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Thursday, October 23, 2014

From arms to farms in Kauswagan, Philippines

  Creating a harvest of hope, one family at a time.
People living in places like Kauswagan, on the Philippine island of Mindanao, have suffered for decades.

Conflict, economic disparity and social strife, rather than peace and productivity, have been the defining features of the area which has a wide range of religions, cultures, and value systems.

Despite efforts to build peace in the area, conflict prevailed. When HOPE International Development Agency first asked how we could help, the common response was, “We can’t eat peace training”. A completely understandable response when you consider that nearly 80% of the people in the area lived in poverty and were constantly hungry because of conflict and instability.

To have peace basic needs have to be met

In 2010, HOPE International Development Agency began supporting peace through an integrated program that addresses the basic needs of families through a partnership focused on providing them with access to clean water and agricultural training while working with communities to understand and address the roots of conflict.

  Laying water pipe that will carry clean water to the community.

  Tilling the soil and growing food rather than participating in conflict.

Laying down weapons and picking up farm tools

At the same time, and as part of its transformation from conflict to peace, Kauswagan implemented an “arms to farms” program that provided opportunities for people involved in armed conflict to participate in a new way of life centered on farming rather than fighting.

The local government committed itself to creating and implementing initiatives relevant to the needs of everyone in the area, including those involved in conflict.

As a result, and over a period of time, nine rebel commanders and more than 100 of their men laid down their weapons, picked up farm tools, and embraced organic farming.

Finding a way to trust and prosper together

Years of distrust and skepticism were slowly set aside and today, former rebels are busy planting crops, raising livestock, and managing fish ponds that produce fish for the area.

The increase in the number of farmers in Kauswagan and the corresponding reduction in conflict, has helped reduce the poverty rate in the area from nearly 80 per cent to just below 48 per cent. A remarkable transformation!

Peace is well worth the effort

Bringing peace to areas like Kauswagan, where poverty and conflict have caused decades of suffering, is not easy to achieve. Addressing basic needs can be an important part of increasing trust and cooperation and decreasing conflict.

The effort and long-term commitment are well worth it when the result is peace and a significant reduction in poverty.

In fact, the results are so profound that Kauswagan is often visited by officials from other areas who want to discover how to bring peace and promote development in their areas.