By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.
“My grandfather used to say that at least once in your life, you will need a doctor, a lawyer, a policeman, and a preacher. But every day, three times a day, you will need a farmer.” – Brenda Schoepp
Farmers are truly an integral part of our lives. Unfortunately, our farmers still lack many things. More production inputs, access to machineries and technology, access to capital and access to market are some of the things that our farmers still need.
The government has increased both its budget and programs tenfold to try and provide answers to these challenges. These problems, however, cannot be solved by government alone.
Now, more than ever, private initiatives in the sector are badly needed.
Just a few days ago, the Green Climate fund (GCF) approved a USD39.2 million program to help “the Philippine farmer shift to a climate-resilient agricultural system … and respond to the impacts of the climate crisis.”
Other than enabling farmers to adopt climate resilient agricultural practices, it will allow them to access financing and related technologies.
A week ago, the Aboitiz group of Companies launched its Fresh Depot program which seeks to “become the first ever physical and digital solutions platforms for farmers in the country.”
Its first phase involved piloting a modular and sustainable cold storage unit in Benguet to help farmers in the area keep their produce fresh. Clearly, more private organizations, both here and abroad, are beginning to answer the call of our government for more private sector organizations, MSME’s, and big business partnerships with local farmers.
Perhaps, more people are beginning to realize the importance of sustaining our farmers. In a small corner in Cabanatuan City, a non- government organization called Basta Tayo Sama Sama (BTS) recently gathered around 1,500 farmers to orient them of the group’s capacity building programs for farmers and small to medium scale entrepreneurs.
BTS is a non- government organization set up by a group of entrepreneurs and professionals that aims to help certain sectors empower themselves.
The only thing the organization asks from whoever benefits from their initiatives are that the said beneficiaries help pay it forward.
For the past five years the organization has quietly been organizing several farmers and MSME groups and conducting assistance and capacity building sessions.
One such program involves accepting income generating activity proposals from individuals or organizations and choosing viable initiatives and helping provide financial start up loan assistance.
The organization also provides business related quick training programs such as marketing and basic financial literacy.
These programs have help create more “agri-preneurs” who will be sufficiently capacitated to help others by creating job opportunities and contribute to the local economy.
BTS has also started it logistic chain initiatives by helping farmers and other small businessmen sell their wares directly to consumers and cutting out oppressive middlemen.
The organization has set up BTS stores where products from its members can be sold cheaper to the public and where the profits are enjoyed by the said members.
To generate more resources for the programs, the organization has organized its members into cooperatives, councils, small business groups and taught them how to avail of assistance from other sources both public and private.
It has served as a liaison organization to government and private organization and helped its members prepare requirements and paperwork. In a few years’ time, the organization’s membership has grown by leaps and bounds.
BTS now has members and sub-organization all over the country.
Many of its members, whose lot in life has improved, has fulfilled the group’s motto of paying it forward by helping others achieve the same thing.
Perhaps, more private citizens or organizations can follow the steps of BTS by pitching in and starting innovative initiatives to help our farmers.
This is my oblique observation.