International Potato Center upgrades Farmer Business School program in Philippines

Having been successful in Cordillera, the FBS will be upgraded in other areas in the country by the International Potato Center, popularly known globally as the Centro International de la Papa (CIP).

However, CIP is integrating climate-smart practices in the FBS curriculum that will be reflected on the training manual for FBS facilitators. This initiative is in collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

“We have a whole set of the FBS manual. We’re integrating climate change perspectives into this to upscale to other areas. In Cordillera DA-CHARM Program, climate change is embedded through the criteria in the selection of enterprises. A proposed enterprise has to conform to environment-friendly practice like waste disposal or natural-based farm practices” said Julieta Roa, CIP collaborating researcher in a climate change media forum organized by CCAFS South East Asia.

The FBS has enabled farmers, together with local government unit (LGU) technician and Department of Agriculture (DA) field staff, to come up with business plans. These farmers are the targeted beneficiaries of the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP2), an investment program funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in northern Philippines. The partnership of FoodSTART and CHARMP2 started in 2011 with a value chain training course in Baguio where FoodSTART provided technical support to agro-enterprise development activities of CHARMP2.

Having the business plan enables small farmer groups, called “livelihood interest groups” (LIGs), to access financing facility of the DA..” said Roa. LIGs have 15-30 members. Funding per business plan is P50,000 to P100,000, just to enable start of the businesses. “They cannot access the livelihood assistance fund (LAF) of DA-DHARMP2 if they do not have a business plan.

Among the businesses Cordillera farmers are engage in is roots and tubers like sweetpotato, potato, and taro (gabi). Taro chips, sweetpotato (camote) chips and other rootcrop chips will be sold under the brand “Tatak Cordillera.” Spearheaded by CHARMP2 and FoodSTART, these business enterprises were launched last December 4, 2013 at the Baguio Convention Center.

They have different kinds of indigenous or creatively-grown rootcrops like “baliling”, which is a local version of England’s crop circles. They also have organic vegetables (cucumber, lettuce, carrots, alfalfa), coffee, native pigs, and muscovado.

CIP is promoting roots and tubers like potato and sweetpotato to raise food security especially as these are considered climate smart crops, and nutrient-rich. Even in Yolanda-stricken areas in Leyte and Samar, the crops that survived are the sweetpotato, cassava, and other rootcrops.

As a requirement for healthful native pig raising, Cordillera farmers use for nutrition supplementation indigenous microorganisms, fermented fruit juice, fermented plant juice, fish amino acid preparation, and organic feed using rootcrops. These are also easy to grow. indigenous feedstuff. They also use an environment-friendly “pakusot” breeding system.

Through the program, farmers are also being linked to other potential funding institutions specifically for equipment acquisition. These are the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which participated the business launch.

The business plan is the basis for enterprise development. Farmers are taught how to define the organization, market, and what product and plan on operational management, production system, and financing.

Farmers have so far accessed La Trinidad Organic Practitioners (LaTOP), a supermarket for organic vegetable in Benguet.

The FBS has really focused on value chain of enterprise in order to help farmers raise their potential income. The FBS is an intensive program covering six months to one year that culminates in a business launch.

Farmers are also now accessing certified organic vegetable markets.

“A market service provider (MSP) is part of business development support service.” said Roa. Three MSPs are now hired from a target of six.

The program does not just pick any cooperative, nor impose farmer groups to become cooperatives due to past failures.

“The LIGs can register with DOLE or DTI. Voluntarism is a principle of cooperativism. When group members chooses to become one, then they will be assisted.”

Aside from Philippines, CIP-FoodSTART also works in Sichuan and Guangxi, China; West Papua, Indonesia, northern Bangladesh, and Meghalaya and Odisha, India.

Edited by: Angelica Barlis, CIP-FoodSTART Communication Specialist and Julieta Roa (CIP Collaborating Researcher)

Original article by Melody M. Aguiba published on: