Monday, 16 June 2014

EDITORIAL: Mambulao co-op should free up funds for livelihood projects

SOMETIME last year, a group of Mambulaoans working overseas and those based locally launched an initiative to help the less-privileged in Mambulao.

Their dogged effort later gave birth to a consumer cooperative called Mambulao Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MMPC), which debuted on February 8, 2014 alongside its grocery store business.

During the initial phase of message exchanges via Facebook, the proponents envisioned an economic activity that would provide jobs to some of the marginalized citizens of Mambulao -- either through regular employment at the co-op, or by engaging them in small-scale economic activities related to its operations.

So far, the job-generation expected from MMPC, except for two or three hired store assistants, has yet to materialize.

Meantime, while the cooperative was being organized, a group of US-based Mambulaoans had mobilized to raise funds to support a livelihood project just launched by the Mambulao local government -- the Sulong sa Kabuhayan Kariton Project.

As the project’s name implied, it’s an income-generating project through the pushcart. 

Simply said, it is a vending activity, with a P2,000-funding assistance from the LGU for each of the qualified recipients, plus the free use of a specially-designed pushcarts that cost the local government close to P10,000 to build.

Initially, ten poor households took the shot at this project, selling cooked foods and other items.

Encouraged by the prospects of the Kariton livelihood scheme, the US-based donors, whom your news tunnel MWBuzz had engaged to chip in for additional funding, later raised about P40,000.

Based in California and Canada, the MWBuzz donors hoped that the money they had raised would benefit more poor members of the community by providing them seed money to start sustainable income-generating projects through the Kariton scheme.

They had hoped that such ventures would eventually prosper to support their families’ daily needs.

Having raised a modest P40,000 from the US donors, MWBuzz transferred this fund to the bank account of the LGU especially set for this purpose.

Mayor Ricarte “Dong” Padilla, in acknowledging such donations through MWBuzz, praised the US-based Mambulaoans for their generosity towards the poor in the community.

Unfortunately, the Kariton livelihood project foundered just a few weeks after it took off. The main reason: of the ten players, only two succeeded.

The rest either failed to pay back the P2,000 loan as agreed, or had mismanaged their ventures.

Because of this, the LGU stopped the Kariton project although it allowed the two successful recipients to continue.

Now, with the US donors’ money sitting idly in the LGU’s bank account, Mayor Padilla had thought of making use of it through another means – by pooling it with the unused funds of the cooperative.

In so doing, he partnered MMPC in livelihood projects such as cage tilapia project and pinyahan farm, to be funded in one way or the other from the US funds.

However, these funds have until now remained idle after being set aside as “reserve” for the co-op’s future projects.

This has not been the US donors’ intention when they raised this money.

Instead, they wanted it to benefit deserving members of the community through an income-generating activity financed by such funds.

We felt that the P40,000 MWBuzz had raised should be made to work accordingly by making it available to the less-privileged Mambulaoans who wanted to start small ventures.

The MMPC and the LGU should go back to the drawing board and design a livelihood scheme for the poor, in which the donated funds could fit in.

What is discomforting about this is that if the MMPC has its way, only the members of the co-op could have access to these funds, thus completely shutting out the marginalized members of the community, who obviously have no means to become co-op members.

With this prospect, the aim of the US-based donors has already been defeated.

- Alfredo P Hernandez

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