DUMARAO, Capiz – Agrarian reform beneficiary (ARB) Evelyn F. Bardies, a mother of four, toils on her awarded land to meet the daily needs of her family. It did not help that she used to rely on local dealers and traders to finance her farm input requirements for corn production.
From the mountain barangay of Agsirab, she needed to travel back and forth to Roxas City to process her loan applications and deal with delayed transactions that unfavorably affected her farm’s overall productivity. Worse, her loans came with a hefty interest rate of 7% to 10% per month, leaving her with very little profit or sometimes even nothing at all despite all of her hard work.
“Mahirap magpabalik-balik sa bayan para makipag-transact sa dealers at traders. ‘Yung iba ay hindi ako pinagbibigyan dahil wala silang tiwala, natatakot sila na baka hindi ako makapagbayad. At dahil sa laki ng interes, maliit lang din yung kinikita ko,” Evelyn recounts.
The story of Evelyn mirrors the struggles of other ARBs from Brgy. Agsirab. This dire situation pushed them to form the Agsirab Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC) in 2009, to pool resources and provide affordable and accessible credit assistance for its members.
They initially chipped in P1,000 each and gathered a total of P25,000 in paid-up capital. They persevered to secure all the necessary permits to establish the co-op, and started gaining the trust of other ARBs, including those who previously had bad experiences in joining unsuccessful cooperatives.
Driven by persistence and a determined spirit, the Agsirab MPC has grown into a profitable cooperative with assets reaching over P25 million today. It has likewise expanded its membership to more than 450 ARBs, small-scale farmers, and indigenous people, some from the nearby provinces of Iloilo, Antique and Aklan.
The Agsirab MPC found a reliable partner in the Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK) in sustaining and growing its operations. The co-op availed from the Bank an initial credit line of P993,000 in 2012, which eventually increased to P30 million at present due to the co-op’s satisfactory repayment record.
Apart from providing loans to its members, the Agsirab MPC has been successful in expanding its services and income-generating portfolio by venturing into farm machinery rental, calabasa pancit production, and bakery business.
Agsirab MPC Chair Evelyn F. Bardies is able to provide a comfortable life
for her family through higher farm productivity and income.
“Malaking malaki ang naitulong sa amin ng LANDBANK. Dahil sa kanila, nakaahon kami sa hirap at nakapagsimula ng maginhawang buhay. Sana hindi sila magsawang magpaabot ng tulong sa aming kooperatiba,” said Evelyn, who now serves as Agsirab MPC chair.
With convenient access to affordable credit and modern equipment, members of the Agsirab MPC now enjoy improved farm productivity and income.
Evelyn shares that the co-op’s members are able to meet the basic needs of their families and regularly provide meals on the table. Most have been able to save for the construction of their own dream houses and purchase of vehicles.
Evelyn herself was able to send her four children to school and give them a comfortable life. She likewise acquired additional agricultural lands and provide employment opportunities for local farm workers.
Through the years, LANDBANK has stood side-by-side with the cooperative sector to serve their growth requirements. As of 31 January 2023, LANDBANK’s outstanding loans to the sector have reached P66.6 billion, benefitting over 1,360 co-ops nationwide.