The German Embassy in the Philippines, together with its implementing partner organizations, continues to support the consolidation of lasting peace in Mindanao. This is done through several projects that use an inclusive approach in various sectors.
“We are convinced that a successful and inclusive peace process will increase prosperity and social cohesion not only in the Philippines, but also in this highly interconnected region,” German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel said.
The YOUCAP project of the German Embassy aims to empower young people and prevent them from becoming involved in armed conflicts.
Advocating for peace and stability in the world is a key priority for Germany. The Ambassador continued, “We aim to expand our partnerships with the Philippines, knowing that the Indo-Pacific region is of growing importance in the political and economic sphere.”
Together with the Philippine government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Germany currently provides more than two billion pesos in direct aid. Germany’s projects include building institutions in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), reintegrating ex-combatants into society and empowering key stakeholders such as women, youth and indigenous peoples.
In Mindanao, one of the main sectors supported by DeveloPPP projects is agriculture, particularly coffee growing.
Germany’s strong commitment to lasting peace and growth in the region is reflected in well-planned and well-funded projects on the ground.
“We work in partnership with around 70 different organizations implementing German-funded projects in Mindanao. In our view, the peace process can only be successful if all stakeholders are actively involved in it from the start,” he said. added Ambassador Reiffenstuel.
Germany also provides financial support for projects in key sectors such as land rights, disaster risk reduction, health, human rights, climate change and livelihoods, particularly in farming.
Protecting young people from violence
One such project is the Youth for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence in Mindanao (YOUCAP) of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). In partnership with the Office of the Presidential Advisor for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU), the project aims to empower young people and prevent them from becoming involved in armed conflict.
The We-RESOLVE project of the German Federal Foreign Office aims to increase the participation of Bangsamoro women in their own communities while providing them with livelihoods.
YOUCAP is actively working with Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leaders in four local governments in Regions 10 and 13 to develop local conflict-, gender- and culture-sensitive Youth Development Plans (LYDPs). These plans were drafted during trainings involving 120 SK officials and youth representatives and affect approximately 100,000 young Filipinos, including 21,500 classified as vulnerable.
GIZ Country Director Immanuel Gebhardt hopes that such projects will continue to give hope and resilience to young people and keep them out of armed conflict. “The plan is to give them stability and therefore when they have a stable life, they have hope for life. Having a reliable income for their family helps ease feelings of frustration,” said he declared.
Most people who become involved in armed conflict do so out of frustration and a lack of support and perspective. YOUCAP aims to show young people in Mindanao that life away from conflict is a better and more stable option. “I think the world needs stability – it’s the only way people can enjoy prosperity.”
Gebhardt also stressed the importance of caring about what happens in conflict zones. “Right now, in most parts of Mindanao, we don’t need to be afraid of bombs – terrorists are not currently attacking us. Nevertheless, this destabilization leads to a loss of prosperity. So instead of the economic growth, there is an economic slowdown,” he said. said, adding that civilians suffer the most in any war.
GIZ is also implementing a project line called DeveloPPP with the help of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). DeveloPPP is implemented in several parts of the world, promoting partnerships with the private sector that can provide entrepreneurial opportunities to beneficiary communities.
In Mindanao, one of the main sectors supported by DeveloPPP projects is agriculture, particularly coffee growing. While the Philippines has a long history of coffee cultivation, production is declining despite growing demand. Coffee farming takes place in rural areas where poverty rates are high, which hampers the improvement and modernization of farming methods and techniques.
GIZ has partnered with Nestlé Philippines to address the issue, especially in Mindanao. Nestlé brings its strong agricultural services team and technical expertise while GIZ helps with training and capacity building for farmer groups. “We help farmers produce a better harvest through education, which – of course – is also in the interest of companies like Nestlé,” Gebhardt explained. “A better harvest leads to a secure and continuous supply of coffee for businesses and more income for coffee farmers in Mindanao, helping them lift themselves out of poverty.”
So far, 1,565 coffee farmers from Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat have been trained. While they only produced 235 kilograms of coffee per hectare in 2018, they have seen their harvest increase by 133.62% by 2020 to 549 kilograms per hectare.
Provide a platform for women
The empowerment of women is also at the forefront of Germany’s priorities in Mindanao. The German Federal Foreign Office is working with Relief International (RI) on a new project titled Women Engaged in Responsive Solutions to Conflicts and Violence in Mindanao (We-RESOLVE).
The project, which began on September 15, aims to increase the participation of Bangsamoro women in their own communities while providing them with livelihoods.
“This will engage women leaders in conflict resolution, enabling them to be at the forefront of establishing communities of peace in selected areas in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur,” said Norma ‘Bing’ Constantino , head of the RI program.
The project runs workshops to equip local government units (LGUs), women-led civil society organizations (CSOs), community members and other stakeholders with the skills to develop better gender plans and development. They also implement activities that promote peace which, in turn, support the creation of communities of peace.
We-RESOLVE will also improve the economic conditions of women in conflict-prone areas through livelihood support for 40 CSOs, creating connections between peace and socio-economic empowerment of women through resilient businesses. The project is now implemented in eight municipalities, involving 40 BARMM barangays.
Lasting progress and peace
“During my travels in Mindanao, I have always been impressed by the well-structured approach and concept of the projects that our partner organizations implement,” said Ambassador Reiffenstuel, noting that the sustainability of the projects funded by the Germany is something they are proud of. After all, the goal is to achieve lasting peace in the region and while the short-term benefits are good, it is of utmost importance to ensure the long-term well-being of BARMM residents.
“Overall, sustainability can be achieved through close coordination with the Philippine authorities, between German implementing partners as well as international donors,” explained the Ambassador. In coordination meetings, Germany and its partner organizations identify synergies between national development goals and projects, building on these to ensure their lasting effects. She added that stakeholders are involved from the start, especially women in their peacebuilding role.
There is a lot to do, but as a committed partner of the Philippines, the ambassador assures that Germany will be there to support peacebuilding efforts every step of the way.