As early as 2012, the Unifrutti Group of Companies and Hineleban Foundation in partnership with the 7 tribes of Bukidnon, and subsequently with Kalasan (The People’s Network for Environmental Concerns), had already been pursuing programs for family food self sufficiency and sustainable livelihood among lumad communities living in the upper buffer zones of the four mountain ranges of the Province of Bukidnon;
These communities are the poorest of the poor, are in conflict affected zones, with many constituting the mass base of the NPA – and which the DSWD had been unable to access and deliver critical government services.
Cognizant of Unifrutti & Hineleban initiatives in the mentioned areas, the Secretaries of OPAPP and the DSWD requested for a presentation of the working models that Unifrutti/Hineleban had implemented for family food self sufficiency and sustainable livelihood in these isolated lumad communities. This presentation was given to the two Secretaries and USECs last 11 December 2015.
A second working group presentation was made on27 Jan 2016 before the DSWD Secretary with two USECs and other top officials of OPAAP at DSWD Head Office. During this presentation, the Secretary affirmed her decision to engage Unifrutti Foundation to deliver the services of the agency to these communities. To operationalize the engagement of DSWD with Unifrutti Foundation, a conference was held on 6 Feb 2016 in Cagayan de Oro. The Regional Director and the Key Officials of DSWD from the Central Office, OPAPP and the military were present during the conference;
Unifrutti Foundation presented the full program for Sustainable Livelihood Support, and the Kauyagan Family Food Self Sufficiency program, for 101 buffer zone lumad communities. However, the DSWD found that the Sustainable Livelihood Support program had no budgetary item available for 2016, so this would have to be deferred. Likewise, the Family Food Self Sufficiency program.
Unifrutti Foundation then presented an “El Niño” budget of emergency food distribution. The budget was based on a full nutritional package of rice and canned goods (based on WFP standards. Finally, on 9 February 2016 at a follow up meeting in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, the DSWD reduced the program to rice only, with 25 kgs to be delivered per family every two weeks.
Unifrutti Foundation likewise handled the socio-economic profiling of the identified communities of which 67 were accepted by the DSWD. Unifrutti Foundation also offered to handle all the trucking from NFA warehouses up into the mountain buffer zone communities where 4WD trucks would be needed to make the deliveries. A formal MOA was finally signed between the DSWD and Unifrutti Foundation for the delivery of 25 kgs of rice per family every two weeks for the 67 communities, with a total of 5,451 families for 3 deliveries per community, for a total of 8,176.5 bags of rice to be delivered from May 15 – July 15.
Meantime, Unifrutti even helped the Provincial Government in feeding a mass up of farmers in Malaybalay although very limited (April 7), then a warehouse in Valencia was ransacked by the NPA and did the distribution themselves (April 20). Governor Zubiri himself wanted to distribute rice, but was restrained by the election ban. The hunger in these communities has reached even higher levels as there has been no harvest since February, and they are now completely out of food. In solidarity with the plight of these communities, the Leaders of the 7 Tribes of Bukidnon are appealing to the DSWD for the full and immediate implementation of the program for these 67 communities.