A tale of two prosperous villages
Two small villages in northern Luzon are showing the path to prosperity for poor communities. Their achievements serve as testaments to the kind of success that can be attained by neighbors when they band together to work for their common welfare.
Masisit and Dacal are two adjacent barangays along the shores of the Babuyan Channel in the town of Sanchez Mira, Cagayan province. Their combined population is only 3,500 closely knit villagers. Yet, these two small communities gave birth to a multiawarded cooperative with an inspiring success story.
The Masisit-Dacal Livelihood Cooperative (Mascoop) traces its origins to an exclusive association of village women. In the early 1980s, the women formed a Rural Improvement Club as their way to engage in livelihood projects and civic programs. In 1986, the women decided to transform their club into a credit cooperative and to expand their membership by accepting men.
From 31 original members, Mascoop now has 8,500 members. From a startup share capital of P4,000, it now has more than P300 million in total assets. From merely servicing the needs of two small barangays, its ventures and investments have reached the two biggest cities in northern Luzon, Tuguegarao and Laoag, and it now operates in the three provinces of Cagayan, Apayao and Ilocos Norte.
Sixty percent of the members are farmers, 20 percent are fisherfolk, 10 percent are small and medium entrepreneurs and 10 percent are employees.
From a credit cooperative that merely extended loans, it’s now an impressive multipurpose cooperative that owns five commercial buildings, a beach resort, gasoline station, piggery, poultry, rice mill, warehouses, solar dryers, farm input outlets, grocery stores, tractors and trucks. It has a total of 165 hectares of farmland planted to various fruit trees like coconut, cacao, coffee, as well as high-value crops like rice, corn, pineapple, banana and dragon fruit.
Credit lending remains, however, as the main service provided by Mascoop. Members can avail of unsecured loans equivalent to their total income for five months; beyond that, collaterals are necessary. The interest rate it charges is 50 percent lower than rural bank rates and 70 percent less than loan shark rates. Members are also given up to 3 percent rebate when they pay on time.
Farmers must form a group of at least three members to be qualified as loan borrowers, because they act as comakers of each other’s loan obligation. Consequently, there’s peer pressure to avoid delinquency.
Mascoop is a hall of fame awardee of the Land Bank of the Philippines, with which it maintains a P130-million credit line for its lending business. It partners with the Department of Agriculture in providing trainings in agronomy, animal husbandry and aquaculture to farmer and fisherfolk members. It taps the Department of Trade and Industry for seminars on business management and livelihood skills for its entrepreneur-members.
At the end of each year, members are rewarded with 4-7 percent returns on their share capital, and a patronage refund for all their payments on services and goods they obtain from the cooperative. Members are also entitled to death and hospitalization benefits.
All the elected members of the board of directors are either active or retired teachers. Its chief executive officer, Froilan Pacris, is a retired school principal, and its board chairman, Pepito George Sacramed, teaches at
Cagayan State University. In fact, 80 percent of all Mascoop officers are teachers. I suspect that one crucial element of the cooperative’s success is the fact that it is run by conscientious teachers.
Cooperatives like Mascoop eliminate reliance on traders, and enable villagers to benefit from the profits generated by their own availment of loans, and from their own purchases of farm inputs and household provisions. They fill out the inadequacies of our public institutions and supplant the malpractices of abusive businessmen. They even render obsolete a misbehaving government.
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