DOS, MAGUINDANAO. “It is heartbreaking to ask your children to stop from going to school because we know that they have dreams they wanted to achieve. But what can we do, our income is not enough to cover these expenses,” – Mrs. Conchita Manuel, 54 years old with eight (8) children, a Catholic Teduray from Barangay Badak in Datu Odin Sinsuat Maguindanao.
Conchita related that she and her husband have been doing their best to make ends meet. Given the scarcity of opportunities and only low-paying jobs are available in their community, they were forced to ask their children to discontinue their studying as their combined income could not meet the school fees and other requirements.
There are many families in Maguindanao who are like Conchita’s. Others would resort to sending their children outside their hometowns and even abroad to work as domestic helpers especially those who have barely enough to survive. But for Conchita, parents have the moral obligation to do everything they can to keep their children safe at home.
In 2015, the Province of Maguindanao ranked 4th among the poorest provinces in the country with 54.5% poverty incidence or 5 in every 10 households living below the poverty threshold. Poverty Threshold, also known as Poverty Line, is the minimum income required to meet basic food needs and other non-food requirements such as clothing, housing, transportation, health, and education expenses. In 2012, a family of 5 would need an average of P5,513 per month in order to meet their basic food needs, and a further P2,377 in order to meet the nonfood needs.
In the case of Conchita, her family earned a daily wage of PHP200.00 or roughly around P4,800 every month. To meet other needs, she and her children would help sell vegetables, banana and other items. Sometimes, she would wash clothes of her well-off neighbours. When money is really short, she would resort to borrowing which has an interest rate of 20% per month and must be paid weekly. “What is hard is that we cannot miss to pay our weekly due, otherwise, we will be losing the chance to borrow again when we are in need. What we do is we try to ask help from others to pay our weekly due and pay them when we get the money,” she lamented.
Against this backdrop, the The Moropreneur Inc (TMI) and Islamic Relief Worldwide – Philippines have implemented the ANGAT DAPAT Livelihood Project. The project selected around 900 women, youth and person with disability in 10 vulnerable barangays in Maguindanao to be the community partners. Badak is one of the selected barangays and Mrs. Conchita was selected based on the selection criteria as one of the community partners.
Barangay Badak has a total population of 2,121 based on 2015 report by the Philippine Statistics Authority. Roughly 54% of the total population is female. Based on the baseline study conducted by TMI in April 2017, an estimated 80 percent of the total families are engaged in farming while 10 percent are into fishing. While farming is the major source of income for the population, local officials claimed that more than 70 percent of the total families are living below poverty line with an average income ranging from 100 to 150 pesos per day.
The goal of the ANGAT DAPAT Livelihood project is to help increase the income of the families. And this require addressing several interplaying factors that hinders families to increase their profit such as: lack of capital inputs which causes cyclical poverty due to input credits; lack of innovation; lack of skills and new knowledge especially in entrepreneurship especially in marketing; and, lack of knowledge about climate change and how to mitigate it.
In line with this, Mrs. Conshita and other 900 women, youth and person with disability were trained on basic entrepreneurship which includes learning about financial accountability, how to start up a business, budgeting, marketing, savings, among others. This is a five-day training which adopt a participative approach where the trainees were given situations for them to analyze and demonstrate their responses; interactive games to determine their skills; and also evaluation or assessment tools to find out their level of entrepreneurial skills.
Mrs. Conchita just completed the entrepreneurship training and remarked that it was an eye-opening experience. “All along, I’ve been doing a lot of things to earn but in a wrong way. The training was very helpful, especially the discussion on financial accountability, book-keeping and the idea of separating personal and family expenses to the business transactions, savings and even about marketing. I am excited to apply this to myself. Many of us are happy because not every day we get to gather like these with other community leaders and we are all laughing together enjoying the training and at the same time learn about the business.”
When asked about her plans, she instantly said that she will do her best to take an active role in the enterprise. “I wanted to give my best shot. After all I am already at my prime age. I also want my daughter to finish her schooling. It will be the sweetest gift before I retire.”