Held at gunpoint, leaders of the Minagbag Farmers Irrigators’ Association (FIA) were forced to march along the service road of the Upper Chico River Irrigation System-Quezon area in Isabela. At that time, the farmers were currently experiencing dry spell, and rotational schedule of irrigation delivery had to be implemented. The Minagbag FIA officers and Board of Directors were patrolling at the main canal to ensure the schedule of water delivery to the farms of the IA is followed. Suddenly, one intoxicated landowner came with a gun and forced the IA leaders to march away from the headgate where he redirected the irrigation water to another area.
“It was a nerve-wracking moment for all of us,” recounted the Minagbag FIA leaders headed by President Francisco Andumang years later in an interview.
“But then, this incident also led us to realize the higher value and importance of water and our irrigation system,” the IA leaders said. They say, there is merit and mirth in a shared experience.
Several years later after the gun incident, the IA Functionality Survey conducted by NIA revealed that the Minagbag FIA generated the highest rating for National Irrigation System (NIS) category for CY 2020, and it was subsequently declared as the NIA-CAR’s Most Outstanding IA.
The Minagbag FIA started in 1965 as Samahang Nayon sa Barangay whose members voluntarily put up an irrigation system. When the irrigation water started to dwindle, the association requested the assistance of NIA Provincial Irrigation Office which facilitated the construction of a reservoir-type irrigation system which served their farmlands for some years. In 1982, with then Chico River Irrigation Project already under construction and foreseen to irrigate area of Quezon, Isabela, the name Samahang Nayon sa Barangay was renamed as Minagbag FIA, and it was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In 1986, when the operation of the Upper Chico River Irrigation System (UCRIS) went into full blast, it irrigated areas in Quezon and Mallig in Isabela, including the area of the Minagbag FIA which has since then became a partner of NIA. Sometime in the 2000s, the Minagbag FIA’s exceptional efforts as an organization led it to be declared as a Regional Outstanding IA for two consecutive years. Over the years, this IA continually performed remarkably, serving and leading its members as well as in co-management of the irrigation facilities of the UCRIS.
Towards growth and development
The Upper Chico River Irrigation System (UCRIS), the largest National Irrigation System under NIA-CAR responsibility, has a total firmed up service area of 16,019 hectares. With more than 10,000 farmer-beneficiaries, this system has 25 organized and registered Irrigators’ Associations, i.e., 12 in Tabuk and Pinukpuk, Kalinga, and 13 in Quezon and Mallig, Isabela. One of these 13 IAs in Isabela is the Minagbag FIA. Covering a service area of 598.41 hectares with 436 farmer-beneficiaries, the IA has 15 turn-out service area groups (TSAG).
The IA credits their success to a number of contributors, among which is the commitment and cooperation of officers and members who continually face the challenges and responsibilities to keep the group going and growing. They are incessantly guided by the NIA technicians and institutional workers, providing them with the needed trainings and coaching especially in the needed paperwork. Their close coordination with their LGUs and other government agencies has gained them unending support from local officials. Their obedience and compliance to the requirements especially on the completeness of the legal documents and reportorial requirements rewarded them with equipment and farm input grants and loans from the DA, LGU well as other private entities. Various income generating activities including the proper rent out of their equipment led them to the acquisition of their association’s 1.4-hectare lot where they built their office and park their equipment.
While the organization’s plate is occupied with the challenges of irrigation water operation and maintenance as well as conflict management, it is also full of endeavors towards its growth manifested organizationally and financially.
Guns or no guns, there is no other way but to march forward together for the members and officers of the Minagbag FIA.
Photo Caption 1: Leaders of the Minagbag Farmers Irrigators Association (FIA) in Quezon, Isabela in front of their office.
Photo Caption 2: Leaders of the Minagbag Farmers Irrigators Association (FIA) in Brgy. Minagbag, Quezon, Isabela stand tall and proud on their acquired lot on which they built their association's office and house their equipment. Minagbag FIA is one of the Irrigators' Associations of the Upper Chico River Irrigation System-Quezon area. It is CY 2020’s Most Outstanding IA for NIA-CAR under the NIS category.