IN THE PAST FEW WEEKS, my work colleagues and I were discussing how to propel agrarian reform back to national and global limelight. Obviously, AR, as what agrarian reform is called shortly, has not been a priority for the Philippine government, nor is it a primordial issue for most development assistance/intervention international organizations.
The situation is worse given the political divergences of civil society groups. More often than not, the tension stems from correct analysis and strategies as well as access to funds.
My organization is known for its affinity to agrarian reform. In fact, many cadre staff survived from mid-1990s until now, weathering the organizational and financial crises that they have gone through. The glue that continues to hold them together is the common passion for the struggles of the peasants.
Our intention for social change remains intactly noble. However, given the politics that inextricably defines development work, we have to be more adept at playing it.
Some NGOs, which, even if not having grounding (i.e., grassroots constituents to assist on regular and systematic basis), are excellent in developing projects because of prolific and hardworking writing staff and therefore enjoying the lion’s share of the pie. But this cannot be sustained over time. Other NGOs, which have grounding but do not have the capacity to develop fundable projects, have to make both ends to sustain their mass work. They must be pitied (and eventually assisted) as the “outer world” (the funding agencies abroad, for one) does not know that they exist, if not the fact that the agrarian reform problem manifests down to their own organizing areas.
Fortunately, my organization is a better variant of the latter type of NGOs. However, we need to beef up our capacity to high-profile ourselves, including what we have been doing and are about to do in the future. We need to have staff capable in producing fundable short- to medium-term grassroots-oriented proposals. There should also be staff that can write academe- and policymaker-friendly papers that ably argue the importance of agrarian reform both in the Philippines and other places which agrarian reform is put to great risk.
The important keywords in our development discourse hegemony-building efforts are quality and sustainability.
I cannot wait. I need colleagues to share the energy of putting my organization’s mission forward. I want it NOW.