A Farmland full of possibilities: Al-Rahman FMPC
RCEF Learning Site for Agriculture

By Yra Bautista
Photo captured by PAKISAMA

Imagine going to the paddy fields, feeling the cold breeze of air as it touches your skin  while being mesmerized by the scenery of green pastures and witnessing the relaxing slow formation of clouds in the course of time – only to realize that the field you are standing on had once seeped blood, tears, and sweat from different people. 

The municipality of Mamasapano might have been ingrained to the public minds as a place of tragedy that took place in 2015, a memory that pierces through the heart, and an unfortunate event for the farmers who tilled the same land and hoped for a better future for the Philippine agricultural sector. 

Despite this, hope has still found its way in this land. Today, an agricultural learning site for different farmers across the region of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) stands in the municipality of Mamasapano. Who would have thought that the same farmers who worked and established the Al-Rahman Farmer’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative way back in 1993, will also be the same people who had worked day and night to turn a piece of land into a farm, which is now known as the “MORE SAF 44.” 

MORE SAF 44, as explained by Modrika Masukat, the vice-chairperson of the Al-Rahman Farmer’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative, traces its roots on the concept of Mamasapano Organic Rice Enterprise through Sustainable Agricultural Farming. The “44” then in the farm name represents the number of rice crops, fruit tree varieties, as well as the livestock and poultry on the farm.

Currently, MORE SAF 44 Farm is being led by the Al-Rahman Farmer’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative. Initially formed by 15 members in the 1990s, the cooperative pursues camaraderie among its members to address the challenges they face in their farming situations. Before it was registered in the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) on November 5, 1993, the cooperative started with a rented tractor that they used for land preparation. This was made possible by each farmer member’s contribution of 500 pesos each, which totaled to 7, 500 pesos that they used as the rental fee.After the second and third cropping, other farmers were able to see the benefits of the cooperative and decided to join as well – growing the cooperative from 15 to 35 members upon its CDA registration. 

Humble beginnings and breakthroughs

According to the Daily Tribune, the Al-Rahman FMPC was recognized as one of the progressive cooperatives in the region of BARMM in 2021, along with the other 12,058 registered cooperatives. But behind this recognition, several hurdles on accreditation and establishment of the learning site had to be overcome by the cooperative. Mustering his courage, Masukat recalled their humble  beginnings on trying corn production for the first time, and later on diving into fish processing where they were able to set up their irrigation system. This was followed by a series of breakthroughs, from the moving of the cooperative’s office to Barangay Manongkaling to gaining attention from agencies from the agricultural sector, which then noticed that the Al-Rahman FMPC is a fully operational cooperative and has the potential to be further developed.The Department of Agriculture (DA) then had advised them to prepare documents and comply with the requirements for registration with CDA. 

“After noong registration, dumadating na ‘yong DA dahil mayroon na kaming identity para [kanilang] matulungan,”  Masucat narrated.e shared that the cooperative was given an agricultural dryer machine, supported to construct a warehouse for the inputs, and received as well as subsidy from  other agencies. This resulted in greater heights of success when the cooperative’s population grew, which was then followed by the accreditation from both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  and the Philippine government. 

(“After the registration, the DA visited us because we already have an identity. They can now help us.”) 

Opportunities for the cooperative to further flourish continued with the development of a learning site on their farm.  When the DA, together with the Agricultural Training Institute Region 12 (DA ATI), visited the MORE SAF 44 Farm during the Harvest Festival and assessed the progress of the farm, they then told the co-operators to comply with the requirements of the development of a learning site on their farm. The accreditation of ATI 12, is also important as a prerequisite for the assessment and certification of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). 

With this affirmation of the cooperative’s potential to develop a learning site and the dynamics needed between the cooperative and the government institutions, Masukat expressed his gratitude to ATI 12 and to the center director of ATI 12 Mr. Abdul Daya-an for their assistance as they help the cooperative have a better working relationship with TESDA. 

Field tour site

The Al-Rahman FMPC RCEF Learning Site for Agriculture continuously opens its doors to trainees, researchers, farmers, and interested people to visit and learn in their site. For instance, a comparative study was conducted in the learning site to test different seed classes in different paddy fields. To discover which of the four varieties of seeds will prosper enough to produce a huge amount of crops that will be profitable for their farmers, Kuya Rey also shared his knowledge on these various seed classes. “Kasi dati-rati ay 21 varietal trial ang laman nito. Pero dahil sa sunod-sunod na season, lahat na mahinang klase na umani ay inaalis na po natin iyon,” he shared. 

(“In the past, there were only 21 varietal trials [that were planted here]. But because of the successive seasons, all of the weak types of seeds [that did not survive or did not grow well] were removed.”)

Presently, the cooperative has retained the rice seed variety RC 160 to plant in their Technology Demonstration (TECHNO-DEMO) farm for its good production results and its consumption quality. Moreover, the PhilRice Midsayap continuously trusts the AL-Rahman Farmers MPC RCEF Learning Site for Agriculture as an avenue for fieldwork where students and non-government organizations (NGOs) can learn and see the actual application and agricultural practices performed on the site.

Because of the growing recognition of the learning site, The Al-Rahman FMPC RCEF Learning Site for Agriculture is the only agricultural cooperative that the undersecretary of the CDA (National) in BARMM has personally visited.

Masukat unceasingly appreciates the efforts exerted by the different agencies that utilize their site and have endlessly shared their experiences with other people. In return, the learning site is able to reach wider, encouraging more people to visit the learning site as well. 

“Nagpapasalamat kami sa PhilMech, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR), sa ATI Region 12, [at] sa PhilRice Midsayaf [para] sa mga tulong [sa] technology, inputs, [at] machinery na binigay sa amin na dahil doon ay gumaganda ang buhay ng miyembro ng kooperatiba at gumaganda rin ang community dahil sa kooperatiba namin,” Masukat shared as extends his gratitude to the organizations that consistently give support to the Al-Rahman FMPC.   

(“We are thankful to PhilMech, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MFAR), ATI Region 12, [and] to PhilRice Midsayaf [for] the support on technologies, inputs, [and] machinery that were provided to us. Because of these, the lives of our cooperative members improved and including the community. [These all happened] because of our cooperative.”) 

On sustainability and zero hunger

According to Mamaluba, the ALRISE-MO costs eight pesos each sachet and eighty
pesos for a whole pack of 10 sachets.

Aside from its learning site, the Al-Rahman FMPC has continued to intensify its practices to advance organic agriculture and sustainable development. In pursuit of achieving one of their advocacies to attain the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), the cooperative conceptualized the production of the “Al-Rahman Rice, Sesame, Monggo – Bangsamoro Livelihood Enterprises Thru Nutrition Development (ALRISE-MO-BLEND).” Through ALRISE-MO-BLEND, the cooperative strives for “zero hunger” for the malnourished children who belong to the malnourished population. 

“In 120 days, ‘yong payat na bata ay tumaba na siya. Meaning may significant improvement doon sa bata,.” Mr. Masucat said as he shared that the initial beneficiaries of the ALRISE-MO-BLEND are six-to- twelve-month old babies.

(“In 120 days, a malnourished child will gain nourishment. Meaning, there will be a significant improvement on the child’s health.”)

According to Mr. Rahib Mamaluba, the local consultant and the person in charge of its production, the ALRISE-MO-BLEND comes in a pack of 10 sachets. The products are often used by agencies and provincial governments for their different feeding programs across the region. Currently, the production is continuous as there were more than 40,000 orders of the sachet ordered by the provincial government, and a total of 450,000 orders came from the National Nutrition Council (NNC). These are intended to be distributed to places such as Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Hulu, and including Lanao. The machinery that is being utilized for its production came from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) through the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). 

Opportunities for learning and employment

Going back to its roots, the cooperative continues to promote camaraderie among its members by creating job opportunities as its learning site simultaneously progresses.

Under TESDA and the Commission of Higher Education (CHED), the Al-Rahman Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative has also been accredited in the year 2020 as an institution that offers Technical and Vocational Education and Training courses (TVET). The TEC-VOC approved course they offered is the “Production of High-Quality Inbred-Rice, and Seed Certification and Farm Mechanization” with 96 hours time duration. Since its TESDA accreditation, the  learning site is now formally called “Al-Rahman Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative Rice Competitive Enhancement (RCEF) Learning Site for Agriculture.” 

With seven hectares of land, the RCEF Learning Site comprises of different paddy fields, fruit trees, peking ducks, poultry species, goats, Rice Processing Center I (RPC I) rice mill, vermin composting, as well as an area for production of halal feeds in support to the BARMM Halal industry.. With this vast land to manage, the cooperative encouraged its members to help in the learning site. According to Masukat, they currently have nine trainers, who are trained by ATI, on the learning site. “Automatic iyon, na kada lecture nila ay mayroon na silang hindi baba ng  P1,000 pesos per day,” Masucat shared. 

(“They automatically earn at least 1,000 pesos for every lecture per day.”) 

The cooperative also pursues inclusivity as it opens opportunities for the wives of the members to be involved. “‘Yong mga kababaihan, meron naman silang everyday na mga 250 pesos ang sahod nila doon,” Masukat explained as he shared that the wives lead the catering food services for the series of training conducted in the learning site. 

(“The women also receive 250 pesos everyday as their salary.”)

Taoti Minis, one of the board of directors, the person in charge of the Halal feed production and organic production in the cooperative, and the caretaker of the learning site, also revealed thatworking at the Al-Rahman FMPC RCEF learning site for about 10 years now has helped him to support his family’s financial needs.. 

“Marami po kasi sa mga anak ko ay nag-aaral pa. At ‘yong mga aming pangangailangan sa araw-araw ay natutustusan naman po namin sa pagtratrabaho dito sa Al-Rahman Farm,” Minis said. “Pangarap ko po na mabuhay ko ang aking pamilya. Para makapag-aral sila, kasi wala akong maibibigay kung ‘di ‘yon lamang po. Makapag-aral sila, ‘yon lang ang maibibigay ko sa kanila,” Minis added.

(“Many of my children are still studying. And by working here in Al-Rahman’s Farm, we are able to survive and manage our daily needs. My dream is to help my family live a long and good life for them to study well. Because I do not have anything to give but a good foundation of education. That is the only thing that I can give them.”) 

Way forward

Masukat has hinted at the development of the learning site as they have recently submitted a proposal plan to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA). “Para mabigyan tayo ng training center na package. Mayroong session hall at the same time may dormitory na. Para gaganda ‘yong learning site natin at ang mga bisita natin, ‘yong mga trainees naman natin ay maganda at kumportable sila dito sa ating site,” he added as he explained the purpose of the proposal.

(“For them to provide for us a training center package, with a session hall and a dormitory included. [We need to submit a proposed plan] to enhance the facilities of the learning site so the visitors and trainees will be comfortable during their stay on the site.”)

As for the other cooperatives aiming to have their own learning sites, Masukat imparted this advice based on his experience: “Be as [an] organized group of farmers, hindi lang coop o basta any association.  Ang pinakauna ay dapat united ang members. Pangalawa, dapat [may] linkaging sa ibang agency para bibilis ang development ng coop. Pangatlo, sa linkaging dapat may maipapakita na may ginagawa doon sa coop para ma-enganyo ‘yong mga funder.” 

(“Be as [an] organized group of farmers, not only as a cooperative or just any association. First and foremost,the members should be united. Secondly, there [should] be a linkaging with other agencies to hasten the development of the cooperative. Thirdly, the cooperative must be able to showcase their activities inside the cooperative to encourage the funders in the linkaging.”) 

As one of the members in the cooperative who had served for long years, Menis always wished for the best of the cooperative. “Sana mapalago pa po ang Al-Rahman para marami naman silang matulungan na mga farmers katulad ko po… Suportahan po natin ang ating coop para mabigyan po nila tayo ng magandang kinabukasan atsaka ang pamilya natin,” he said. 

(“I hope that we strive to further develop Al-Rahman so that it would be able to help more farmers like me… Let’s support our cooperative so in return, they will be able to give us a great future for us and our families.”) 

“Tiis tiis lang po sa pagtatrabaho kasi lahat ng mga nagtitiis ng trabaho ay maabot nila ang pangarap nila,” Mines, hopefully, shared. 

(“[For the meantime] they should endure all of the [hardships] in working because all of the people who put up with their hard work will [definitely] be able to reach their dreams.”) 

Subsequently, the efforts exerted and sacrifices given by the members of the Al-Rahman FMPC will reap success. And sooner or later, they will be able to look at the past while reminiscing, with pride on their camaraderie and on what it took and how long was it for everyone, the attainment of their full potential as a progressive cooperative. 

Hope was then gone, but hope has risen again along with the future full of possibilities for Al-Rahman Farmer’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Read more articles​