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It’s one thing to do something that one is passionate about, but to receive kind, encouraging words for it? That is certainly the high point for anyone.
The successful launch of Kapatid Angat Lahat Agri Program, or KALAP, was exactly one week ago today, and still I am exhilarated at the enthusiasm with which our program was received. KALAP, which means “to gather,” aims to do exactly that: to gather together the public and private sector to support our small farmers and help them become agripreneurs by integrating them into their value chain. At Malacañang last week, we formally signed the agreements with key government agencies who will be instrumental in KALAP.
I cannot express enough how grateful I am for the kind words and recognition given by the President himself. It is always an honor to have one’s efforts acknowledged. He was gracious to include the whole GoNegosyo team in his speech. His words (which our team at GoNegosyo had immediately transcribed) went: “I express my utmost gratitude to the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship – Go Negosyo – advocacy for your team’s dedication to fostering more productivity, profit and sustainability in our local markets. All the efforts you invest in our economy, particularly in the agricultural sector, are truly instrumental in bringing progress across our lands.”
I myself was grateful that he would take a moment to publicly acknowledge my efforts. President Marcos Jr. and I have spoken many times before, as he attended our GoNegosyo events and as I accompanied him on foreign visits. He has always been supportive and on-point in his insights, and the foreign investors who have met him are genuinely interested in what he has to say. His words carry much weight, and so I take his kind words to heart to help us push on with KALAP.
The advocacy I have chosen and have been doing for 17 years now is reward itself, but to have it commended is truly an honor. That much I realized after having advised two Philippine presidents before.
Going a bit further, if we really want to be serious about eradicating poverty, we have to help our MSMEs: our milestones should be to see our micro-entrepreneurs become small, then the small become medium enterprises. Right now, a lot of our MSMEs are still micro-enterprises – close to 90 percent as of 2020. A robust, dynamic economy will have positive activity even at the lowest rung, indicating that opportunities are available and are being taken by those who need it. For MSMEs, they need the three M’s – mentorship, access to money and access to markets.
KALAP aims to make these three M’s available to our small farmers and fisherfolk. With our ten pioneer big-brother companies, there already will be mentorship and access to markets. In fact, mentorship and access to markets is already inherent in contract-growing. Small farmers are mentored in sound business practices and are introduced to new technologies and, in the process, they level up and are able to employ more people as their operations grow.What we will encourage us now is for the crucial third M – money, or capital – to be made more accessible to our future agripreneurs. Once our financial institutions also become big-brothers in our agriculture industry, we can be assured of uplifting our agriculture industry.
The government will also be crucial as they will guide our private sector big-brother companies as they go down to the provinces and seek out the small farmers who can be integrated into their value chain. There are many pain points in implementing projects in the agriculture sector, and that is why we have sought partnerships with the DILG, the DENR, the DTI, the National Irrigation Administration and the National Tobacco Administration.
A whole-of-nation approach, with the private sector and government working together, will increase our chances of succeeding. This is especially important as the RCEP – the Regional Economic Cooperation Partnership – trade agreement thrusts our farmers into competition with the ten ASEAN member-states and their five partner-countries. Even the current chairmanship of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council – Indonesia – has adopted the three M’s pillars via the region-wide implementation of the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network.
The big companies will benefit from a healthy economy, and the consumers will have access to lower priced and, more importantly, locally grown food. But we must never forget the farmers. One thing that the President pointed out in particular during his speech at the KALAP signing was the importance of giving them their fair share.
“Sometimes, what gets lost in the discussion is what is going to be the profit that goes back to the farmers,” he said. “In the end, this is really what it’s all about. It is about a decent living for our farmers so that our farmers can live by virtue of their hard work, that they can – besides just surviving, hold out hope within themselves that soon, one day, we can do more.”
I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this initiative, and I look forward to continuing our efforts towards a more prosperous and sustainable economy.