THE ART OF PEACE
Taking a look at Mayor Arnado’s efforts to
achieve sustainable peace in the war-torn
town of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte
BY MARCO NICANOR
PHOTOS BY BON ASERIOS OF ONE HAPPY STORY
The humble municipality of Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte has come a long way from being a hotbed of the Moro insurgency and mired in poverty to being an internationally acclaimed beacon of peace and
prosperity. At the helm of this transformation is Mayor Rommel C. Arnado, achieving this though strong political will and consultative governance.
Born and raised in Kauswagan, Mayor Arnado was disheartened upon returning from the United States in 2008 when he saw his beloved hometown in a dismal state. The scars of heavy fighting between insurgents and government forces—among them burnt houses and other damaged structures—were
clearly visible. He then vowed to help his impoverished municipality recover and sought the mayoralty post. Since his 2010 victory and subsequent landslide reelections, he has tirelessly focused on providing new skills and looking for better livelihood opportunities to improve the living conditions of his constituents.
“The first thing a mayor should be able to do is to identify the problem of the place he has to run and to articulate how he will go about solving it. Only then will he be effective,” shares Mayor Arnado. He believes
that the passion to help, although a prerequisite for public service, is not enough to effect positive change. Instead, it should be tempered with critical analysis in eradicating problems. He asserts that the root cause of their problems was not really the lack of peace and order, but hunger and poverty due to the lack of empowerment and capacity and the cultural biases and discrimination faced by Muslims.
PLANTING THE SEEDS OF PEACE
In order to address hunger and poverty, the good mayor championed the initiative called “From Arms to Farms: Walking Through the Paths of Peace.” This was achieved through consultation and convergence with nongovernmental organizations and people’s organizations through the Assisi Foundation, and later supported by the Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Training Institute.
The Arms to Farms program covers all the efforts to develop and capacitate former rebels through organic farming and all those who are open to make it as their livelihood by not only subsidizing their cropping, but also helping them through all the facets needed for their farming, fisheries, and livestock ventures to be successful. The local government provides aid by giving farms access to irrigation and
fertilize, building good and passable roads, and ensuring the market for their produce.