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With the growing national issues in the Philippines, several of reasons why agriculture is the biggest game-changer. As we pursue inclusive growth, we need to delve deep into the grassroots level of society. This starts with investing in human capital in the most geo-strategic points of the country, especially in Mindanao and more specifically in the Bangsamoro provinces, which have been identified by the National Economic Development Authority as one of the poorest areas in the country.
Accounting for 40 percent of the country’s agro-products as of 2014, Mindanao’s high potential as a hub of opportunities in agriculture is threatened by lack of investments and innovation, which slows down economic dynamism. These on top of scattered reports of drug-peddling, population growth, and evidently, armed conflict.
When the siege in Marawi erupted in May 2017, the Go Negosyo community was quick to send relief and humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced families, and to the soldiers fighting in the city and the families of the fallen troops. Shortly after the end of the siege, we launched a series of agri-related development projects to support Muslim communities in the south.
We started with their most abundant resources – land and people. We have by far created several successful model farms in partnership with the big brothers of the Go Negosyo network. All of the farm projects have successfully helped more than a thousand internally displaced families become agripreneurs- increasing their initial incomes by 20 percent and above. The farms have now formed their respective associations for expansion.
One of the sucessful enterprises is the Barlin Farms Cooperative in Barangay Linamon, Ditsaan Ramain, Lanao del Sur, which has recently been accredited by the Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI) as an agricultural learning site. It sustains the farming of several fruits and veggies, and hosts free range halal chickens, organic ducks and goats, and fish-culture.
With the assistance of Convergys, Harbest, Vita Coco, Century Pacific, DA-ATI, DA-Lanao del Sur, Lanao Del Sur Provincial Local Government Unit and Ramain Municipal Local Government Unit, together with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the local Philippine National Police, Barlin Farms has now become a sought-after agri-tourism pick-and-pay farm that supplies its nearby municipalities’ respective community markets.
The 3Ms model: money, market, and mentorship is still the foundation of the inclusive business programs in the Lanao provinces to advance economic productivity. A recent success indicator of this model is the MBA (Marawi Baloi) Farmers Association. The members are also ground zero IDPs that were the first recipients of Go Negosyo’s agri-training. They have since enjoyed a bountiful harvest and are income generating. From there, we helped develop a five-hectare pilot, yellow corn production site, a project supported by Go Negosyo with the Aboitiz Foundation Inc., and Pilmico Foods Corp. as its direct market. After the six-months training provided by Jardine Distributions, Inc., and a series of entrepreneurial modules through our Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program (KAMMP), MBA farmers encashed a hefty check as payment for their first delivery of 28 tons of yellow corn to Pilmico. The amount they received is much greater in comparison to sales coordinated through traditional means with middle men. The farmers, buoyed by the success, now plan to expand this scalable project to 103 hectares. In our inclusive business programs, existing agri-supply and value chains favor the small-scale farmers by providing mentorship, technology, access to market and money.
Abdari Lininding, president of the MBA, said that some of his association farmers were previously associated with drug-use, but with the advent of Go Negosyo’s model farms and inclusive business programs, everyone has turned to agriculture as a means of rehabilitation and income generation. Now, his association cluster heads earn no less than P20,000 per month in the agri-business.
Taking motivation from that success, we can see how agriculture can bring back dignity and ethical businesses in the region. With these back-to-back victories, our efforts are now requested by local leaders to be replicated in their own municipalities, such as in Ganassi Lanao del Sur.
Go Negosyo also seeks to progressively address issues where agricultural land is tilled with traditional farming and low-quality farm inputs. Following the successful pilot demo in Bubong, Lanao del Sur, we expanded to another 50-hectare hybrid rice production site that triples resilient, quality rice yield. Just this Oct. 27, we launched the hybrid rice techno farm in Ditsaan Ramain, Lanao del Sur, with SL Agritech Corp. headed by long time Go Negosyo Mentor and ASEAN AGROW awardee Henry Lim Bon Liong.
The new technology offers 155 new farmer-beneficiaries to cultivate a 50-hectare premium hybrid rice with yields up to 14 mt per hectare, as opposed to their usual four-seven mt per hectare. The project was made possible through the support of the various partners. All have partnered to make the province a possible rice capital of the region.
This coming year, we envision to continue and further expand our efforts in Mindanao. With the sustained leadership of Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar, Go Negosyo Agripreneurship adviser and programs Head in our Mindanao projects, and the commitment of our big brothers and agri mentors, we plan to further replicate agri-preneurial initiatives in the other provinces of the Bangsamoro.
Challenges in irrigation, quality inputs, post-harvest facilities, market network, and local policies are still some of the hurdles in attaining food security and agricultural stability in Mindanao. These require stakeholders to formulate a comprehensive development plan that consolidates efforts toward inclusive and sustainable change. We hope to contribute by injecting science-based, output-driven, farmer-centered programs in these provinces for the betterment of our people.
With the recently concluded ASEAN Agri Summit, my fellow ASEAN BAC chairs and I have realized the value of investing in the agriculture sector. My personal belief is now strengthened that we should widen the pool of Go Negosyo agri-mentors who can empower the most vulnerable sectors to be significant partners in achieving greater prosperity for all.