Representatives of SIFI-assisted Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organizations (ARBOs) participated in a forum organized by Carlos Hilado Memorial State University (CHMSU) and Sugar Industry Foundation, Inc. (SIFI) on April 17, 2023 at the Function Hall, CHMSU Talisay Campus.
The forum was in line with Partnership for Empowerment, Advancement, and Continuing Education (PEACE) of Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organizations, a research-based project that provided trainings and workshops, and developed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its partners.
Project proponent Rhoderick K. Samonte, faculty researcher and Director for Internationalization and External Relations, presented key points on the research and development of the PPE. According to Samonte, the study showed that only five out of the 34 ARBOs have policies on the use of PPE and there is a lack of sufficient monitoring. He cited user discomfort and financial implications as factors that discourage farmers from using PPE. In addition, Samonte said that there is a disconnect between PPE awareness, policy, and actual practice and that there is a need to establish consciousness.
During the forum with SIFI and international guests, farmers shared their feedback about the trainings and PPE. The said they are grateful to CHMSU and SIFI for the opportunity to “upgrade” to the use of PPE. Marivic Demaruel, Chairman of HES2RIFA, San Fernando, Talisay City, said that she looks forward to using the PPE but is still concerned about the cost.
Judy Gonzaga, SIFI RSS/RAC Consultant, said that while the farmers cannot expect everything to be free, they will be provided opportunities and assistance to make it easier to purchase and reproduce the PPE.
Gonzaga reiterated that the purpose of the PPE is for the safety of the farmers and expressed her gratitude to CHMSU and the project for the initiative.
“The most important thing is that at the end of the day, you need to go back to your family safe,” said Rafael Vaya of American Sugar Refining Group, one of the international guests.
SIFI President and COO Edith Villanueva, Community Development Specialist Theresa Katrina Etabag, and Agriculturist Markei Divinagracia, and SIFI international partners Karen Thivya Lourdes of Nestle Malaysia, Melissa Chin of Proforest Malaysia, and Bradley Graham of Proforest UK also joined the forum.
In the afternoon, the farmers attended a mentoring session on how to write minutes of the meeting, create a Board Resolution, and handle conflicts and disputes in the community. The session was led by the CHMSU Social Science Department Chairperson Robert Padillo, PhD, and faculty members Lovelyn Granfiel and Soledad Estares, JD.