The then muddy, slippery, and unpassable road to five sitios of Barangay Suawan, Marilog District has brought hardship, unproductivity, poverty, and hopelessness to the farming community in the area.

Tired of their helpless situation, the Farmers living in Sitio Agila, Upper Happy Valley, Lower Happy Valley, Cabagbahangan, Masicampo and Biaong made a loud clamor for the government’s interventions.

Upon hearing this problem, the Regional Convergence Initiative (RCI) in the Davao Region through the Department of Agriculture (DA) funded the concreting of the 3.08-kilometer road from Suawan Centro to Sitio Happy Valley amounting to P37.3 million under the Farm-to-Market Road (FMR) program. The first phase of the project (1 kilometer) was completed in 2021 with a total budget of P13 million, while the 2nd phase was completed in March 2022 amounting to P24.3 million.

Brgy. Suawan is one of the eight barangays within the Suawan-Kulafu Subwatershed. The FMR is part of the identified interventions reflected in the Convergence Area Development Plan (CADP) of Suawan-Kulafu Subwatershed.

“Daku kaayo ug kabaghoan sa among panginabuhian isip mag-uuma sukad gipahimo sa gobyerno kining kalsada. Dili lang sa among pamuyo apan labi na gyud sa pagpagawas sa among mga produkto.”(This farm-to-market road project has brought changes in our lives as farmers. It is now easy for us to bring our product to the market). This was bared by Maricel Legaspina, the Chair of Agila Farmers Association.

Legaspina was born and grew up in Sitio Happy Valley to a farmer’s parents. She witnessed how difficult for the farmers in their community to bring their produce to the market.

Poor Access

“We used farm animals like carabao and horses to ferry our agricultural products to the ‘bagsakan’ near highway or market within the Centro since our production area is unpassable to any form of vehicle,” Legaspina said.

She reiterated that it takes 1-2 hours travel time with the pace of these animals which deteriorates the quality of their vegetable products, especially those leafy vegetables.  “Upon reaching the local market, our vegetables are no longer fresh and our products are bought at a very low price,” she said.

She added that they have no other option but to sell their products at the price set by the market. They cannot insist on a higher price because the product is of low quality already. Their products include banana (lakatan), vegetables, coconut (whole nut and beaker nut) cacao, upland rice, and corn among others.

“With this access and concrete road, we can reach Suawan proper in just a few minutes with the presence of transport vehicles in our area”. She said.

She added that aside from easy market access, it is no longer difficult for them to buy their farm supplies and even construction materials for their houses.

Government’s Response

The DA in the Davao Region believes that Farm-to-Market Roads stimulate the economy and empower rural communities. Agriculture Regional Executive Director Abel James I. Monteagudo said that farm-to-market roads play a very significant role in the improvement of agricultural production and household income. “With the good road networks, what comes next is progress,” Monteagudo said.

He added that a good rural road network hurries efficient delivery of agricultural farm input and creates an opportunity to supply products to market, thus DA is prioritizing the construction of FMR all over the region.

“With the completeness of the concreting of this road, more basic services from the government will surely follow such as health services, more infrastructure, education, livelihood programs, among others”, he said.

He added that other members of the RCI will surely implement their respective projects in this area in the coming days as the road network promotes peace and order in the community. He however urged the community to be vigilant enough and report any damage to the road and be cooperative to maintain this.

“Government is here to help our farmers with their agricultural needs especially FMR because this is where development, safety, and peace begin”, Monteagudo concluded.  ###