This feat, which continues to this 15th year, is the fruition of passion, grit and pious quest for excellence.
After 10 years of being barred by the former landowner, the ARBs of Sibulan finally took over their awarded land upon FARMCOOP’s representation with DAR. They organized their cooperative called PARBEMCO, now POPCOBABROW, and grew organic banana with some help from Belgian funder Broederlijk Delen. Today, they are OPEC’s biggest and most reliable producer of exportable organic banana.
|2007||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
FARMCOOP obtained certification from the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC), freeing it from paying tax for donated funds and materials, and making the donations serve as the donor’s tax credit.
Belgian Ambassador Vardakis visited the Belgian funded (Broederlijk Delen) organic banana farms of POPCOBAGROW in Sibulan and wind up his visit at FARMCOOP’s office.
|2008||ALLIANCE COOPS SIGNED FIRST CONTRACT WITH UNIFRUTTI|
ALLIANCE COOPS: CFARBEMPCO, DARBCO, and DARBMUPCO signed their first five-year BPPAs with UNIFRUTTI after terminating their 10-year contracts with Dolefil. When their BPPAs took effect, UNIFRUTTI breached the contract price, which was the highest in the industry, and stunned them with a 35% price increase. The cooperatives recently renewed their BPPAs for another six years or up to year 2025.
FARMCOOP helped the ARBs in Malita organize their cooperative called Lacaron CARP Beneficiaries’ Association (LCBA) and develop their CARP-awarded land into a banana plantation. After a year, they were delivering exportable bananas to UNIFRUTTI.
|2009||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
FARMCOOP paid tribute to the Germany-based funder BftW on the 14th Anniversary for its support which enabled the “poorest of the poor” ARBs who benefited from its funding to become economically sustainable. Ms. Anna Nicklasch, Asia Representative of BftW and John Mark Caquiuat, Executive Director of Consulting Team and BftW Consultant, were present to grace the occasion.
After years of failures and setbacks, FARMCOOP/OPEC and 15 others: Barangay and Tribal Council members, farmers, representatives of the NCPI and City Agriculture Office went to Baras, Rizal, the first Organic Agriculture Zone of the Philippines, for a 3-day training on organic farming. The historic journey yielded valuable learnings which gave organic farming in Sibulan a new perspective.
The organic banana farms of the tribal farmers of Sibulan, finally obtained organic certification from ECOCERT, an international organic certification body, and the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) after three years of preparation. The certification boosted the price by 90% – a huge surge in the farmers’ pursuit of an abundant life. ECOCERT-JAS conducts yearly farm inspection and thereafter issues organic certification covering the farms which pass the inspection.
The 30-year lease contract of the Tagnanan CARP Beneficiaries Cooperative (TCBC) with NOVA VISTA & Company covering their 600-hectare land, ended when TCBC and UNIFRUTTI forged a BPPA. The resulting transformation of the ARBs from paid workers to entrepreneurs, brought significant change in their economic and social life.
Global stakeholders in the banana industry met in Brussels, Belgium and founded the WORLD BANANA FORUM (WBF). WBF is governed by the Steering Committee in which Koronado Apuzen is a member representing Asia. Its headquarter is in the United Nation’s Food Agriculture Office (FAO), Rome, Italy.
|2010||END OF CORDAID’S SUPPORT|
The project which the Catholic Organization Relief and Development AID or CORDAID’s funded called “Sustainable Agriculture And Market Access For Indigenous Peoples And Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Towards A Better Quality Of Life” had ended, but the organic banana venture that it supported has become self-sustaining and has gained wide support in the community, giving Sibulan the coveted honor as the first “ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL ZONE” in Davao City.
|2011||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
DAR Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes paid a surprise visit to POPCOBARGROW’s organic banana farms at Sibulan. POPCOBAGROW is the only agrarian reform cooperative in the Philippines which produces certified organic banana.
Rudy Villanueva, Chairman of DARBMUPCO, took his oath as Vice Chairman of the Banana Industry Tripartite Council before President Noynoy Aquino at Malacanang Palace on March 21, 2011.
|2012||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
FARMCOOP signed a TRIPARTITE MOU with SINAB’BADAN KAG KATUGAL’LAN SIBULAN and the National Commission for Indigenous People (NCIP), to undertake AGRO-INDUSTRIAL AND ECOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT in the Ancestral Domain of Barangay Sibulan, Davao City.
Farmcoop Chairman Mario Mandalunes and Executive Director Koronado Apuzen attended the 2nd World Banana Conference in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
|2013||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
Typhoon Pablo devastated the banana farms of CASAMA COOPS. They recovered after a year with a P120 million rehabilitation loan from Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) through the facilitation of UNIFRUTTI and technical help of FARMCOOP.
FARMCOOP received GAWAD PARANGAL from the Provincial Government of Davao del Norte for its education and training services to cooperatives and government employees in the province.
Jessie Lucero, FARMCOOP Mechanic, presented Mindanao’s first mechanized giant compost turner during the 18th Anniversary celebration.
The onerous lease contract of NGPI Multipurpose Cooperative (NGPI-MPC) with the Filipinas Palm Plantation, Inc. (FPPI), which was set to expire in 2032, was pre-terminated in 2013 without litigation for failure of the company to pay rental in 2012. The termination was so compelling that FPPI had to turn over the 3,600-hectare oil palm plantation to NGPI MPC.
|2014||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
ENGR. PEDRO GUMBAO, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer of Davao del Norte, was awarded a SPECIAL HONOR AWARD for “honesty, integrity and wholehearted dedication to the government’s agrarian reform program” during FARMCOOP’s 19th Anniversary. His sterling character glowed when, amid strong pressures, he stood for the besieged CASAMA COOPS during their stormy negotiatons with AMS. He is the only DAR official to be accorded such honor by FARMCOOP whose mission is mainly devoted to agrarian reform.
FARMCOOP partnered with WE EFFECT, a Swedish Cooperative Funding Agency, funded by SIDA, a Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, on the project called “Building Capacities for Cacao and Coffee Agri-Business Development for Farmers in Sibulan Ancestral Domain”. This project led to the creation of Sibulan Ancestral Domain Organic Cooperative (SADOPCO), which now produces and markets cacao and coffee beans and cacao tablea and nibs.
FARMCOOP partnered with a US-based philanthropy fund via Impact Assets/Global Giving to develop the Pageno, Creative Nurturing Communities project (CNC). CNC focused on, among others, holistic community/family health, food security, indigenous culture revitalization, community visioning, watershed management, organic gardening, gender and youth of the Bagobo Tagabawa tribe in Sibulan. The project also involved assessing sustainability and development of FARMCOOP’s cacao and coffee agroforestry project.
|2015||BREAKTRHOUGH OF ORGANIC VEGETABLES IN SM SUPERMARKETS|
After years of learning programmed planting to ensure weekly supply of diverse organic vegetables to the market, OPEC overcame the odds and gained a space in the vegetable shelves at SM Supermarkets in Davao City, which have long been the monopoly of conventionally-grown vegetables. Organic home vegetable gardens were also set up among some Sibulan residents primarily for home consumption and secondarily for the market.
|2016||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
After a two-year stint with Del Monte Philippines, DARBMUPCO A rejoined its colleagues in the ALLIANCE and signed a contract with UNIFRUTTI, making the ALLIANCE whole again.
The RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (R&D) UNIT of FARMCOOP was revitalized with the engagement of four R&D staff headed by Kahlil S. Apuzen, a Soil Science Masters degree holder from USC-DAVIS, USA. R&D devotes its research on soil health through cover-cropping, compost fertilization, and biodiversification as among the ways to increase production, protect the environment and control FOC TR 4.
FARMCOOP partnered with WE EFFECT, a Swedish Cooperative Funding Agency, funded by AGRICORD, a global alliance of agri-agencies, to carry out the project called “FARMERS FIGHTING POVERTY THROUGH COCONUT, CACAO, COFFEE AND BANANA ENTERPRISES” in the Ancestral Domain of Sibulan.
|2017||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
FARMCOOP forged an MOU with SADOPCO, KAPIID KABANWA, INC., BARANGAY SIBULAN, SINAB’BADAN KAG KATUGAL’LAN SIBULAN and NCIP to implement the project called AGRO-ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM OF THE ANCESTRAL DOMAIN OF BARANGAY SIBULAN-CITY SIDE. Notably, the WE EFFECT funded project in the ancestral domain came ahead of the MOU.
FARMCOOP Chairman Mario Mandalunes and CFARBEMPCO Manager Carmela Pedregosa, attended the 3rd World Banana Forum in Geneva, Switzerland. Cremia Guino and Kahlil Apuzen-Ito of FARMCOOP attended as well. Koronado Apuzen was Panel Speaker on Biological Approach in Controlling FOC TR 4
The Sustainability and Resilience (S&R) Program which draw support from Impact Assets via Global Giving, USA was created out of the need to work towards the sustainability and resilience of small family farming communities and FARMCOOP’s community development initiatives. The S&R program worked on further developing FARMCOOP’s R&D Unit’s capacity. The program also subsumed the CNC Project. S&R hired research assistants and coordinated trainings in Soil and Water conservation and management, Land-use survey, Participatory Gender Action Learning Systems (PALS/GALS), Non Violent Communication (NVC), community health, climate change, and agroforestry.
|2018||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
The Sangguniang Panglungsod (City Council) of Davao City, passed Ordinance No. 0624-18, declaring Barangay Sibulan as ORGANIC AGRICULTURAL ZONE – the first in Davao City. This feat caps the painstaking years of pioneering, promoting and practicing organic farming among the tribal farmers in Sibulan.
DATU BAGO AWARD, the highest award that the City Government bestows on its constituents, was given to Koronado Apuzen by Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte for promoting “the rights and welfare of the workers, farmers, agrarian reform beneficiaries, and rural cooperatives” … “his advocacy for the environment …”, and “taking up the cause of the marginalized … a career path that contributes to the development of Davao City and the Philippines”.
The Sustainability and Resilience (S&R) Program R&D unit focused work on developing the sustainability of organic agriculture and climate adaptation and resilience of cooperatives. Activities include field trials, education and trainings regarding agroecological practices/methods, soil health, climate adaptation/resilience, market diversification, participatory approaches, and social sustainability.
FARMCOOP serves in the Steering Committee of EUROBAN, an organization of EU-based NGOs concerned with banana workers’/farmers’ issues.
|2019||MILESTONES OF THE YEAR|
FARMCOOP forged an MOU with the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental, represented by Governor Alfredo Marañon, and Negros Island Agricultural Research and Development. (NISARD), a Bacolod-based NGO, represented by Executive Director Edgardo Uychiat, to help farmers grow exportable organic banana. This venture aims to diversify the agricultural crop of the province, which is dubbed as the “sugarland of the Philippines”. There are currently four field trial areas in different places in Negros Occidental.
Ground-breaking of the organic coconut processing plant at ECOPark Panabo City, which will benefit the “poorest of the poor” coconut farmers from 32 farmers’ associations and cooperatives covering some 2,000 hectares in Davao City and Davao provinces. WE EFFECT provided funds for the initial phase of the construction of the plant while the loan applications are in process.
ALLIANCE COOPS: DARBCO IFS, DARBCO MDS, and CFARBEMCO signed a 7-year contract with UNIFRUTTI.
NGOs, labor unions/federations, small-scale banana farmers’ organizations from the Philippines (Asia), Ecuador and Peru (South America), and EUROBAN (Europe) met in Machala, Ecuador, to organize the Sur-Sur-Norte (South-South-North) coordinating body, which aims to develop the sustainability of small family farmers engaged in sustainable organic banana farming. FARMCOOP serves as international coordinator of Sur-Sur-Norte; Fundacion Cendero as Sur-Sur-Norte Deputy Director. Other coordinating organizations include: COLSIBA (Latin America), Banana Link (UK), BanaFair (Germany), AGROPERU, (Peru), SINUTRABE (Ecuador), and SITAGPERU (Peru).
|2021||Alianza Internacional para la Agricultura Familiar Sostenible (AIASF)|
Sur-Sur-Norte was renamed to Alianza Internacional para la Agricultura Familiar Sostenible (AIASF) or International Alliance for Sustainable Family Farming.