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BISFFA members: Partnership leads to productive business

In the municipality of Talibon, Bohol, a strong partnership has been forged by Bansan Island Seaweeds Farmer and Fishery Association (BISFFA) with various national government agencies.

Bansan is located in Brgy. Sag, one of the islands barangay of Talibon. It is one of the protected islands in the province where seaweeds and mangroves are growing abundantly.

Some members of the Bansan Island Seaweeds Farmer and Fishery Association (BISFA) cooking together for their seaweed crackers livelihood project.

It is also a home to BISFFA where 72 members are composed of 24 males and 48 females. Of the 72 members, 21 are Pantawid Pamilya partner-beneficiaries. This association was organized in September 2012 with a certificate of registration from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to operate their business.

When the Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the country in 2013, it devastated Bansan Island and the rest of the Talibon Group of Islands Protected Landscape and Seascape. The aftermath of Yolanda paved the way to a new partnership of BISFFA and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In 2014, the DENR proposed a rehabilitation program on planting of mangroves within the coast of Bansan Island and tapped the association to do the mangrove planting. It provided mangrove seedlings, input materials and payment of labor to the BISFFA members.

The BISFFA members decided to use their earnings from planting mangroves to construct their own pump boat which they can use whenever they travel to the mainland of Talibon.

On the following year, the BISFFA found another partner agency that could help them on their business, the Talibon Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Provincial Office. The office orders tons of seaweed seedlings from BISFFA to be distributed to other seaweed associations around Bohol. It chose BISFFA because it is already DOLE and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) registered and can provide official receipts to any business transactions.

Despite the association`s advancement in seaweeds industry, the island residents remained to be poor. The island does not have its own electric and water supply. The residents buy their drinking water in the mainland at Php 40.00 per gallon. For bathing and washing, they only depend on rainwater. If there is no rain, they buy deep-well water in the mainland at Php 5.00- Php 10.00 per container.

During day time, the residents only rely on battery-operated radio for some entertainments. In the night time, they pay the connection of a privately-owned generator for their electricity from 5pm to 10pm every day. Their payment depends on the kind of electrical power supply they used. It costs Php 10.00 per 10 watts and Php 20.00 for every television connection.

In this situation, poverty is still a major concern of the Bansan Island community folks.

Despite all these problems, some families decided to stay in the island due to its abundance of marine resources especially seaweeds and its potential income generating.

Since there are 21 Pantawid members under the BISFFA, in July 2016, the Project Development Officers (PDOs) of the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the DSWD assessed and conducted community economic activities solely with the Pantawid beneficiaries of BISFFA. They found out that these members need further assistance in seaweeds farming.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) funded the association with starter kits covering the complete materials and seedlings needed for them to sustain their livelihood.

The DSWD SLP granted Php 252,174.00 to BISFFA under the Skills Training on Micro-Enterprise Development (MD) track.

Due to the abundance of seaweeds in the island, the association decided to expand their business through making of a new product, the seaweed crackers. The group partnered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) for its product making, enhancement and development.

These seaweed crackers have 2 varieties of flavor, the natural and cheese flavors. They sell it at Php 20.00 for 50 grams, Php 10.00 for 25 grams and Php 5.00 for 12 grams.

With this business expansion, the local government unit provided them a building for their seaweed cracker production which they could also use as a meeting place. Moreover, the LGU provided at least 15 heads of piglets as additional livelihood income.

For now, the group’s income varies depending on the monthly orders from customers. Their regular customers are the residents, students and other sari-sari store owners in the municipality.

Aside from the DSWD, the association constantly coordinates not only among the group members but also with other agencies like the BFAR, DOLE, DTI, BIR, MAO and the Department of Agriculture (DA) for possible business expansion.

This coordination has enlightened their families whose members are now actively involved in taking individual responsibilities for the business operations and family daily routine. Every morning before the sun is up, the husbands get to check the seaweed plantation together with their older sons. After which, they go fishing while the wives are in charge of harvesting dried seaweeds ready for production process.

In this endeavor, the program participants’ families got multiple income-generating activities from fishing and from raw seaweeds to seaweed crackers.

Despite the individual differences of the BISFFA members, they are able to develop the sense of ownership of their business and deepen their understanding on the value of solidarity which lead to strengthened community ties towards development.

As the association continues operating their business, in May this year, the DOLE released the livelihood assistance worth Php 500,000.00 proposed by the group for the purchase of heavy equipment for seaweed crackers production. The BISFFA is now on the process of purchasing the equipment.

This development has convinced the members that having the right project and right input from partner agencies help their business grow. ###

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