Kauswagan’s From Arms to Farms Programme
To achieve peace and stability, Kauswagan is addressing the root causes of conflict: food insecurity, poverty, hunger and inequalities. Kauswagan’s From Arms to Farms Programme turned the city from a territory disrupted by decades of war into a platform for sustainable agricultural development. Based on a broad participation of different actors, led by the Local Government Units and other support groups, the programme proved very successful by helping over 600 former combatants to reintegrate into society through farming and by decreasing the rate of poverty in the area to 40 per cent in 2016. The Arms to Farms programme shows that agroecology can be a powerful tool for radical and beneficial changes. With its remarkable achievements and respect of the Future-Just Lawmaking Principles and Elements of Agroecology, Kauswagan’s programme was recognized with an Honourable Mention of the Future Policy Award 2018, awarded by the World Future Council in partnership with FAO and IFOAM – Organics International.
- Kauswagan has witnessed and suffered from the atrocities of war especially after 2002, when the Philippine government declared ‘all-out-war’ against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
- In 2010, local government stepped in and started to fight the root causes of the conflict. The programme ‘From Arms to Farms: Walking through the Paths of Peace’, a subcomponent of the Sustainable and Integrated Kauswagan Area Development and Peace Agenda (SIKAD-PA), proved very successful in addressing these issues and helped over 600 former combatants and their families to reintegrate into society through farming.
- The programme is based on a strong and broad participation of different actors. Peace-sensitive and performance-based plans and monitoring systems were set-up to ensure accountability and transparency. Financial management and tax collection reforms were also put in place.
- Without any doubt the From Arms to Farms Programme has proven successful, as no incidence of crime rate related to armed conflict between Muslims and Christians has been registered in the last four years in the area. Furthermore, by 2016 the rate of poverty in the area had decreased to 40%, thus the programme met its target – of significantly reducing the poverty rate from the 70% level of 2009 – in only 5 years.
Kauswagan’s From Arms to Farms: Walking through the Paths of Peace Programme, implemented by Resolution No. 148 of 2011, an outline is available here and here, is a sub-programme of the Sustainable Integrated Kauswagan Development and Peace Agenda (SIKAD-PA), a documentary about SIKAD-PA is available here.
In order to foster the development of organic farming and agroecology, which was at the base of the SIKAD-PA agenda, Kauswagan’s local government has adopted a set of resolutions aiming at guarantee long-lasting financial support to sustainable agriculture in the whole municipality and seeking the support of the national Department of Agriculture of The Philippines. In 2011, the municipality created by decree the Municipal Technical Committee on Organic Agriculture, which is in charge of passing municipal ordinances and resolutions, and of specifying participatory and bottom-up approaches to grassroots organic farming projects. In 2013, the municipality was declared by decree free of GMOs and chemical pesticides. Additionally, in the same year another decree enacted the institution of a vermicomposting facility for the production of organic fertilizers. Finally, in 2014, the resolution 045-2014 declared the entire municipality of Kauswagan as an organic farming municipality, also imposing limitations on synthetic inputs usage.
In addition, Kauswagan’s Major Mr. Arnado is among the pioneer funders of the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities (LOAMC), which was created in 2012 and which comprises around 120 members. The league showcases best examples in integrated urban management and aims at mainstreaming organic farming support at municipal and city level. Recently, LOAMC became a technical consultant for the national Organic Agriculture Board.
Kauswagan, which literally means Progress, is a municipality in the Lanao del Norte province of the Philippines, which for over three decades has been the stage of the Moro conflict between an Islamic secessionist insurgency and the Philippine Army. Kauswagan, with its 26,000 inhabitants, has witnessed and suffered from the atrocities of war, especially after 2002, when the Philippine Government declared ‘all-out-war’ against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In 2010, local government stepped in and started to fight the root causes of the conflict, which were poverty, food insecurity and inequalities between population groups, notably Muslims and Christians. Based on a broad participation of different actors, led by the Local Government Units (LGUs) and other support groups, the programme ‘From Arms to Farms: Walking through the Paths of Peace’ proved highly successful by helping over 600 former combatants to reintegrate into society through farming.
This policy is an outstanding example of how conflict resolution can be achieved by tackling fundamental problems linked to socioeconomic development such as hunger and food security. It is clear that peace is a precondition for the development of sustainable agriculture, food and nutrition security. As the Mayor of Kauswagan put it: “Without food there can be no peace”. Thanks to strong leadership and well-conceived governance, Kauswagan turned from a territory disrupted by decades of war into a platform for innovation and sustainable agricultural development, showing how organic farming and agroecology can be powerful tools for shaping radical and beneficial changes. For its noteworthy accomplishments, Kauswagan’s programme was recognized with an Honourable Mention of the Future Policy Award 2018.
Our “Best Policies” are those that meet the Future-Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise the interconnected challenges we face today. The goal of principled policy work is to ensure that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are taken into account. It also helps to increase policy coherence between different sectors.
- The policy fosters local production of organic inputs, including seeds.
- Relies on agroecological and organic farming practices, thus sees soils fertility as central.
- Targets peace and stability, by tackling food insecurity and poverty as well as reintegrating ex combatants in the community.
- Aims to bring unity between “minoritized” Muslim communities and Christians
- The promotion of organic farming is supported at municipal level by declaring the area GMO free.
- Ex-combatants were involved since the beginning of the programme through a series of peace workshops.
- Under the programme the municipality has reached stability and peace.
- Ex-combatants joining the programme are given access to organic inputs, land and trainings.
- Implemented thanks to the broad participation of NGOs and CSOs.
- The implementation of the policy is based on public private partnership and on the involvement of the whole community.
- Strengthening local governance and citizens’ perception of public institution is among the goals of the programme.
- The municipality is working together with the national department of agriculture to build synergies with the national programme supporting organic agriculture.
- Kauswagan is part of LOAMC, which tries to upscale sustainable and integrated management across the Philippines.
- The programme tackles the root causes of the conflicts, poverty and food insecurity.
- It is unique because it facilitates the reintegration of ex-fighters in an innovative way.
- It was so successful that now those combatants are advocating for organic farming with other Muslim communities.
Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, located on the Mindanao islands, was a war-torn area devastated by the Moro conflict between Maranaos (Muslim community) and Bisayans (Christian settlers in the area). This conflict has its roots in the old colonialization of the Philippine islands, first by the Spanish and afterwards by the United States, who enforced several resettlement policies that have forced intra-ethnic migration across the Philippines starting at the beginning of the 1920s. These policies, encouraged after the Second Word War also by the Philippine government, stimulated the settlement of Christians from the north of the country in the Muslim-prevalent Mindanao. Such displacement left Muslims in Mindanao “minoritized” and fostered discontent about land rights.
In the early 1970s, a full-scale armed conflict erupted between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The conflict continued throughout the remainder of the 1990s and the 2000s. After numerous attempts to resolve the conflicts, a final peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Philippines’ largest rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), was signed in 2014.
Kauswagan was heavily affected by the conflict, no lasting peace seemed possible for many years. Killings, ambushes, burning of houses and rape cases were daily occurrence. Kauswagan has witnessed and suffered from the atrocities of war especially after 2002, when the Philippine government declared ‘all-out-war’ against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The war didn’t cure the causes of conflict, it actually increased inequalities and ethnical division in Kauswagan. While violence scaled up, also poverty incidence rose up to a level of almost 80% in 2009. Policymakers seemed unable to address the causes of the conflict and heal the long-lasting feud between rebels and the central government.
When Mayor Rommel C. Arnado was elected in May 2010, Kauswagan was still heavily affected by the Moro conflict. The first initiative that the administration made was to understand the causes at the root of the conflict in its community. A multisector technical working group was established and sent out to the remotest areas of the municipality to discuss directly with civilian and fighters. Additionally, several peace workshops were organized in conflict-affected areas. Arnado and his staff came to the conclusion that to achieve peace and stability it was necessary to address food security, poverty, hunger and inequalities. Through this bottom-up approach, a comprehensive community driven plan for peace and development called Sustainable Integrated Kauswagen Development and Peace Agenda (SIKAD-PA) was initiated, of which the From Arms to Farms Programme is a subcomponent.
The From Arms to Farms Programme addresses sustainable agriculture and food security while providing for the reintegration of ex-combatants, in order to build a resilient society based on a dynamic organic farming community. Fighting poverty and increasing food security and sovereignty have been the first priority to address in order to achieve a peaceful and stable society. Hence the programme’s specific objectives were: Building a bridge to create unity among the worn-torn Christians and Muslims communities in the area; Increasing food production and diminish inequalities in the area; Substantial decrease of poverty incidence in the area from the 70% level of 2009; Increasing number of Rebel returnees with their families participating in the Arms to Farms Program; Increasing trust in institutions and local government; and Disseminating the example of Kauswagan in the country and abroad.
Kauswagan’s From Arms to Farms Programme is one of the 19 components that frame the strategy of the integrated SIKAD peace agenda. The programme addresses sustainable agriculture and food security while providing for the reintegration of ex-combatants through organic farming. Fighting poverty and increasing food security were prioritized. Demilitarization not only solves problems, it also generates new challenges such as the necessity to offer an alternative to large numbers of unemployed fighters as they return to civilian life. Organic farming was seen as two-fold tool to develop a resilient agricultural system that does not heavily rely on external inputs and at the same time fosters job creation, providing a source of income for the fighters that surrendered.
At the beginning, 200 rebel commanders as well as farmers were introduced to the programme through a series of meetings and workshops, implemented with help from the Philippine army and the Agricultural Training Institute. A key focus was on capacity building. The local government, together with the Assisi Development Foundation, built a school for agriculture. Once the facility was ready, the local government was able to start supporting ex-combatants and their families, as well as local farmers, to learn how to implement organic and agroecological practices. There organic farming training is coupled with ethical discussions, making clear that the ultimate goal is not only organic farming per se, but the economic reintegration of the ex-combatants as well as their families. In order to facilitate access to microcredit and governmental support, the municipality is supporting the creation of Rebel Returnees Associations and their registration as agricultural cooperatives. Access to inputs is also supported through the programme. For instance, farmers are given free seeds on the condition that they have to return double the amount at the end of the season, so they can be redistributed. Through its collaboration with other agencies under the Public-Private Partnership for Justice, Development and Peace (PPP-JDP) Programme, the local government was also able to capacitate and mobilize other local governments surrounding the Kauswagan municipality, convincing their leaders to implement various peace advocacy and income generating projects based on organic farming.
In the last five years, development funding from the central Government has been made available and the Programme now receives between EUR 50,000 to 65,000 every year.
Without any doubt, the From Arms to Farms Programme has proven successful. No incidents of crime related to armed conflict between Muslims and Christians have been registered in the last four years in the area. In total, around 600 ex-combatants and their families benefited from the programme. Today all rebels active in the area have surrendered and many ex-commanders are now leaders in organic farming and are trying to convince Muslim fighters in other communities to cease fighting and surrender.
In 2016, the rate of poverty in the area decreased to 40 per cent. Thus the target of significantly reducing the poverty rate from the 70 per cent level of 2009, was met just five years after the inception of the programme. Food production has increased thanks to the fact that 300 ha of previously abandoned land are now cultivated by ex-fighters under organic and agroecological practices. Communities have been positively affected because ex-fighters can now afford to send their children to school.
The local government has adopted a set of resolutions aimed at guarantee long-lasting financial support to sustainable agriculture in the whole municipality. In 2013, the municipality was declared by decree to be GMO and chemical pesticide free and, in 2014, Resolution 045-2014 declared the entire municipality of Kauswagen to be an organic farming municipality, imposing limitations on synthetic inputs usage. Additionally, Major Arnado is among the pioneer founders of the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities and Cities (LOAMC) of which Kauswagan is a member.
One and a half billion people live in fragile, conflict-affected areas. As food and nutrition insecurity become increasingly concentrated in such areas, Kauswagan is a unique example that shows how is possible to solve an on-going conflict by tackling underlying socioeconomic and political issues. The decades-long war between the forces of the government and groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) left a huge part of Mindanao in poverty. Other municipalities and regions in the Philippines are now very interested in Kauswagan’s approach and they visit the municipality to study how it managed to break the links between food insecurity and conflict and build a resilient economy, based on agroecological practices and organic farming. The From Arms to Farms programme received a number of awards, including an international recognition in 2016, when it won the first edition of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Peace Prize. On that occasion, regional authorities from Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil all expressed interest in replicating Kauswagan’s experience.
UCLG, City of Bogota Peace Prize. Jury Report, 2016
GSDRC (Author: Strachan, A.L.), Conflict Analysis of Muslim Mindanao, 2015
Assisi Development Foundation, Triennial Report 2009-2011, 2012
IFOAM – Organics International, Guidelines for Public Support to Organic Agriculture, 2017
From Arms to Farms Programme, The Philippines
To achieve peace and stability, Kauswagan is addressing the root causes of conflict. Kauswagan’s From Arms to Farms Programme turned the city from a territory disrupted by decades of war into a platform for sustainable agricultural development. As a result, the rate of poverty in the area had decreased to 40%, thus the programme met its target - of significantly reducing the poverty rate from the 70% level of 2009 – in only 5 years.