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Agriculture

SM Foundation unveils opportunities to farmers

- Rose Dela Cruz -

MANILA, Philippines – In 2007, SM Foundation Inc. opened the eyes of sugar farmers of Bacolod City to planting high value crops like fruits and vegetables that could be sold to suppliers of about 100 SM supermarkets, hypermarkets, Save More stores and Makro stores all over the country.

It launched in Bacolod its first livelihood program called Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers’ Training (KSKFT) program under SM Foundation Inc. executive director Deborah Pe-Sy. Since then, the KSKTC has gone to Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Naga, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao - with the trainees required to have lots of about 150 to 200 square meters in their backyards to replicate their learning from the training programs.

Last week, amid very strong rains and winds, the 216 (of the original 220) remaining farmer-trainees harvested the fruits and vegetables of their 60-day (weekend) courses in the erstwhile paddy farms of Tanza, Cavite to bring home to their families, relatives and neighbors.

“We expect that when they return to their homes and farms, they will be adopting the technologies they have learned from the training program-under the hands-on guidance of Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona of Havest Agribusiness Corp. - and pool themselves and their output together to sell to the suppliers of SM, thereby transforming themselves into self-styled entrepreneurs,” Sy said.

The idea of reaching out to the farmers - the suppliers of food products in the market - was broached by SM founder, Henry Sy Sr. who said “I would like to have a serious project that will directly help the Filipino farmers.”

My father then talked directly to ‘Toto” Barcelona asking him to teach the farmers new farming technologies that they could easily adopt in their farms and which will bring the better income from their efforts and improve their quality of life, she added.

Two modules wee used: a once a week session that entailed both classroom briefings on technology and hands-on field practice and a trainors’ training course which gives farmers- turned- trainors an intensive daily practice for the program’s sustainability. The trainors will then conduct field extension services to other farmers.

The training covers extensive topics like site selection, land preparation, seed handling and seed culture, crop management, fertilization, irrigation, pest and disease control, fruit selection, harvesting, post harvest handling and marketing. The farmers are also taught basic bookkeeping, accounting and simple back office operations to make them adept at handling their own businesses, said Cristie Angeles, project director of outreach programs of SM Foundation.

Between 2007 and now, some of those trained have left their comfort zones and ventured into new skills and lines of businesses, which SM Foundation has hoped to happen. One group of farmer-trainees in Umingan, Pangasinan put up a nursery (partly funded by their mayor) and bought a carburetor that will be used to produce their own carbonized rice hull.

Another group of trainees from Valladolid, Negros Occidental is now producing year-round vegetables like ampalaya, balatong, upo, kalabasa, alugbati, saluyot and camote tops.

The training has empowered the farmers and gave them self confidence that they would not have otherwise developed had they stuck to mono-crop farming of rice, corn, sugarcane, coconut or others, said Angeles.


BACOLOD CITY

BARCELONA OF HAVEST AGRIBUSINESS CORP

CAVITE

CRISTIE ANGELES

DEBORAH PE-SY

FARMERS

FOUNDATION INC

HENRY SY SR.

KABUHAYAN FARMERS

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL

ORO AND DAVAO

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