Peace, Love and … Fruit?

A plantation on Mindanao, an island in the Philippines, has been employing men on the condition that they abandon armed fighting. Many Muslim guerrillas have taken up the offer, coming out of the jungle to harvest bananas. The men have moved to the plantation with their wives and children, enabling the children to attend local schools.

The plantation employs around 2,000 workers, 70 per cent of which are or were members of the Moro National Liberation Front or one of its offshoots, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Moro is the term given to Muslims by the Spanish during colonial rule).

La Frutera, the company that runs the venture, has played an important role in bringing peace to a region plagued by violence. Islamic and Communist insurgencies, personal vendettas and military and police intervention have caused over 120,000 deaths here over the past 30 years. Since the plantation started hiring Muslim rebels eight years ago there has been a sharp decrease in criminal and political violence in the surrounding areas.

“La Frutera shows that it can be done,” said Astrid Tuminez, of the U.S. Institute of Peace. “The benefit there is that you can create small economies where there was nothing before and you really do change behavioral incentives on the ground”.

A permanent settlement to one of Southeast Asia’s bloodiest conflicts seems imminent, with a ceasefire held since 2003. The government and the MNLF say they could sign an agreement as early as next year.

Source: International Herald Tribune

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