The cooperative Liton, Kibales, Magatos Irrigators Association (LKM-IA) has been supported by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with funding from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

The communities live just a few hundred metres apart close to Kabacan in central Midanao island, an area which has seen separatist violence over many years and which is now moving towards a more significant level of self-rule by the Muslim majority.

Ahead of the International Day of Cooperatives marked annually on 1 July, UN News’s Daniel Dickinson travelled to Kabacan and met two members of LKM-IA, Treasurer Marcializa Calud, who is Christian and Mona Usman, a Muslim and who works as the auditor.

Marcializa Calud: The association began in 2015 with just 250 pesos ($4) and last year our income was 1.65 million ($28,000). Careful planning and management have helped us to grow and this has been reinforced with support from KOICA and FAO including seeds fertilizers as well as machines. 

Marcializa Calud stands in front of the new rice milling machine.

Mona Usman: The association received machines for each step of the rice growing and harvesting process; a rotavator to plough the field, a combine harvester to bring in the crop and a milling machine to process the rice.

Marcializa Calud: The machines which are rented to our members have greatly increased productivity. It takes one whole day to plough a one-hectare field by hand with a water buffalo, but just one hour using a rotavator.

Harvesting rice by hand in the same field takes around two days, but just one to two hours using the combine harvester. The copping income from my rice paddy has increased from 20,000 pesos ($340) to 24,000 pesos ($410) which is a significant amount.

Mona Usman: Before the cooperative existed, we had to a combine harvester from a private lender which took 10 per cent of the value of our crop as payment, while we kept 90 per cent.

Mona Usman and her family.

Since we established our cooperative and acquired our own harvester, nine per cent goes to the association and now each farmer receives 91 per cent. That extra one per cent makes a big difference. Meanwhile, with our contribution the association can afford to pay for the irrigation that we need as our crops are not rain-fed.

Marcializa Calud: What we worry about most is access to water as we are downstream of other communities.

During the recent El Nino climatic event when there was less water we had to negotiate with our upstream neighbours to release enough for our needs. Fortunately, we get on well, so this was not a problem, but climate change does remain a concern to all rice cultivators, as the crop grows in water paddy fields.

Rice is milled by the Liton, Kibales, Magatos Irrigators Association.

Mona Usman: We are one association and we represent two religions, Muslim and Christian. My grandfather was a Muhajadeen who fought for our land. He later became a religious man and welcomed the Christian settlers who came to Bangsamoro, the predominantly Muslim part of southwestern Mindanao island.

So there is trust and respect between the communities because of this historic connection.

The mosque in Liton.

Marcializa Calud: We rarely talk about this being a Christian and Muslim association. Our ancestors were respectful of each other’s religion and culture, so we have never had any quarrels. Today my children play alongside the sons and daughters of Mona.

Mona Usman: The perception of people who believe that Christians and Muslims cannot get on is wrong. There is no conflict only mutual respect and this is a legacy that we have handed down to our children and their classmates.

The church in Kibales.

Marcializa Calud: There is a saying amongst farmers here that when harvest comes we speak English. We say the words, “short, failure, overdraft.” Short, because after we have paid our expenses we are short of money, failure, because another harvest has failed to bring in enough money and overdraft, because we need to borrow money to survive. However, with the new machinery this is no longer the case and we are making money.

Mona Usman: We are making progress in this community, but it’s still difficult to make ends meet. We want to ensure that all people in the community have access to health services and that their children go to school and that they can eat three times a day. And above all we want peace.

Source of original article: United Nations ( Photo credit: UN. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (

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