SEATTLE, Washington — The Philippines once heavily relied on its agricultural sector for economic growth. During the 1980s the sector contributed nearly 25% to the nation’s gross domestic product. As of 2018, that percentage dropped to just under 10%. However, agricultural farming still accounts for about 25% of employment in the country and has produced a high rate of poverty within its sector.
With the onset of COVID-19, life for farmers has become increasingly difficult with many unable to sell their produce due to lockdowns and forced to dump spoiled foods by the truckload. Thankfully, organizations such as Agrea and programs through the Filipino government are supporting Filipino farmers with their agricultural businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cherrie Atilano used her social enterprise Agrea to launch the Move Food Initiative to help Filipino farmers bring their produce to consumers. With Atilano’s network and partnering organizations, produce can be transported to fresh food markets set up in parking lots and closed restaurants.
Having already helped roughly 4,000 farmers ship nearly 138,000 kilograms of produce to almost 30,000 families as of April 26, 2020, Atilano determines to bring food directly to households and provide refrigerated trucks for farmers to help cut down the amount of spoiled foods
Alongside the Move Food Initiative, Agrea also offers agricultural farming training and education. Programs offered by the organization tackle topics such as financial literacy, technological training, zero-waste farming and entrepreneurship, among others.
The programs center around Agrea’s main objective of achieving a “One-Island Economy.” Broken down into three parts, this development strategy focuses on the health of the environment, stopping hunger and eliminating insufficiency to better social wellness and environmental practices.
Support from the Filipino Government
Filipino farmers also received support from their federal government. For instance, William Dar, the secretary for agriculture, introduced the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program to increase agricultural production and consumption.
Additionally, the Department of Agriculture in the Philippines supported agricultural farmers by establishing four local supply chain clusters that can better connect farmers with consumers. This support includes linking farmers with public sector organizations and local governments, as well as providing refrigerated trucks for farmers to store and sell food.
Besides struggling to connect with buyers, Filipino farmers also lack financing opportunities. It is especially difficult with 75% of the population having no bank or other financial accounts in place. As such, various financing platforms have been on the rise over the past few years.
The majority of these financing platforms include peer-to-peer lending through various forms of crowdfunding. For example, investors may choose a specific farm to invest their money in and receive part of the farm’s profits as a return for their investment. Involved in crowdfunding is Cropital, which links farmers with investors, insurance providers and agricultural farming resources.
Alternatively, FarmOn allows investors to choose specific crops to invest in. Farmers are then eligible to purchase essential technologies and supplies from FarmOn. In this case, profits from the crops split equally between the farmers and the investor.
As the Philippines continues to strengthen their agricultural sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations focused on agricultural support like Agrea, government programs and crowdfunding allows Filipino farmers to remain operational in a time where food is critical among communities.
– Scott Boyce