THE SMALL lakeside town of Taraka, considered an important Maranao historical and cultural preservation area, has been chosen as a showcase site for an agriculture-based poverty reduction program. Among the initial projects identified for implementation involve dairy goat, duck, cattle, backyard chicken farming, egg production, sorghum, rice, corn, and cattle fattening, according to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). The project is a joint undertaking of MinDA, Department of Interior and Local Government, Development Bank of the Philippines, and the local governments of Taraka and Lanao del Sur. Among other components, beneficiaries will be trained to adopt modern farming methods and solar-power irrigation system. A learning site for farmers, to be called Maranao New Hope Agricultural Learning Center (MAHAL Center), is also planned for construction. “It will serve as an informal school for farmers in Lanao del Sur where they could see actual models of livelihood projects and learn how to do it in their farms,” Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, chair of MinDA, said.
67% POVERTY LEVEL
Taraka, based on MinDA data, is classified as a 4th class municipality with a population of about 25,000 and poverty level at 67%. “We are very thankful because not all local government units are given this opportunity,” Taraka Mayor Nashida G. Sumagayan is quoted in a MinDA statement. The town, located along Lake Lanao, is home to the Baab Ur-Rahman Masjid, the second oldest mosque in the country. Displayed in one of the old houses in Barangay Gapao Balindong are big Chinese stoneware jars called abdans or gusis, which attest to the town’s history as a trade destination and affluence. It’s lakeside torogans — antique royal houses with high roofs that have intricate carving — have been declared as heritage sites. — Carmelito Q. Francisco