A farmer’s dedication paves way for cooperative’s direction

How can a cooperative thrive even in its infancy and limitations? This is what the Pamplona Esperanza Riverside Agriculture Cooperative (PERAC) has proven possible through good governance and management.

Even having only been registered in 2018, PERAC has already acquired machinery for farming and has proposed and constructed farm-to-market roads in Sitio Contod, Barangay. Patong, Pamplona, Camarines Sur. Its advocacies include irrigation services, agricultural mechanization, and youth and women empowerment.

Benjamin Aguid, PERAC’s current chairman, shared how PERAC transitioned from being an association — previously Esperanza Pamplona Irrigators Creek, Inc. (EPIC) — into a cooperative, built on a common vision of helping fellow farmers in the sitio. “Noong nagkakilala kami ni Randy, [sinabi niya na] mayroon daw budget for farm-to-market road,” Benjamin narrated.

(When Randy and I met, he told me that there was a budget for a farm-to-market road.)

Even prior to the establishment of PERAC, Benjamin had already approached their mayor to ask for support in constructing a farm-to-market road. Randy, the founding Chairman of the cooperative, heard about Benjamin’s proposal and looked for him. This eventually led to the initial construction of a 500-meter road, but was halted due to conflict in right of way and deed of donation. This is one of the challenges that the cooperative has faced. In relation, Benjamin shared that the biggest challenge of the cooperative is the inactivity of members, “Lagi kong sinasabi [na] negosyo ang coop. Negosyo ng grupo — hindi ng mga opisyales, hindi ng mga staff. Dapat buong coop ang may-ari.”

(I always tell them that the cooperative is a business. It’s a business of the group — not of the officials, not of the staff. The whole cooperative should be the owner.)

Despite this, Benjamin continues to serve the cooperative even at his own financial expense, “Nasa puso ko na talaga ang tumulong. Hindi sa pagmamayabang, pero sabi ko nga, ‘yong pinagpaguran ko, hindi lang ako ang nakikinabang.”

(It has been my heart to help. Not to brag, but as I have mentioned, the fruit of my labor benefits not just me.)

This was attested by Alice, the current manager of PERAC. She thanked Benjamin for the financial resources he willingly gave for the cooperative especially when they were just starting out. Seeing him strive for the cooperative, on top of the resources he personally gave out, inspired Alice to persevere, too. “Iiwanan [lang] namin ang cooperative ‘pag established na,” she declared.

(We will only leave the cooperative when it’s already established.)

As a Chairman, Benjamin still dreams for the cooperative to further grow and flourish. He expressed hopes of receiving support that PERAC needs; specifically, capital, owning an office as they currently use a member’s house, and having a building for a rice mill to ensure ownership.

Farming has been Benjamin’s way of life for 42 years. Although he tried to pursue another field after finishing college degree on Associate of Marine Engineering, he still found himself coming back to Camarines Sur to tend to his family’s farm. As he put it, “Wala na akong pangarap para sa aking sarili, masaya na ako rito sa coop. Sana po tuloy-tuloy ang pag-angat ng aming coop para pagdating ng panahon na lumaki na ang mga anak ko, sila naman ang magpatuloy.”

(I no longer have dreams for myself, I am already content here in the cooperative. I hope it continues to succeed so that when my children grow up, they can continue running it.)

These early years of PERAC do not hinder the cooperative to thrive and pursue its advocacies. With four years at its forefront, Benjamin looks forward to the upcoming years of PERAC — a future of prosperity for their cooperative and of camaraderie among the cooperative members. 

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