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Today we will gather to celebrate a new beginning. Today is the ceremonial signing of Kapatid Angat Lahat Agri Program, KALAP, a program that has the potential to uplift the lives of millions of Filipinos.
KALAP sits at the intersection of job creation, MSMEs, public-private partnership and agriculture. It is the platform where we hope to employ as many Filipinos as possible, and it will do so where our job creation efforts can have the most impact: in the agriculture sector.
KALAP has roots in our Kapatid Angat Lahat initiative, which we first conceived back in 2016. It was formed to encourage large corporations to help micro and small enterprises by including them in their value chain, creating an inclusive and sustainable partnership. Some of the biggest companies in the Philippines and most of the largest business organizations signed up for Kapatid Angat Lahat, and renewed their commitment at the MSME Summit in August last year.
It is a confluence of events that led us to apply this initiative to become the jobs- and agriculture-focused program that is KALAP.
When our President threw his support behind MSMEs and prioritized agriculture in his agenda, he also gave me the task of leading the jobs sector of the Private Sector Advisory Council.
They demonstrated that a KALAP model can work, and we believe that it can be scaled to a national level.
If we are to make an impact on job creation, we need to help our farmers become agripreneurs: farmers who innovate, think and behave like entrepreneurs. At the same time, we have to give them access to mentorship, markets and money, the three elements that an MSME needs to succeed.
This can be done through public-private partnerships between big brothers and the small farmers, aided by government help. Government’s involvement will be crucial because only the government can provide the enabling environment in terms of policies and regulation. We only need to look to the example set by former Piddig Mayor and now NIA Administrator Eddie Guillen, and Palawan Gov. Pepito Alvarez, on how local governments can help initiatives like KALAP. With the guidance of former agriculture secretary William Dar, who is now KALAP senior adviser, we have valuable insights from the government side.
But why agriculture? The agriculture sector accounts for a quarter of the total number of jobs in the country. It is the most challenging of sectors, and yet it is where we can make the biggest impact on jobs and, down the line, on our economy and food security.
MSMEs are the drivers of economic growth and job creation, accounting for more than 65 percent of jobs in the Philippines. It is in agriculture that we find a large number of the micro entrepreneurs – the micro farmers – and it is they who need the most help. It is in this sector where a multiplier effect of jobs and enterprises, growth in communities away from the urban centers, can happen.
With big-brother companies behind them and with a sound business model to support their business, these small farmers can finally gain access to capital. Agriculture is a capital-intensive venture, and it is deemed risky by financial institutions. But with KALAP, we can make it make sense for the financial institutions to invest in our farmers.
Over the 17 years since I founded Go Negosyo, as we mentored MSMEs all over the Philippines, their stories have remained the same: they need access to mentorship, to markets and to money or capital.
And so when our President gave me the task of leading the jobs sector of the PSAC, I took inspiration from these pioneers – who acted as big brothers to the small farmers – and from our work in Go Negosyo.
The nine pioneer big-brother companies – Lionheart Farms, Universal Leaf Phils., SL Agritech, Bounty Fresh, The LT Group, Yovel, Kennemer Foods, Nestlé and Central Azucarera de Tarlac – already can make such a difference as we implement inclusive business models to transform agriculture in primary agricultural commodities and industries – namely rice, coconut, tobacco, coffee, cacao, sugarcane and corn/feeds/livestock.
There will be challenges. I expect no less from embarking on a project that aims to foster the transformation of a sector that has long been overlooked and yet possesses the most potential to employ the poorest of the poor, and in the farthest reaches of our country.
But with the President’s support, and with important government agencies behind us – including the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Trade and Industry, National Irrigation Administration, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Tobacco Authority and the Philippine Coconut Authority – I firmly believe we are on to something.
KALAP stands to create jobs for Filipinos and promote inclusivity, agricultural entrepreneurship and investment, modernize and improve the agriculture sector and increase productivity and boost the livelihoods of farmers. It is public-private partnership at work, and perhaps the most important PPP that we will undertake.