Relief for sugarcane farmers of Negros Occidental

After two months of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), hunger took its toll on the lives of the sugarcane farmers in Negros Occidental.

In La Castellana and Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, farmers who are in the middle of their cropping season have been disrupted by the lockdown, with some already planting sugar canes in time for the October harvest.

“Sayang”, said Joselito Mialen, chairman of Hacienda Malaga Cuenca Agrarian Reform Cooperative (Macarben), “kakatapos lang naming mag-ani noong magdeklara ng lockdown. Ngayon sana ay nagtatanim na kami para sa susunod na anihan”.

With the temporary stoppage of planting comes more challenges for the sugarcane farmers.

“Marami sa kasamahan nating magsasaka ay nahihirapan kung saan sila kukuha ng pambili ng pagkain, pang-araw-araw na gastusin at mga gamit sa pagsasaka,” Mialen added.

With support from the Peace and Equity Foundation, Macarben purchased 44 sacks of rice distributed to their 88 farmer members in April. Each received 25 kilos of rice, along with milk, canned goods, and non-food items such as soap and alcohol. Today, Macarben still supplies five kilos of rice to their members on a weekly basis.

In the same month, Crossing Ibos Farmers Credit Cooperative (CIFCC) gave food packs to its 210 members, including non-members of CIFCC.

“Kahit na mahirap, naglaan talaga kami ng pondo sa tulong na rin ng PEF para matugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating mga kinasasakupan. Bawat isang pamilya ay nabigyan namin ng limang kilong bigas at kalahating kilo ng baboy”, said CIFCC general manager Reynaldo Sicalag.

Farmers of CIFCC were still able to harvest sugarcanes to sell to sugar millers when the strict lockdown was enforced.

Aside from relief packs, Macarben and CIFCC also offer loans with low interest rates and flexible payment terms to help farmers recover.

“This is the least we can do to our small farmers. They need financial support to purchase fertilizers and other inputs, plus other expenses, so we help them. Magtulung-tulong tayo”, Mialen said.