Japan-assisted training, aid hope to transform lives of rebels

Japan-assisted training, aid hope to transform lives of ex-Moro rebels

Postharvest knowledge, techniques shared by Japanese experts to ensure former MILF fighters will have right skills to improve their capability to make a living through farming

Japan-assisted training, aid hope to transform lives of ex-Moro rebels

FROM ARMS TO FARMS In this undated photo, agricultural technicians examine a corn farm in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao del Norte, cultivated by former Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants who will soon avail of training in postharvest management to lessen their losses. BANGSAMORO MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES PHOTO

MATANOG, MAGUINDANAO DEL NORTE — Dehusked corn placed atop sacks and left to dry on the roadside is a usual sight on the way to Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao del Norte province, once the main stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Corn is the main crop in the vast agricultural area of the adjoining towns of Matanog, Barira and Buldon surrounding Camp Abubakar, cultivated in open fields and under coconut trees. But because of poor handling, farmers incur posthavest losses that reduce their earnings.


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The situation is about to change as the Regional Manpower Development Center of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is rolling out an intensive training on corn postharvest management, initially for decommissioned MILF combatants from Camp Abubakar communities who have turned into farming after the formal end of the over four decades of Moro rebellion with the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) 10 years ago.

The CAB provides for, among others, the phased decommissioning of 40,000 MILF combatants who are, in turn, to be trained to become peaceful and productive citizens.

No longer a mismatch

The course on corn postharvest management was conceived after thorough consultations with decommissioned combatants who were given the opportunity to express their thoughts on what training is best for them. This process was made possible through the Skills Development and Economic Empowerment for Bangsamoro (SEE) project of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

Japan-assisted training, aid hope to transform lives of ex-Moro rebels


Yu Ito, a Japanese development professional deployed in the Jica-aided project, noted that before, the former fighters were simply made to choose from available courses offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), completion of which earned them national competency certificates.

And they have to choose, anyway, because their field commanders told them to, so that this aspect of the peace deal’s normalization program will get going.


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This usually led to mismatch as the available training was mostly not relevant to the needs of the decommissioned combatants.

For example, many chose computer repairs even as they live in areas that do not even have reliable power supply. Ito also recalled one beneficiary who trained to become a chef and then went back to his economically depressed village and had no market for his skills.

Training courses

Ito said that with the SEE project, they aimed to “give relevant training to decommissioned combatants that can help them improve their lives.”

Apart from matching their livelihood needs, the project also aims to provide the decommissioned combatants with the right information so that they have a better understanding of the job market and other considerations in deciding on what training to take.

So far, the project has developed two training courses that are now in the process of being registered as part of Tesda’s programs so that those who complete these can earn national competency certificates. These are the corn postharvest management course, and “habal-habal”/“payong-payong” (motorcycle for hire) driving and maintenance course.

Habal-habal and payong-payong are the dominant modes of transportation in many communities of the Maguindanao provinces, not only ferrying passengers but also farm produce.

For now, the regional training arm provides certificates of training to those who complete the courses, pending Tesda’s accreditation of these.

Shuaib Adam, focal person for decommissioned combatants from the Camp Abubakar communities, welcomed the new courses, especially on modernizing farming practices. “It’s good that we are consulted in shaping the training courses,” Adam said.

Focal persons, who are usually former field commanders, bring the voices of their groups to the MILF chain of command, and vice versa, with respect to the implementation of normalization activities.

Far-reaching effect

The first training on corn postharvest management will commence mid-April, right after the holy month of Ramadan, and will involve fighters-turned-farmers in Barira town’s Nabalawag, Poblacion and Tugaid villages.

The course could have far-reaching impact when rolled out in the region soon as the BARMM is among the country’s top producers of corn with about 285,000 hectares devoted to the crop, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

In the first quarter of 2023, the region is among the five top corn producing regions with 363.7 metric tons of production.

Abigail Morales of the BARMM’s Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE), said the SEE project provided a broader perspective on developing and delivering training for the former Moro rebels who needed to be bridged into a new life as noncombatants.

She said the seemingly simple method of listening to the voices of decommissioned combatants enhanced the capacity of MBHTE to tailor-fit training courses to the needs of its clients and “help bring real change to MILF communities.”

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In that context, Adam said that once MILF field commanders have to transform also from simply dispensing orders to their men to “learning and being sensitive to their needs.” INQ

TAGS: BARMM, corn farmers, JICA, MILF

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