“Our road is now ‘gwapo’ (good-looking),” declares many farmers when describing the paved sections of rough roads from two neighboring villages in the town of Libungan, North Cotabato. Transporting produce on the road traversing farm areas growing rice, corn, coconut and a variety of high-value commercial crops was a regular challenge in the past.
Farm-to-market roads in many parts of Mindanao in the Philippines weren’t always good-looking or concreted. The roads were bumpy, dusty during the summer months and muddy during the monsoon season, making them dangerous to navigate. Travel time took longer and accidents would happen along the way.
“Our travel was always interrupted by stops and starts, we would have to get on and off our motorbikes especially when the roads were slippery. When it rained, we would get off to push our motorbikes,” recalls Teresita Diaz, a tomato grower.
Merceditas Apostol, who grows ornamental plants, recalls how a visiting school principal fell off a motorbike when it passed through the steep and muddy section of road in Largo village. “It was a pitiful sight, and she never came back to our village again,” recalls Merceditas.
Farmers like Teresita and Merceditas who manage their livelihood on the farm and sell them in town, had to live with the rough road conditions for a long time. “Our plants would get damaged when they fall off the motorbikes and we wouldn’t be able to sell them anymore,” Merceditas lamented.
She also recalls how it was worse for the young children in the village who encountered accidents due to the rough road condition. “My neighbor’s son broke his arm and now he’s disfigured for life,” recounts Merceditas.
But things have changed for the better with the Mindanao Rural Development Program supported by the World Bank. The Department of Agriculture began paving the steepest sections of farm-to-market roads in agricultural communities such as Libungan town, facilitating safer and faster transport of products to markets.
The improvement of the roads has reduced transportation costs and increased the productivity of some 844 farmer households, including Merceditas’.