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The new normal presents new challenges and opportunities for our local farmers and agri-stakeholders, resulting in a paradigm shift that calls for a change in perspective. Both the government and the private sector have important roles to play in our journey to achieve food sufficiency and sustainability, especially in this time of need.
Due to imposed regulations brought about by the pandemic, we have digitized our flagship mentoring program, Kapatid Agri Mentor ME Program (KAMMP). In partnership with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the DA-Agricultural Training Institute, we are now able to continue serving MSMEs in the agriculture sector.
“This is the opportunity I’m trying to institutionalize: an inclusive agribusiness ecosystem in various provinces,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said. “A whole-of-nation approach is necessary to build up more agribusinesses from micro to small to medium enterprises within agriculture.”
Under the leadership of our adviser on agripreneurship and Mindanao programs head Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar, we have brought KAMMP to all 16 regions, training over 2,500 farmers and producing graduates in close to 1,000 agri-based cooperatives and farmer associations in the last three years.
In the current run, our KAMMP online mentees are a diverse mix of former OFWs and youth entrepreneurs. Let me share some of their stories.
Kathleen Grajo of Grajo’s Farm Enterprise in Bicol is one of our mentees. A seafarer for three years, Kathleen lost her job during the pandemic so she went back to her farming roots. Kathleen’s family farm cultures stingless bees and produces seasonal products like tablea and pineapple jams.
“Farming provides a source of food not just for our family, but it also gives us fewer worries on what kind of food we put on our tables and in our bodies because we grow it. We know it’s healthy. We know it’s better and safe food. Our harvests also help other families to become more healthy,” Kathleen said.
After Lilibeth Beduya realized that her monthly income was not enough to cover her son’s college expenses, she opened In-House Ecofarm in Samar which is dedicated to farming cacao.
“In the market, we are dominated by coconuts na perfect partner ng cacao. Yun yung pinasok ko kasi promising yung ROI,” Beduya said. “Dito kasi, agricultural lands dominate Samar, kaya farming ang magandang pasukin… I went from fixed income to a more promising income through agriculture.”
Niel Anthony Aba, owner of Denny’s Integrated Farm, also left the corporate world for agriculture. His family farm in Masbate is accredited as a TESDA farm school. It trains students on organic production and encourages the youth to consider farming as a full-time career. “It’s the second year of doing my farm school. No regrets naman. I know that what I’m doing ay merong patutunguhan,” he said.
Lodi Carbonilla, owner of KD Integrated Farm and founder of Buko MoKo brand, worked in different countries in the Middle East before deciding to put up his own agribusiness. He was a 2018 graduate of the Kapatid Mentor ME program and is currently a mentee of KAMMP.
“Nung nalaman ko yung KAMMP, nag-email ako na gusto kong sumali kasi may mga mentors na dun na seasoned na at nagsurvive ang kanilang mga businesses, lalo na ngayong pandemic. I’pve learned a lot from the modules and personal coaching. Maganda na naturuan kami online. Marami akong natutunan lalo na sa operations.”
Gary Ayuste, owner of Beengo Farm, started working in Jeddah when he was 23 years old. While abroad, he was inspired by the story of Milea Bee Farm and upon returning to the country, he attended several Go Negosyo mentorship programs.
“I was lucky to be part of KAMMP dahil marami akong natutunan mula dito. Unang-una is ‘recoding is a must’… Iyon talaga yung feeling ko isa sa mga mahahalagang natutunan ko sa KAMMP, kasi you get to evaluate your performance from the start,” Ayuste said.
With COVID-19 upending lives and livelihoods, we need mentorship programs like KAMMP to help businesses pivot and adapt to this new normal.
By the end of 2020, we are targeting at least 850 graduate-mentees under KAMMP Online. This will be possible through the untiring support of our partners. We would like to thank our partners in finance: The Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) and DA-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), as well as Ford Tractor Philippines which has been our partner in agriculture modernization, providing technical support, intensive training, and demo for the proper use and maintenance of farming machinery. We also thank Pierre Carlo Curay, CEO and co-founder of Insight Supply Chain Solutions, for logistics and supply chain assistance.
Agriculture is the backbone of our economy. That is why social progress relies heavily on the transformation and modernization of our agriculture sector. Arming our farmers and fisherfolk with the latest technical know-how and providing them the right opportunities to succeed is how we can change the game and ensure prosperity for all.