For over twenty six years, the Talibon-Trinidad Integrated Farmers Association (TTIFA) has been proudly toiling a land that they could call their own. This Boholano farmer’s organization labored rigorously to obtain their 1,973-hectare land in Sitio Panaghiusa, San Vicente, Trinidad. For TTIFA, sustainable agriculture became a means to make their community richer and healthier.
TTIFA endured a painful history of harassments and struggles dating back in 1979 when farmers asserted their right to own their lands. They launched two land occupations in 1986 and 1987 to conquer the Bohol Cattle ranch owned by Mitras and Cojuangcos. However both encounters failed and the farmers were met with intense harassments. Their huts were torn down, fields sabotaged, and their harvest confiscated, stolen or set on fire. Cases, such as arson, forcible entry and qualified theft, were also filed against the farmers. The grave harassment inflicted by the ranch cowboys and later on by hired goons, Citizens Armed Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and the military pushed the farmers to organize.
TTIFA was born in 1989 with the help of the municipal chapter of the peasant federation Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bohol-anon.The group started with only 38 members. With an organized group and inspiration from the land struggle experience of the Bohol peasant group Hugpong sa Mag-uuma sa Kauswagan,TTIFA successfully won their land during their third land occupation in 1990. But despite their first victory, the farmers continued to be harassed. Their leaders were arrested and three of them were killed. But the TTIFA members did not surrender and stayed true to their leaders’ commitments that they would defend their lands with their lives.
With the help of the Farmers Development Center (FARDEC) of Central Visayas, TTIFA started gaining support from non-government organizations as well as from the local government unit during the early 1990’s. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) offered them a Php4.5 million of service facilities, and 600 hectares of land in 1995. TTIFA developed its own governance in the community and became more consolidated and dynamic. With constant lobbying to the LGU and strong support from NGOs, TTIFA managed to build a communal reforestation area, day care center and primary school. Their communal reforestation area, issued with a Certificate of Land Ownership (CLOA) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform (CARP), is divided among the community — three hectares allotted for each household and five hectares is declared as a communal farm. Their school is also accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Education. TTIFA also co-managed a potable water system and rice mill put up by FARDEC. The medium scale rice mill served more than 30 barangays including Trinindad, Talibon, San Miguel, Mabini, Ubay, Dagohoy and others.
However, TTIFA’s journey was not smooth all the way. In the early 2000, the provincial government introduced palm oil plantation. Some farmers were enticed with the impression that palm oil could produce more income and a few members were converted into subcontractors of PALM Inc. But the farmers realized that palm oil became unbeneficial as their lands were contaminated with the intense usage of chemicals and each income incurred deficits of about P 40,000. With the help of HUMABOL, TTIFA conducted research and massive education on the ill effects of converting lands into palm oil plantation.
With their campaign, they were able to prevent losing 45,000 hectares of land to palm oil plantation. It was in 2008 when TTIFA farmers started practicing organic farming in their communal farms on which they collectively work on Saturdays. Majority of the members practice organic rice farming and organic vegetable gardening. They plant assorted vegetables, mangoes, calamansi, pineapple, banana, and root crops such as camote, yam and gabi. Organic farmers are into low external input sustainable agriculture (LEISA) and system of rice intensification (SRI). They also practice composting methods such as vermicomposting and a process called mulching, which involves the combination of rice hull, banana trunks, fallen leaves and other biodegradable matter mixed with carabao or chicken manure. Moreover, the community also produce herbal plants such as ginger ale, oregano and lagundi which can cure common illnesses. Aside from farming, TTIFA members also have their own livestock and poultry. The diverse crops and livelihood allow the community to have sustainable source of food and income.
TTIFA did not remain inclusive to its members. Their organizational success also inspired other communities and their leaders are invited to speak by other farmer and peasant organizations, as well as by schools and church groups. Students and professionals also immerse themselves to the TTIFA community to learn about their struggles, successes, campaigns and advocacy works. TTIFA also founded organizations for youth and women.
For more than two decades, TTIFA grew from 38 to more than 237 members today. Despite living in peace and with security in their own land, TTIFA farmers still experience harassment, but the group continues to assert their right for land and life. Their collective strength gives them the power to overcome any trial that come their way.