The Future of Ilocos Norte Agrarian Reform Communities (ARC)

Two months ago, the Center for Engaged Foresight facilitated a community-based foresight workshop for development specialists, senior project managers, cooperative leaders and staff of the Department of Agrarian Reform of the Province of Ilocos Norte.

Thirty five agrarian reform officers and five graduate students of public administration  participated in the workshop.

DAR Achievements at the National and Local Levels

Today, there are around 4.2 million hectares of distributed agricultural lands in the country. DAR  reports to have distributed 900, 188 hectares of private agricultural lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Alave, 2012). DAR  by law is required to distribute the remaining 961, 974 hectares covered by the CARP’s Land Acquisition Distribution Program.

In Ilocos Norte, DAR reports to have transfered around 97% of the 30, 165 hectares of Private Agricultural Lands covered by CARP. The program has benefited around 25,267 farmers (DAR Report, 2012). As of 2012, the province is recognized as one of the top 10 provinces to have completed its distribution targets nationwide (DAR Rep0rt 2012).

DAR has 9 major agrarian reform communities in Ilocos Norte. The ARCs are located in the municipalities of Carasi, Sarrat, Piddig, Laoag City, Vintar, Marcos, Dingras and Solsona.

This clusters of ARCs is composed of 226 barangays covering a total 134, 580 hectares in land area.  These ARCs are devoted to rice, corn, coconut, and vegetables production.

As a conduit, it has a total of 108 Farmer’s Organization with a combine cooperative membership of 13, 490 farmer members.

Challenges and some Wicked Problems

These are some of the wicked problems that the participants noted and that DAR has to address to ensure a more responsive land distribution program and achieve the vision of an increased farm income and  poverty free ARCs:

1. the lack of surveyors;

2. tedious verification process;

3. uncooperative agencies

4. landowners.

5. “overlapping of functions and beneficiaries” – lack of coordination between agencies and acknowledgement of its complimentary roles that usually result to an overlapping of functions.

6. agrarian social justice issues – the department is perceived to be lacking and/or deficient in promoting agrarian social justice and reducing poverty in rural areas.

ARC Map 001

Drivers and Trends Shaping the Future of Agrarian Reform Communities in Ilocos Norte

Using the STEEP method, the participants identified a number of trends and/or mega challenges driving the future of agrarian reform communities:

1. climate change in particular weather related shocks such as flooding, drought, La Nina, El Nino;

2. economic vulnerabilities of poor income households and unstable farm to market products prices, etc.;

3.  declining number of farmers in the rural areas due to migration and labor shifts and youth preferences for the service industry (the impact of the hotel/call center industry is felt at the farm level);

4. declining interest in agriculture;

5 unsustainable credit mechanisms and drained credit facilities due to low repayment rates;

6 slow adoption of beneficiaries to modern agricultural technologies and methods;

7  weak implementation of cost-sharing agreements (between beneficiaries, local government and DAR; most beneficiaries perceives the projects as mere dole-outs);

8 complex political dynamics that the farmer beneficiaries are engaged into;

9 lack of fund availability to sustain agrarian reform communities;

10 poor maintenance,  ineffective schemes and lack of end-user accountability in the maintenance and use of physical infrastructures such as roads, irrigation, potable water supply, lands, etc.;

11 frequent changes of leadership that prohibits the continuity of projects;

12 the frequent movement of DAR personnel;

13 the high administration cost of collection of amortization payments, transfers, etc.;

14 the inability of borrowers to pay banks related to credit, etc.;

15 lack of land ownership and land tenure;

16 increasing use of chemical fertilizers and pest controls to improve farm productivity.

Islands of Victories

Participants also noted some “pockets of improvements”, some “islands of victories” and “islands of hopes”. These are positive drivers and trends for Ilocos Norte ARCs :

1 The improvement of the tenurial statuses of distributed lands;

2 A decreasing incidence of leased lands;

3 The seriousness of the current administration to pursue a much improve, more sincere and more inclusive CARP policy agenda;

4 The absence or non-existence of large privately owned land holdings in Ilocos Norte;

5 A strong and cohesive and sustainable Zanjera organizations in the rural communities;

6 Presence of hard working farmers and self-reliant farmer organization in most agrarian reform communities;

7 The absence of agrarian unrest or incidence in the agrarian reform communities (no Tarlac Hacienda Luisita scenario in Ilocos Norte);

8 The existence of a relatively well-maintained agrarian physical infrastructures in the province (farm to market roads, communal irrigation projects, bridges, pre and post harvest facilities, potable water supply, rural electrification, health centers);

9 Lesser population pressure or losses of agricultural lands to non-agricultural lands in the rural areas;

10 An increasing frequency of crop rotations per year in agrarian reform communities;

11 the existence of strong “multi-purpose cooperatives” in agrarian reform communities;

12 the non-existence of so-called “corporate farms” operating in the province, however, contract growing or leaseholding arrangements may increase in the province;

13 A much improved and  growing farm productivities and outputs because of improved irrigation systems,introduction of high yield crops and modern technologies; and

14 The increased investment and interest of partner agencies to improve the social and human capital opportunities in agrarian reform communities.

Sustainable Futures

Here, CEF facilitated a futures landscape and futures triangle workshop to map ARCs future horizons.

In five groups, the participants explored and discussed the pulls, pushes and weights of agrarian reform communities of the province of Ilocos Norte.

Futures triangle is a futures tool box used to map the trends, events, visions, ideas, and ways of knowing the future. For more discussion on the futures triangle, please check Marcus Anthony’s Deep Futures and China’s Environment published in the Journal of Futures Studies. This paper employs futures triangle to explore China’s competing dimensions of the future.

Below are the pushes, pulls and weights of agrarian reform communities of the province of Ilocos Norte:


1 Pushes to the Future of Agrarian Reform Communities (competing positives and negatives trends)

Weak land administration  adversely affecting the implementation of CARP; poor land records; tedious land titling; lack of information sharing; unclear land policies at the local and national levels; flawed land redistribution; habit of land speculation; over estimation of land values beyond market value and the lands actual productive capacity; just compensation issues; stocks transfer schemes; CARP evasion; legal maneuverings puts that put ARCs to some legal risks; some privately owned lands remains outside the coverage of CARP;  increase pawning, mortgaging and leasing out in some agrarian reform communities

Pulls to the Future of Agrarian Reform Communities

Enhanced community relationships in agrarian reform communities; reduced land-based and legal conflicts to agrarian reform communities; Increased investment impact of ARCs on agriculture and market sector; Minimized cost associated with land ownership and uncertainties; More credits and investments in farm assets; Expanding and increasing social and human capital in agrarian reform communities; Flourishing credit and multi-purpose cooperatives in ARCs; Reduced or zero poverty level in ARC areas;  Institutional impact of ARCs felt and leads to the adoption of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Program (GARP) – a beyond CARPer scenario is expected in a GARP scenario – land valuation and assets improves; agrarian justice delivery realized; significant welfare gains achieved in ARCs; Strong community organizing and cooperative developments and wealth creation in the ARCs; crops planted diversified, ARCs become hotspots of food sufficiency and production in the country.

Weights of History to the Future of Agrarian Reform Communities

Bureaucratic corruption; massive land conversions compromising the expected outputs of the program; CARP beneficiaries circumvents CARP law to convert it to industrial and residential lands; increased incidence of land conversion in a post-CARP/post-DAR scenario;  exclusion of a lot of landless and poorest of the poor agricultural land workers; access of the poor to land markets; land remains to be largely concentrated in the hands of the few; high poverty incidence in agrarian reform communities (rural areas); transferring land does not necessarily lead to higher income, productivity and growth in the rural areas; high risk and vulnerabilities of rural areas in a climate change era; increasing number of unresolved agrarian land reform cases; delays, abuse, and weak agricultural land markets in the rural areas; difficulty of securing credit from banks by CARP beneficiaries.


Agrarian Reform Communities Futures

When participants was asked where and what DAR would be in the futures landscape – jungle; chess; mountain top and star – majority of the participants argued that DAR Ilocos Norte was in the “chess/strategy” futures horizon/landscape. DAR personnel’s had “power struggles, expert battles, smart leaderships, controlling the center, strategies and tactics” as day to day realities/soundbites of the organization.

However, a minority of the participants believed that DAR’s futures landscape should be the at the “mountain top” and not the “chess/strategy” future landscape. They argued that the “vista of the way forward was now more visible and possible” and that “they have seen and experienced the best and the worst cases or scenarios of the agrarian reform program.”

They argued that as they have been with DAR for years, they have seen contour of the future and part of that was the extension of the CARP program.


Four Future Worlds for Agrarian Reform Communities of the Province of Ilocos Norte

The last and perhaps the most exciting part of the workshop was the scenario building exercise.

Here, the participants discussed and explored the most plausible futures for the agrarian reform communities of Ilocos Norte.

The scenarios were presented as  narratives of “what tomorrow may look like” for Ilocos Norte’s agrarian reform communities

Scenarios are stories with plausible causes and effect links that connects a future condition with the present, while illustrating key decisions, events and consequences throughout the narrative (Glenn and the Futures Group International, 2000). Scenarios, basically, is not a presentation of a list of predictions or a series of suppositions (Watson and Freeman, 2012).

Questions such as what will the agrarian reform communities be like in the year 2040? the hopes and fears? the disowned future? The what are we gonna do about it? what is our desired future? and the what actions can we take next to achieve our desired future? prompted initial conversations (Inayatullah, 2007).

Below are the results of the scenario building exercise, the participants were able to develop four alternative future worlds for agrarian reform communities:


Que Sera Sera: Whatever will be, will be ARC future (Confusion and Stagnation)

With “status quo” and the “negative” pulls, pushes and weights of history in mind, the social, political and economic life of agrarian reform communities in the year 2040 was pretty much the same when compared to 2012.

Wild weather and legal disabilities would continue to cause “real significant” problems as farmer beneficiaries had lived largely with the consequences of a problematic agrarian reform program.

Farmers in ARC communities remains highly vulnerable to technological changes, legal and political maneuvering, climate change and market trends.

After 40 years of agrarian reform (in a post-CARP/post DAR scenario), participants imagined the 2040 agrarian reform policy and evaluation report stating: “(that) after spending a total of  300 billion Php on land distribution and agrarian support services, the program beneficiaries are still grappling with weak land administration, dependency, social and financial inadequacy, declining interest in agriculture, complex political dynamics that they are engaged into (political dynasty, corruption, vote-selling), production inefficiency, etc.

The Que Sera Sera scenario anticipates a narrowly focused, easy-going, come what may, rudderless, and business as usual agrarian reform communities in the year 2040.

The “Bahala Na Future” that connotes a hopeless and fatalistic view of the future was the future. The future was “destined and “unchangeable” as the “whatever will be, will be” future was concerned.

This scenario does not see any substantial or transformational changes happening in the future.

It anticipates a CARP and DAR getting an extension in 2016 with a similar set up and more funding in the future.

There remains a pressing demand for land and DAR support services here. A “bini-baby babying at kinakantahang” agrarian reform community was the image of this alternative future.


Agrarian Deformed Communities (ADC) (Climate Change, Manipulation and Conversion)

The agrarian deformed communities scenario is the story where the “most unfavorable conditions prevailed” in agrarian reform communities of 2040.

The unresolved weights of history and the amplified negative pushes of the present, the non-extension and termination of DAR, climate change and emergence of black swans led to: lower farm income and yield, problematic land tenure, increased poverty incidence, inefficient production, massive conversion and commercialization of agricultural lands, legal battles between farmers and banks, bankruptcy of ARC cooperatives, financial distress.  These challenges would evolve as “wicked problems”.

“Lacking in state support, resources and plain good faith” (Bello, 2008) the so called “agrarian reformed communities” would become the “agrarian deformed communities”.

These communities that were crippled and maimed by massive internal (structural) and external shocks (weather, the white elephant in the room) (water crisis, rural poverty, climate change, corporate take over/evade just and fair compensation to evade cost, landlords, increasing cost of farm inputs, legal maneuverings, poor maintained rural infrastructure, etc.) would end up leasing or selling the agricultural lands they acquired in the 2012.

Emerging issues or black swan (low probability but high impact in nature events) includes:

  • increase violence/crime in agrarian reform communities,
  • the implementation of the RH Law would affect labor requirements / gaps in rural agricultural communities,
  • increased incidence of corruption in agrarian reform cooperatives,
  • more agricultural farm lands are pawned leased or sold to corrupt politicians, corporation and banks,
  • the failed CARP program and the neo-liberal environment/framework of CARP would affect food diversity and food security in the process;
  • large-scale mining in the province would also impact the agricultural industry.

The image of a less productive farm lands increased absolute material poverty (food, cash, social and human capital opportunities, etc.), and poorly maintained rural infrastructure was the image of this alternative future world.


Agrarian Transformed Communities: The Gunglo Alternative Future (Cooperatives, Community Leadership and Social Transformation)

The Gunglo alternative future is the most optimistic of the four possible future worlds for agrarian reform communities.

This future anticipates a bigger role for agrarian reform cooperatives in growing and sustaining the gains of DAR/CARP program in the year 2040.

The impact of the non-extension of CARP and localization of DAR, in this alternative future, would inspire and drive (challenges becomes an opportunity) the 108 ARC cooperatives and Zanjeras of Ilocos Norte to facilitate socio-economic growth in the rural areas.

Their combined strengths and efforts would transform the ARCs.

Here, the ARCs are no longer “orphans” of government and foreign development assistance but “key actors”, “critical facilitators” and “drivers” of rural socio-economic growth.

The strength of the Gunglo’s and Zanjera’s micro financing projects, efforts to sustain the environment, protecting watersheds geared towards the establishment of farmer benefitting market/credit programs shall create new socio-economic opportunities for local development.

The cooperatives diverse initiatives would expand and re-create not only material but also social, cultural and intellectual wealth.

Optimizing their potential to create wealth at all levels, the coops, in this scenario, would invest in knowledge creation, service and cultural industries.

By putting up their own Multi-purpose cooperative malls, shops, wholesale, retails, banks, and schools – the coops would emerge as new centers or multiple centers of transformative socio-economic growth.

Today, DAR’s Ilocos Norte ARCooperatives has a combined asset of more than 1.5 Billion Php according to participants.

In this scenario, a shared story and future is created.

The Tamaraw or the Carabao  metaphors for perseverance, patience, wisdom and resilience in the local community  represents the coops success and role in social transformation .

The coops would function like nodes connected and linked to each other.

The coops preferred vision of the future will, in the long-run by accident or incident, challenge dominant economic (corporate/State paradigm of rural economic development) and political visions (dynastic, limited) for ARC’s future.

The strength and the impact of the social-collective – the Gunglo (society) – will be felt mostly at the cultural, economic and political levels.

A zero poverty and a prosperous agrarian community future is the image of this alternative future.

ARC’s Disrupting Conventional Economic and Market Structures and Traditional Notions of Political Power and other Outlier Scenarios

The fourth alternative world (similar to the outlier scenario) was the emergence of agrarian reform cooperatives as  new centers and/or multiple centers of local socio-economic and cultural growth.

Incidentally, this new trend will also impact traditional notions of political and economic power like dynastic politics and the middleman. Cooperative leaders  challenging political dynasties was the first outlier scenario.

However, the white elephant in the room  was the “hidden agenda” of the “powers that be” at the local, national and global levels.

There were “few untouchable landowners” at the local and national levels who are engaged into leasing and converting agricultural lands indiscriminately.

The incidence of massive legal and illegal land conversions that could compromise the expected outputs of the CARP program could lead to the exclusion of thousands of farmer beneficiaries later on.

A Hacienda Luisita scenario or the more hybrid “Ilocos Villas rising”, “Corporate farming and its impact to poverty” the future of Ilocos Norte agrarian reform communities here.

Another outlier scenario was the impact of an “aging leadership”, “aging pioneers” and declining interest of young people in agriculture could severely impact the future of agrarian reform communities.

Today, the average age of farmers of Ilocos Norte is 45-50. Participants noted several impacts of aging to agricultural production, sustainability and food sufficiency.

The issue of inheritance practices and ownership informed by individualism (subdividing land for taxation and ownership purposes ) was also impacting/affecting efficiency of land-re-consolidation and agricultural land preservation negatively.


Basically, the workshop enabled (as facilitators and participants) us to: see things as they are happening right now (the bigger and local picture of agrarian reform communities); anticipate a number of wildcards (developments or things that would completely surprise us, if undetected);  explore our possible nightmares (issues that kept us awake at night) and; reframe our questions with a long-term perspective – where are we headed (the ARCs) and what alternative scenarios are possible.

The scenario created represent the macro (the global, national) and meso (local, current operations and their trajectories) environments. Its purpose was to engage participants in a more deeper conversations about alternative futures and the practice of community based foresight.

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Shermon Cruz, Notes Re: DAR’s futures thinking and community base foresight workshop, , Northview Hotel, Ilocos Norte 2012

Richard Watson and Oliver Freeman, FutureVision: SCenarios for the World in 2040, Scribe Publications, Australia, 2012

Marcus Anthony, Deep Futures and China’s Environment, Journal of Futures Studies, Taiwan, 2012

Sohail Inayatullah, Questioning the Future: Methods and Tools for Organizational and Social Transformation, Tamkang University Press, Taiwan, 2007

DAR Ilocos Norte Report 2012

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