The past three days ferried me to a new world called Socio-Economic Enterprise Development (SEED).
On May 29, PEACE sponsored a roundtable discussion on local economy and micro-finance, a kind of forum that it has not sponsored in decades. Participants, a half of whom were community organizers, were pretty confused with concepts that the resource persons talked about. Apart from the two themes of the RTD, terms like Grameen, MABS, ASA, micro-enterprise, and the like, were alien to them. I’m glad that at the end of the RTD, they appreciated the fact that as agrarian reform beneficiaries are also ‘economic’ beings, not just political ones, they deserve economic services from PEACE, too. The proposal was for PEACE to engage in microfinance work, including extending agricultural credit.
On May 30 till 31, we conducted SEED Conference at Los Banos, Laguna. At the conference, the participants united on the institution’s SEED framework, from which a medium-term indicative plan was drawn up. In general, the discourse revolved around the implications of SEED emphasis on the political lives of the ARBs, particularly those still in the process of struggle for land. At the end of the discourse, which was passionate in most cases, there was unity that:
- SEED should be part of the consciousness of the community organizers even at the start of their organizing work, or even when the ARBs are just starting their struggle for land.
- The transformation of POs into cooperatives or creation of separate organizations called cooperatives should not be done mechanically. The POs must be left to decide, given the options made available to them.
- There is a need to reorient the field staff so that land-transfer work is balanced with land-productivity endeavor.
The Board’s special meeting on June 1 punctuated the Conference’s resolve.
Overall, my attitude toward the SEED-focused discussions was that it’s fun to learn the agricultural development jargon and it’s a necessity to address post-land transfer needs of the ARBs at the outset of their struggle for land.
I also thought that COs and office staff are economic beings too. Because they lost the opportunity to engage in economic endeavor for their personal and family needs, there needs to be sufficient compensation package available to them. Likewise, the idea of a cooperative for PEACE’s stakeholders must be revived.