Mainstreaming grassroots participatory development planning and project implementation in Negros Occidental
Executive Director, Quidan-Kaisahan of Negros Occidental, Inc.
This paper is an attempt to submit a case study on community based change. It attempts to demonstrate the possibility of sharing a better future among the disadvantaged sectors of the society. It also shows that a small community action can create wider action from the communities and neighbouring communities, and provincial and national administration.
The paper also chronicles the process by which the poor communities are able to solve the most critical problems by themselves so that life for their children and their children’s children can be better again.
Provincial poverty scenario
Quidan-Kaisahan or the Solidarity of the Nameless Ones works primarily in the province of Negros Occidental.
The province is the largest province of Western Visayas, accounting for 39% of the overall regional land area.
For most of its recent history, the province has been under civil strife. This is so because of the maldistribution of resources and lack of access to basic services.
Land ownership in the province is concentrated in the hands of the few. A study done in 1986 revealed that the overall inequity of landholding might be seen in the fact that 84% of the small landowners (those owning from 15 hectares and below) occupy only 27% of the total private land. On the other hand, 3.8% of the landowners have the inordinate share of 73% of the total private holdings.
The introduction of sugarcane in the 1850s ushered in the transformation of the mode of agricultural production in Negros Occidental from subsistence farming to commercial production. Those who spearheaded this transformation were the merchant Chinese mestizos from nearby Iloilo who acquired vast tracts of land in Negros, which they converted, into sugar haciendas. The systematic occupation and fencing off of lands by these mestizos resulted in the inequitable distribution of resources in the island. It further defined the semi-feudal relationship between the tillers of the soil and the owners of capital. This relationship persists to this day and even manifests itself in other non-agricultural settings.
The continued dominance of sugar-based mono-crop economy, based on semi-feudal social relations, migrant labour, protection behind high tariff walls, and consolidation of large tracts of lands under the control of a few families are primarily responsible for the persistence of massive poverty and the continued threat of social unrest in the province.
This was highlighted in the mid 1980’s when the province captured world attention as the sugar economy collapsed and the children of the sugar workers began to die of malnutrition.
The response of the government and most of the private sector was to work through churches and other non-governmental organisations to address the crisis. However, this tended to reinforce patterns of dependency and to strengthen the dole-out mentality of the landless workers and small-scale farmer families.
It is true that welfare was needed and saved lives, but welfare did not help community members seek solutions to their problems nor did welfare and short-term responses to the crisis help the disadvantaged sectors of society to achieve their goals of greater equity and social development.
Recognising the need for long-term changes in the Province’s unsustainable and inequitable dependence on the sugar industry, civil society organisations have long sought a strategy that held some hope for success.
Many felt that long-term change could only be achieved through militant armed struggle and that what was needed was not reform, but revolutionary change.
One result of this line of analysis is a long-festering armed struggle and high levels of political violence in many parts of the province.
Others, more often representing reformist elements of the planter elite have sought piecemeal reforms that might reduce the levels of poverty, but do not challenge the high levels of landlessness and the privileged position of the elite families that dominate the province’s economy and politics.
Quidan-Kaisahan has opted to try a third approach that focuses on opening up local governments and fostering citizen participation. It seeks to fully implement the decentralising reforms of the Local Government Code of 1991 and to democratise local politics. These goals or aspirations are based on the following conclusions:
• the Local Government Code of 1991 is a reform that can nurture the growth of self-reliant communities and lay the foundation for genuine people’s participation
• that the appropriate level at which to begin this work is the Barangay
• communities, when mobilised, and challenged have the capacity to solve many of their own problems at the local level
• work on local governance requires an integrated approach that brings all stakeholders into the process and cannot be based on an organising strategy that focuses on a single sector
In its local governance work, QK, an NGO works primarily through local people’s organisations (POs) or what are known elsewhere as community based organisations (CBOs)
The local governments units at the Barangay and Municipal level are also full partners.
In this regard, QK hopes that all these efforts would lead to concrete development outcomes and enhance the democratic processes at the local level.
Model of local governance
QK’s approach to local governance includes six components implemented in sequence. These are:
• The provision of information and the building of local capacity for governance. This usually takes the form of an introduction to the Local Government Code and the new powers and responsibilities of barangays. It also explains the new opportunities that are available for citizen participation and oversight of local governments.
• Barangay Profiling and Assessment. This determines and analyses the barangay situation; specifically, the barangay’s resources and opportunities as well as its problems and development obstacles. Data are gathered through a barangay-wide census and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). The barangay profile and situational analysis are used as basis for the Barangay Development Planning.
• Barangay Development Planning. The development planning is undertaken with the direct participation or appropriate representation of the sectors (farmers, farmworkers, women, youth, etc.) and geographic cluster (sitios, haciendas, estates, etc.) The plan includes:
– the barangay’s development vision which also takes into account the provincial and municipal visions
– problems analysis and prioritisation
– priority projects that address the prioritised needs/problems
• Establishment of Funding Mechanism. To ensure Plan implementation, the establishment of an effective funding mechanism is an imperative. This involves optimum generation and utilisation of local resources — the Barangay IRA, the PO’s capital build-up, community savings, and the households’ material/labour and financial counterpart — and accessing of external resources. Local pledging sessions involving the LGUs, National Government Agencies, other NGOs, other private organisations, and other possible donors/partners are usually conducted for this purpose.
• Plan Implementation. This continues to adhere to the principles of participatory development and local governance. A management system that would ensure community participation in implementation, decision-making and monitoring is designed and installed with the people. A barangay-based Project Management Committee composed of representatives from the sectors, POs, geographic groupings and the Barangay Council is usually formed and made a committee of the Barangay Development Council.
• Participatory Program Monitoring and Evaluation (PPME) — The PPME involves at least three levels, the entire barangay; the Project Management Committee (PMC) or Local Implementing Structure (LIS); and the individual beneficiaries. In monitoring, the individual beneficiaries are required to maintain a calendar or journals. The PMCs M&E Committee checks these journals and visits/evaluates project status regularly to ensure that appropriate technologies are followed.
The M&E Committee updates the PMC on the project status every month. Moreover, the PMC also holds regular evaluation/reflection if its processes. Operational aspects such as the project distribution system (e.g. have the target beneficiaries been reached), collection rate; information mechanism, etc. are frequently assessed. A quarterly internal audit is also being undertaken. However, an external audit is also being conducted by the NGO and/or funding agency at least every semester.
At the barangay level, the impact of the development efforts on the beneficiaries and the barangay is evaluated. Specifically, improvements on the people’s quality of life are assessed. Seven indicators are used. These are:
– income (increase or decrease; sources; and utilisation)
– health and sanitation (incidence of water-borne diseases; morbidity; mortality)
– nutrition (incidence of malnutrition)
– education (rate of school drop-out; enrollees)
– housing (materials; utilities; appliances)
– civic participation (PO/sectoral seats in the BDC; women participation; utilisation of LGU Funds; CBU/HH savings)
– resource tenure improvement
Secondary data such as the MBN, the school and health centre records are used. Focused group discussions and perception surveys are also conducted.
The plans and M&E results formulated/gathered at all levels are consolidated and further processed/analysed by QK. They are to guide QK’s interventions/assistance; assess the effectiveness of the development approach being adopted; and provide valuable learnings for improvements or replication.
QK, at present, is working in 49 barangays out of 600 rural barangays of the province. In terms of the number of households, QK is assisting 13,200 households.
The results that will be presented are the output of the Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM&E) which QK has installed in each of the 44 barangays.
A short discussion on the methodology and tools is in order:
The Team made use of a qualitative approach with the following main tools:
• focus groups
• key informants
• analysis on secondary data
Triangulation was applied through a mix of methods, perspectives of the local and QK Teams, and multiple data sources.
Since the assessment puts premium on process, as well as the specific outputs, participation is the main ingredient of the process. It cannot be avoided that issues pertaining to local partners would be brought up. Thus, discussions on these could be put forward during the roundup sessions with the local partners.
The perception surveys that were conducted during the assessment filled the gap of the need to compare data overtime and between and among cases.
A 5-point scoring covering five questions on quality of life and participation was developed since this would be used by different people, and for crosschecking data. This was not developed to replace the qualitative reports, but its use was intended to be a support to the narrative data and effect some comparison across reports.
The basis of the rating system is as follows:
A sixth question was added to cover greatest contribution of the local partner(s) in the development of the village. The respondents were asked to identify randomly the three contributions.
The team was aware that this scoring system is new and not widely used by NGOs that have a tendency to focus primarily on participatory approaches.
Going to the key informants is one of the major data collection tools both the local and QK Teams made use of. This is so for two reasons:
• they can provide the perspective in analysing the secondary data and information held in database and filing system
• they are a source of knowledge and data which have been taken for granted
In using key informants, the Team developed semi-structured interviewing techniques allowing people to share information and knowledge without being constrained by development jargons. In so doing, they would be helping the Teams to locate and localise secondary data sources, verifying and crosschecking data sets in the process.
The Team made use of Minimum Basic Needs, Municipal and Barangay Development Plans, NCSO data sets, NEDA data sets, reports from local partners, etc.
Focus group discussions
The Team decided to use focus group discussions as one of the main data collection tools since QK values the different experiences and perspectives. It is also one way of analysing how people interact on the discussion of issues, aside from the fact that it would allow the Team to collect large amounts of data in a relatively short period of time. This tool also allowed the Team to combine other tools such as participant observation and individual interviews.
The data sets collected were based on a set of indicators that reflected the barangays’ vision and operating principles. These indicators served as reference points in assessing the projects and data comparison.
The development of a set of indicators would appear to be the key to which data can be compared across different cases and time. For these to happen, indicators were formulated in such a way that they cover general improvement in the quality of life. All the major stakeholders, however, defined targets.
The general indicators are as follows:
• health and sanitation
• participation to include women
• resource tenure improvement
Figure 1 Citizen participation in the barangays where QK has implemented the local governance model
Citizen participation shows that there was an increase of 525% membership of community-based organisations (CBOs) to the barangay development councils.
In 1998, CBOs represented in the BDCs was only 16% of the CBOs in the barangays. By December 2000, all the CBOs in the barangays were fully represented.
Their participation is not only as members of the councils but active implementors of the council’s policies and projects. The trigger point could have been the seminar on Basic Orientation on Barangay Governance and/or their involvement in development planning using participatory approaches which gave them the opportunity to prioritise projects that would lead to barangay development. To date, their participation includes the management of the priority projects, and monitoring and evaluation.
Their participation in governance has also brought about positive changes in their perception of the Local Government Units (LGUs).
In terms of the citizen’s perception of the quality of participation, we have found out that local governance can be shared among the citizens and LGUs. They no longer see the LGUs as the sole owner, but partners in development.
Asked if their participation in the barangay affairs has improved, 92% of the respondents said yes.
On the question of the improvement of the Barangay and Municipal LGUs, 96% and 92% viewed their barangay and municipal LGU respectively as more open, responsive and transparent.
Please refer to Annex A — Perception survey results in terms of quality of participation.
Responsiveness of the planning process
The whole planning exercise, which the communities undertook, did not end in the formulation of the barangay development plan. In fact, the priority projects identified through the Barangay Development Planning were actually funded and implemented.
Figures 2 and 3, priority projects funded by Barangay Development Fund (BDF) and Community Counterpart Fund, show that 100% of the BDF is now funding priority projects instead of waiting sheds and basketball courts; while the communities, aside from its willingness to contribute its own time and energy, are actually sharing the cost of project implementation which is reflected at 53%.
Figure 2 Percentage of people’s priority projects funded by the Barangay Development Council and Barangay Development Funds
Figure 3 Percentage of total priority project cost contributed through counterpart funds of households or people’s organisations
A barangay can generate revenues using the following:
• Real Property Taxes (RPT): The sharing scheme of this tax is that 35% of collected real property tax goes to the Provincial Government; 40% municipal government; and 25% goes to the barangay government.
• Business and Community Taxes go directly to the municipal government. However, a barangay can pass an ordinance telling the people to get clearance from the barangay. If this is done, the sharing scheme is 50–50 for the municipal and barangay LGUs. In QK-assisted barangays, the revenues generated from RPT increased by 150% in December 2000, while the community and business permits increased by 900%. Please refer to Annex B — Barangay income and taxes for details.
The increase in real property taxes can be explained by the willingness of the communities to engage in public campaign. The increase in business permits/community taxes was a direct effect of the passage of the ordinance.
Figure 4 Changes in household income Levels, shows that there were indeed positive changes in the income levels of the communities, 1998
There was a decrease of 16% points for households earning less than US $800 per year, while an increase of 12% points and 4% points for households earning between $800 and $1,600, and households earning more than $1,600 per year respectively.
Results of the Perception Survey on Income show that the communities are aware of these changes. 90% of the residents surveyed believed that their incomes have increased.
What could have possibly brought about these positive changes? The scheme, which the communities have adopted to implement their plans, is to engage the Barangay Government to finance basic services such as health centres, potable water, etc. The residents, on the other hand, would try to put up counterpart to implement livelihood projects which they would capitalise on to entice other LGUs to finance using their respective development fund. Big infrastructure projects are negotiated with National Government Line Agencies, as well as their representatives to Congress. Thus, money is generated and invested in worthy undertakings. In so doing, new money is created and channelled again to the communities, thereby increasing income levels.
Please refer to Annex C — Results of perception survey on income.
Implementation of agrarian reform
Village-based organisations implemented the agrarian reform and land distribution in the hope that landless farmers would have access to land resources and eventually impose their quality of life of targeted 2,045 hectares of land, about 1,134 hectares were already distributed benefiting 1,134 households.
Though, at first glance, the accomplishment may be small, the hectarage that has been distributed correspondence to 60% of the total output of the Provincial Department of Agrarian Reform.
The people-led implementation of agrarian reform seemed to be the fastest in the race among the turtles in the implementation of agrarian reform.
Quality of life
The following are the results on the improvements on the quality of life.
• There was an increase of 89% of households having sanitary toilets.
• In terms of potable water, a decrease of 25% was posted for households not having direct access to potable water.
• The villages posted a decrease of 31% and 15% for 1st degree and 2nd degree cases of malnutrition, respectively. There was an average increase of 22% for children diagnosed as normal.
• In terms of housing, there was an 8% increase in households owning their dwellings; 18% increase of households whose houses are durable for the next five years.
• A dramatic increase of 525% was posted for households having electricity; and an increase of 51% for households owning pieces of appliance.
• There was an increase of 18% for school-age children that are actually in school. The dropout rate also decreased by 14%
• The result of the perception survey shows that 95% of the barangay residents perceived that their quality of life has improved.
• The improvement in the quality of life in QK-assisted barangays can be attributed to the fact that LGUs are now focusing their attention and financial resources to undertakings, which the communities have prioritised.
• Priority projects identified by communities would always include basic services. With the resources of the LGUs focused on basic social services, the communities now have extra resources that they can channel to their children’s education, housing and other luxury items such as appliance.
Please refer to Annex D — Results of the improvement in the quality of life.
Comparative indicators for two sets of Barangays: Barangays where the QK process has not been implemented and Barangay where the process has been fully implemented
For better appreciation of what is happening in the barangays where the QK Process has been fully implemented, we find it necessary to compare these barangays with other barangays where the Process has not been started yet.
For this purpose, we have selected Barangay Mahilum in Calatrava, Puso in La Castellana representing the barangays where the Process has not been started yet; and Barangay Bandila in Toboso as a representative of the barangays where the Process has taken off.
Please note that the baseline data of Barangay Bandila approximate that of the two other barangays. In short, the three barangays started almost evenly. The big difference occurred for the last two years because of the implementation of the Project.
• With reference to self-rated poverty index, Barangay Mahilum posted no change. Barangay Puso, on the other hand, there was an increase in the very poor category (7% points) and decreases in the poor (5% points) and sufficient (2% points) categories.
• In the case of Barangay Bandila, increase in sufficient (11% points) and poor (29% points) categories was posted. A big %-point decrease of 40% was also reflected in the very poor category.
• In the case of households with sanitary toilets, Barangay Bandila posted an increase of 45% points, while Barangay Mahilum posted a decrease of 7% points. Note that Barangay Puso did not reflect any change.
• In terms of school-age children, Bandila posted an increase of 37% points; Puso, an increase of 13% points; and Mahilum posted a decrease of 8% points.
• The three barangays posted decreases in the number of households without direct access to potable water. The biggest decrease was posted by Mahilum (18% points); Bandila (13% points) and Puso, (5% points).
Please refer to Annex E — Comparative indicators between Barangay that has QK assistance and without assistance.
For purposes of presentation I will divide the discussions into:
• Taking off from the previously presented results, I will link the role of LGUs in the implementation of traditional poverty alleviation programs.
• There will also be a discussion on the strategic positioning putting stresses on the empowerment processes that are not separated from the achievement of these economic gains.
• Learnings of QK as we put more stress on our work in the localities.
Rural poverty alleviation
Investment for the next generation
It has been argued that investment in health and education, particularly for the poor could directly ‘improve their living conditions, and serve as an instrument to promote equity.’
We do not want to add to the debate. Suffice it to say that our experience has shown that this is true.
The experience has shown that Local Government Units (LGUs), instead of waiting for the national government, could actually initiate things in tandem with the people. Though not much, the LGUs’ resources could be channelled in such a way that it could invest in people without waiting for additional funds. The experience of the 49 barangays in the 6 municipalities has shown that a shift in the allocation of resources could respond to both the equity and efficiency objectives. The autonomy so desired on would not come from any fiat, or instruction from the national government, but on the desire of both LGUs and local residents to take responsibility to plan, budget, and set priorities.
Provisions of safety nets
Livelihood: Our experience has shown that the livelihood programs initiated by QK, LGUs, and local residents have indeed raised the living standards of the 49 barangays. So far, the repayment rate, on average is a high 94%. This has happened as a result of the following:
• Both LGUs and QK promote training and supervise the credit. It was made clear that the funds were not subsidies, but were meant to serve as start-up capitals and should be channelled back to the communities.
• The people themselves manage the program, thus saving on administrative costs, and prioritising the beneficiaries that really need the loans. The program is managed in such a way that they would eventually have access to formal credit. In so doing, accountability and transparency of credit operations are emphasised. The challenge facing us now is to implement this on a broader scale.
Public works: In the 49 barangays we have worked the LGUs have recognised the need to focus on infrastructure building and using local available labour to implement the program. This has a positive effect in the overall accomplishment of equity objective as discussed earlier. Though most of the public works are seasonal, and mostly short-term, the LGUs, together with the residents, have implemented them in such a way that they do not serve as an employer of the last resort, but as a means to transfer income to the poor.
Some concluding remarks/challenges ahead of us
Although decentralisation (local autonomy) was seen as the central element of the National Government’s structural reform program, it was expected that expertise and efficiency in the implementation of basic services delivery and poverty alleviation program would suffer some transitory set backs. After more than a decade of transitory setbacks, macro rural poverty indices have been on the rise. On the other hand, our experiences in particular have painted a not so similar scenario. Gains could be achieved. Macro trends can be thwarted, although on smaller scale.
The needs of the people were addressed. It was done in ways that were participatory and empowering: maximising the use of whatever political power we could generate and ensuring that our people’s development gains are sustainable.
The experience of the 49 barangays in 6 municipalities has underscored that LGUs could act as enablers and facilitators. Thus, sharing the responsibility of governance with the people.
Their experience could posit certain innovations that other LGUs may seem fit to adopt given limited resources and unsatisfied needs:
• The local executive development agenda can be drawn up in tandem with the local people.
• Given the resources, the LGUs may wish to allocate more in infrastructure, agricultural extension and delivery of basic social services such as health and education. Moreover, the LGUs may wish to facilitate the creation of livelihood programs.
Though the derived formula may sound simple, the fact is that most LGUs have a lower base of locally available resources. This is apparent, since in the computation of internal revenue allotments, or the block grants given the LGUs, income levels and local resource mobilisation are not factored in. The computation considers land area, and to a lesser degree, population.
Our experience has shown that, although this is a limitation, it cannot deter the LGUs and the local people to start somewhere. The challenge now is to put its efforts in expanding locally available resources. Perhaps, the national government may take a look at this.
The empowerment process: the qualitative side
We believe that the empowerment and democratic processes cannot be separated from the achievement of palpable gains. Although results are important, it is also equally important to assess the processes that would impact on the consciousness of the communities that, would more or less, determine the sustainability of these gains. The principle is that with marked results, there would be a corresponding effective demand for improved governance.
The focus groups discussions held in Negros where we work would embrace the following general principles:
On political values
Although burdened by unfulfilled wants and needs, an ordinary citizen would feel that he/she has equal access over resources, and has the power to decide on matters affecting his/her life. Through his/her experience in barangay development planning and budgeting, he/she could set the development agenda in partnership with that community for he/she belongs to that community.
In the same vein, he/she would have a commitment to the common good, while at the same time not forgetting his/her individuality.
He/she recognises the role of a leader, though not necessarily equating leaders with power. He/she would have an inkling of the power dynamics in the community. He/she also realises that individuals and institutions have the responsibility to make the changes in the community.
On the quality of governance
The focus of an ordinary citizen in the QK sites would be to have a voice in the public policy at least locally if not nationally. As such, there is a forum or at least a space for deliberation. It should encourage participation among its citizens in different levels. It should take into account the presence of many approaches to make participation workable.
Beyond the holding of events, governance is seen as facilitating positive changes in the communities, or providing opportunities to discover the common good.
In short, the bottom line is people, addressing their needs in participatory and empowering ways.
On the accountability of elected officials
On the side of elected officials, an ordinary resident of the community would want to see transparency in policies and behaviour. Moreover, they should contribute in further enhancing people’s participation and empowerment.
As strategists, they should be able to match actions with scale, and should be able to identify win-win situations to at least majority of the residents.
Some concluding remarks: local and national elections
It is said that the fruit of the pudding is in the eating.
The recently concluded elections in the Philippines may give us a glimpse on the state of the nation:
In Negros, the results of the local elections show that we are on the right track. Although smaller in scale, elected local officials seem to embody the principles expressed by the residents during the focus groups’ discussions. Those elected ran under the platform of participatory development in its various forms.
The results of the national elections, on the other hand, show mixed signals. The base votes coming from Negros were not enough to influence the outcome of the national elections. Although they voted for the people who seem to embody the general democratic perspectives on closer look, the experience tells us to rethink the position of influencing the national arena.
QK’s reflection on people’s participation
Equally important as the economic gains of the communities brought about by participation is how well the communities are able to sustain citizen participation at all levels.
The QK experience tells us that it is possible to strengthen local structure and participatory process to enable local people to participate again in the policy decisions, which are often made in their names. In a nutshell, the experience has chosen that for participation to be nurtured, the following general guiding principles can be offered:
• Participation occurs in communities/localities — Beyond the process such as voting, participation thrives in the interaction among members of communities/localities.
• Beyond interest politics, members of the communities can find a common ground or a common good, which they could commit to, both as individuals and as groups.
• Elected local officials may not find it difficult to win public trust again if they listen and accommodate corrective actions.
• In promoting democratic participation, it is to our advantage if we clarify our neutrality even in class issues. We have also learned what we know, i.e. identify win-win strategies and matching them to scale, understand power dynamics and inviting more than one representative of the underprivileged groups.
The initial success of QK in promoting participation has already caught the attention of higher elected officials such as the Congressmen of 3rd and 5th Districts of Negros. Moreover, the local elections proved that participation in development, as a platform is saleable. Consider the following:
• Of the five municipalities embracing participation as a platform, four won (full slate)
• Of the three congressional representatives embracing same platform, two won.
• The elected Governor, though perceived by many as identified with traditional politics, recognised participatory development planning as the strategy which the Province under his leadership would enhance.
These minor developments in the province have made us rethink our position to engage in national issues. We will still continue to engage in national issues, but we would want to put more stress in our work in the localities. This is not only to ensure that real people benefit from our efforts but also, that in the medium term, the kind of political power that can be assembled in the localities will more easily translate into national power.
Perhaps in the final analysis, our efforts would be judged in terms of how we were able to instil a degree of hopefulness in our system: that of the ability to solve the most critical problems by ourselves so that life for our children and our children’s children can be better again.