by Jasper Marie O. Rucat
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (PIA)–“Everybody has to go back to farming,” says Mayor Rommel Arnado in an episode of Talakayan sa PIA, May 31, at SM CDO Downtown Premier after he used food and agriculture as tools for achieving sustainable peace in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.
“It is because of the peace and order situation in my municipality and the entire province of Lanao del Norte that we came up with the strategy of using food as a tool for achieving sustainable peace, we thought that it had to be agriculture,” he said.
It was all about hunger only, said the mayor after a multi-sectoral study was conducted to really determine the root cause of their peace situation. He said hunger would lead to people doing illegal activities just to be able to feed their families.
“We focused on addressing hunger. That is why we went to agriculture,” he said.
Dubbed “From Arms to Farms,” Kauswagan municipality really made a lot of changes in terms of the peace and order situation in Lanao del Norte, the mayor said.
The project ‘From Arms to Farms: Walking through the Paths of Peace’ was implemented to help former combatants reintegrate into society while at the same time addressing the food security problem.
These combatants agreed to lay down their arms in exchange for farm materials, and a decade later, they have become the most exemplary organic farmer leaders in the municipality.
The poverty rate has decreased from 90% to 20%.
For its efforts, Kauswagan was awarded the UCLG Peace Prize in October 2016 and the Honorable Mention of the Future Policy Award in 2018 from the World Future Council and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) Organics International.
“When we came up with the strategy “From Arms to Farms,” which is basically the re-delivery of basic services of the government back to the people, when we did that, it really changed a lot in terms of the peace situation in our province,” the mayor said.
In Kauswagan, farming is institutionalized. An ordinance was instituted requiring all households to have a backyard garden and all government officials to have a communal garden.
“We capacitate everybody because that is very basic to us. Kailangan ang pagkain hindi mahirap (Food should not be difficult),” Arnado said.
Preparation for the 6th Organic Asia Congress
Kauswagan municipality in Lanao del Norte will be host to the largest organic agriculture event in the world for 2023, dubbed the 6th Organic Asia Congress, from June 4–10, 2023.
These are five back-to-back events with major organizations around the world advocating for organic agriculture.
“What does this mean to us? It means a lot to us, not only for Kauswagan but it’s a lot to the Philippines,” the mayor said.
The impacts, he said, touch not only agriculture but tourism as well.
“We are changing the face of Mindanao right now, na eto na yung isang island na nagsusuport [this is the one island giving support], giving a lot of economic support to the national government,” he said.
The congress will be a venue and platform to share best practices from different countries around the world in organic agriculture.
The mayor said they are ready to host the event, and security plans are in place. (JMOR/PIA-10)