By Mike U. Crismundo

BUTUAN CITY – The 121 Farm-to-Market Roads of the Department of Agriculture (DA) implemented in various places has led to the continuous development of different livelihoods in agriculture and fishery in Northeastern Mindanao or Caraga region.

These FMRs located in strategic places in the five provinces and six cities of Caraga region also led to a more accessible and productive farm area, reduced cost of mobility, and faster delivery of farm products.

The DA Caraga Region 13 in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the local government units (LGUs) implemented and completed 121 FMRs with a total worth of P1.9 billion.

In five years’ time (2015-2019), a total of 185.6 kilometers (km.) was constructed regionwide, DA 13 Regional Executive Director (RED) Abel James I. Monteagudo and DPWH 13 Regional Director Engr. Pol M. Delos Santos said.

These FMR projects apportioned to different provinces and LGUs changed the progression of the agriculture and fishery sector in the region in terms of profit, market, production, and transportation.

“Our FMR projects are responsible for linking our production area towards the intended market of the product we are producing. If it does not link directly to our intended market, it will somehow link to the road network leading to the market,” also said Engineering Division Head Engr. Rene Morales.

“It is not just our farmer’s products that we are going to link to the market, but also it will bring easy access to import agricultural inputs to our respective production areas,” he added.

Agricultural inputs are products that are needed in crop and livestock production. This includes seeds, fertilizers, feedstuffs, and plant protection products.

Mobility wise, these projects have affected positively to the efforts exerted by the farmers in rural areas now, compared to the traditional practices of transporting before.

“There is really an advantage if we have an FMR project in the LGU. Before, the roadway of our farmers was muddy which is a stress for them because they used “habal-habal” or improvised motorcycles with extended wings when transporting their products. Through the FMR, things got easier and the best quality of their products still remain,” said FMR Focal Person, Thessa Bongcawel.

For the 121 successfully completed FMRs in the region, communities living near these projects have great stories to tell. Stories of life transformation, better connections, and a secure future for the next generation.

According to Acresia P. Camarin, current Barangay Chairperson of Barangay Del Pilar, Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte, the FMR program has given better road access to them and the Indigenous community living in the area.

“Better road access has been experienced by our Mamanwa Community in Del Pilar. Even though it’s not that close to their area, it’s still a lesser burden for them because it’s already accessible unlike before. Now, they can easily transport their harvested crops like abaca and rubber to the market,” Camarin said.

Opportunities expanded like a ripple effect as FMR projects are continuously implemented throughout the region. Benefiting multiple livelihoods, greater production areas, and productive rural communities.

RED Monteagudo said that the DA pushes for greater investment in infrastructure development as it aims for a more food secure and resilient communities.

Infrastructures like FMRs, he said, would improve logistics and linkages of production areas to the domestic and export markets.

With the Farm-to-Market Road Development Program (FMRDP) of the DA, more areas are being proposed for funding to fully serve the farmers and fishers in the region.

“FMR gives better leverage to farmers’ access to a better price for their products. It helps its product to be more saleable as FMRs reduces handling losses, thus, giving farmers more profit and more returns from its produce. It’s not only profit that the farmers could enjoy out of the FMR but the accessibility it gives brings in basic services like health services, access to school, and security”, RED Monteagudo said.

This year 2020, from the 35 proposed FMR projects under FMRDP amounting to P608 million, seven of these are now for implementation with a total amount of P163 million while the 28 are considered for later release.