SMFI & DA strengthen partnership to help Filipino farmers

SM Foundation and the Department of Agriculture (DA) renewed its partnership with the signing of a memorandum of agreement on July 30. The partnership has been ongoing since SM Foundation launched its maiden Kabalikat Sa Kabuhayan (KSK) Farmers’ Training Program in 2007. The MOA was signed by DA Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, DA Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn Lavina, SMFI Executive Director Debbie Sy, SMFI Assistant Vice President and Executive Director for Outreach Programs Cristie Angeles, plus Harbest Agribusiness Corporation President Arsenio Barcelona, and Macondray Philippines Co. Inc. represented by Emmanuel Demdam as the service providers.

At the MOA signing (from L to R): Arsenio Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness, DA Undersecretary Evelyn Lavina, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, SMFI Executive Director Debbie Sy, SMFI AVP for Livelihood and Outreach Program and Emmanuel Demdam of Macondray Philippines

The agreement stipulates that the DA will provide the manpower support from the regional field offices of the High Value Crops Development Coordinator to identify possible sites of the KSK program. Training farms must be at least 5,000 sq. m. in rural areas and at least be 1,000 sq. m. in urban spaces. These areas should be accessible, not prone to flooding and with existing irrigation. As needed, DA will arrange the cooperation of host LGU or farmer groups as well as select 50 farmer participants to the training sessions. It will also provide technical support and assistance in the provision of filed extension services, among others. On the other hand, SM Foundation commits to provide the funding for the service providers’ season-long training modules on vegetable farming; coordinate with the partners and the beneficiaries -- host LGUs, farmers and agriculturists who will participate in the training program; work as the principal sponsor of the project and provide the template for its implementation; help disseminate project information to other potential project beneficiaries through media, publications and seminars and organize project launching, harvest festival and graduation ceremony for the beneficiaries.

KSK Rural Farmers’ Training launch in Bohol

Pinol said the usual problem of farmers is finding market for their products. With SM malls already in place to absorb their products, then farmers have no more reason not to get into farming. Angeles said the farmers will be organized into groups and their outputs will be consolidated so that they can sell directly to a consolidator (SM suppliers) who will pay them in cash at current prices. Sy shared that the farmer-graduates from previous KSK training programs have applied what they learned, where they were able to use their produce for the needs of their families and communities, as well as sell to consolidators. KSK in Bohol was relaunched on August 16 at the Bohol Fish Market and Tienda in Tagbilaran. At a press conference, DA Secretary Pinol stressed on making Bohol a food secured province through the initiative of local leaders and the local government units in collaboration with the national government and private organizations. According to him, one of the programs that would help make farmers self-reliant in food and empower them to become entrepreneurs is the Farmers’ Training Program. Through KSK, SM Foundation supports communities through food security and poverty reduction.