Jollibee’s entrepreneurship program empowers farmers

Jerni Camposano-Gomez - The Philippine Star
Jollibee�s entrepreneurship program empowers farmers
Take the case of Malou Maulion, a mom of three and president of Sili Growers Association (SGA) in Alabat, Quezon. Maulion used to teach college classes until she focused on raising her children as her husband was working abroad.

MANILA, Philippines — Farming can be a profitable livelihood, even for farmers who till a small parcel of land. Arming them with more knowledge can translate to better decisions and higher confidence.

Jollibee Group Foundation knows this too well—its Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) helps smallholder farmers become agro-entrepreneurs who can directly supply corporate buyers, including companies such as Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC). This is done through partnerships with different institutions, clustering, and mentoring of farmers.

Take the case of Malou Maulion, a mom of three and president of Sili Growers Association (SGA) in Alabat, Quezon. Maulion used to teach college classes until she focused on raising her children as her husband was working abroad.

To earn additional income, she put up different businesses, including a vegetable farm. Growing up in a farming family, she and her seven other siblings used to help out in the farm but it was only in her that the passion for farming was cultivated.

When Maulion was diagnosed with hypertension, farming became her stress reliever. Eating fresh vegetables helped improve her condition. “It felt good to plant vegetables,” she said.

Pursuing her passion led her to SGA, which is under the Alabat Island Farmers Producers Cooperative. The cooperative has already been delivering calamansi to JFC through FEP. Maulion saw the potential of her group to also supply hot peppers to corporate buyers and with trainings from FEP, she learned how to improve and grow their business. Under her leadership, SGA has become a regular supplier of hot pepper to Chowking, one of the brands under JFC.

“Before joining FEP, we would sell our produce individually. We were competing for buyers, and our only competitive advantage was our ability to do sales talk. We also did not know how to properly cost our produce so we would just accept whatever price the buyer set at that time,” she said.

“After we became part of the program, we learned the importance of understanding the markets’ needs before we plant to make sure that we will make a profit. We also learned how to consolidate and do group marketing so we can get better prices for our goods,” she said.

She also realized that being able to supply to corporate buyers like JFC is the best strategy for their group to flourish. “Having a sure market is important for us because even during seasons when the price of hot pepper in the local market is low, we are still able to get a good price.”

The benefits go beyond earnings, too. She mused, “we used to feel small and think that we are ‘just’ farmers. Now, we are more confident because we are able to interact directly with buyers who also support and believe in us. Through this experience, I saw the importance of farmers to the community.”

To date, SGA has 84 farmers. By teaching them how to have an entrepreneurial mindset, Maulion believes farmers can uplift their lives. “Without farmers, the community will go hungry. Through FEP we learned to value the work that we do and become better agro-entrepreneurs. And I am grateful for that.”

FEP partner farmer groups deliver around 20 percent of JFC’s annual vegetable requirements such as onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, calamansi and hot peppers. Because FEP helps farmers transform into entrepreneurs, they are able to supply not only to JFC but also to other buyers such as supermarkets and hotels. This has helped improve the lives of thousands of farmers nationwide.

Maulion proudly shared that her role as president of SGA enabled her to marry her two passions: teaching and farming. “That is one of my greatest accomplishments because even if I am a woman and most of the farmers are men, I was still able to do my duties as their leader,” she said.

Despite being busy with the business, Maulion finds time for her family. “I organize my tasks and make sure I’m not neglecting anything.” With her success, her husband may be able to go home next year from overseas. They plan to build a farm where her children can put their expertise to use: her eldest is taking up Mechanical Engineering, the second child is studying to become a chemical engineer, and the youngest is most likely to take Agriculture.

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