Manos Unidas Officials Visit Convenio Projects, Express Satisfaction

Zamboanga City – THREE high-level officials of the Spanish non-profit organization Manos Unidas (MU) visited Basilan province and this city last January 26 to 30 to check on the implementation of community development and other projects it funds in partnership with the Spanish government. The three officials were Country Officer for Southeast Asia Mariqui Duenas Llinas, project officer Carmen Gomez de Barreda, and in-country manager Carmen Valdez.

Under a program called Convenio, the Spanish government and MU have allocated a grant of some P100-million to the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA) to be invested over a four-year period starting in 2007. ZABIDA is made up of Nagdilaab Foundation in Basilan, Katilingban Para Sa Kalambuan, Inc. (KKI), Reach Out for Others Foundation (ROOF) that is affiliated with the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), and Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ). Convenio’s thrusts are in good governance, basic services, environment, livelihood, reproductive health, sustainable agriculture and peace-building.

The MU officials first visited the three housing sites of KKI, namely, Katilingban and Kalinaw in Sinunuc, and then Kalambuan in Caragasan, where most housing units are still under construction. The three sites together provided low-cost houses and lots to some 600 former squatter families of the city, including support facilities like a production center.

The officials met with women residents to discuss their livelihood projects, witness a raffle to award lots to new beneficiaries, and especially assess Kalambuan’s progress. In a meeting, KKI president Fr. Angel Calvo, who guided the MU officials, urged the new beneficiaries to complete their units by May.

Next day, the group visited in Lamitan selected micro-finance projects of Nagdilaab, a mangroove re-planting project in Maloong Canal, and a water system project in Santa Clara. Llinas separately dropped in on a Manos Unidas assistance of a whole Badjao village in Maluso.

On the third day, they motored to the Bunguiao Eco-Farm Project (BEFP) and met with farmer-beneficiaries in Sitios Udjung and Waray-Waray. The project is propagating Integrated Organic Farming System (IOFS) among farmers in Bunguiao and later surrounding communities. IOFS is seen as an environmental-friendly and sustainable means of land cultivation.

Later in the day, the MU officials held a short meeting in PAZ with the office staff, followed by another meeting with the ZABIDA management team at the PAZ solidarity center.

The officials later noted that no major problems or deviations have been incurred by the projects since the start of Convenio. However, they emphasized the need for a thorough and honest documentation of projects, which they added should result in real and measurable improvements in the lives and communities of target beneficiaries. Moreover, they underscored the importance of teamwork among the four component ZABIDA organizations. Fr. Calvo expressed the hope that the novel and integrated approach of Convenio and ZABIDA may eventually result in a unique and more effective model for poverty alleviation, peace-making and environmental conservation.

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