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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Jollibee Group x Ahon Sa Hirap Inc. Joined Hands to Boost Farmers' Agro-Enterpreneurship Journey

Filipino farmers are among the poorest in the country, and living below the poverty threshold, according to 2021 data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). 

In 2022, the World Bank noted that upgrading farmers' connections to market and expanding their access to financial services is critical to improving their quality of life. 

Heeding the call to help Filipino farmers, the social development arm of the Jollibee Group, the Jollibee Group Foundation, has committed to uplifting smallholder farmers' lives in the country through its Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP). The FEP brings together stakeholders from different sectors to help transform smallholder farmers from producers to agro-entrepreneurs capable of supplying corporate marketings like JG. 

"JGF has always been focused on pursuing innovative solutions that will make a lasting impact on the communities we serve and ensure food security and access. As we envision every Filipino family having food on the table alongside our goal to contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals' Zero Hunger (SDG 2), we find it important to uplift the lives of our smallholder farmers, the very people who bring food to our table," said JGF President Gisela Tiongson. 

To make this happen, Foundation partners with various institutions that assist and advise farmers in every step of their agro-entrepreneurship journey to increase and maintain a steady income. To facilitate this assistance, FEP introduced the Agro-Enterprise Clustering Approach (AECA), which aims to achieve inclusive agricultural productivity by guiding cooperative and associations in the country in the clustering and collective marketing of their agri products. 

Microfinance institution Ahon sa Hirap Inc (ASHI) is among JGF's reliable partners. ASHI became an FEP partner in 2013, and they saw AECA as an opportunity to assist more farmers by combining it with their financing services. 

"Dahil sa FEP, na-encourage ako lalo matuto ng farming," said Arnolfo Pan, Area Manager at ASHI Grameen Agricultural Program (AGAP) Luzon. "Natuto ako mag-marketing at magkaroon ng negosyo at mag-set ng financial goals."

Taking a holistic approach to empowering farmers, ASHI also improves the capability of its farmer-beneficiaries through training, and seminars that aim to boost their confidence as entrepreneurs. ASHI now combines financing and non-financing services, including financial literacy training, values formation, farmer organizing activities, and linkage to markets to empower the farmers to become self-sufficient while being proactive members of their clusters. 

Like FEP, ASHI also hopes to give farmers a better grasp of the demands and makings of the institutionalized farmers market and the capacity to empower other smallholder farmers needing assistance. 

"Bilang anak ng isang magsasaka, tumutulong rin akong magturo ng makabagong agricultural practices sa ibang tao. Isa sa mga naituro ko sa iba kong kapamilya at mga ASHI members ay kung paano paangatin pa ang buhay nilang magsasaka upang maging farmer entrepreneur, at kung paano makakatulong sa kanila ang ASHI dahil hindi nalang pa-lending ang ginagawa namin," added Pan.

In 2022, AGAP became the first group in Luzon to deliver directly to Chowking branches in Laguna. 

Angel Dorado, ASHI's Business Development Dept. Head, said this progress is attributed to the AGAP farmers' mindset change. "Pagpasok ko sa dept. na ito at sa FEP, new challenge para tulungan ang mga farmers. Dati mas individual sila mag-isip. Ngayon, important na ma-develop sila into cluster na merong one goal, one dream, and one mindset."

Currently, 94% of FEP farmer groups are certified under the Philippine Good Agricultural Practices (PhilGap), ensuring that crop production complies with food safety standards. This was made possible by the mentoring and training they received from FEP and other partner organizations. 

Through these interventions, 30 FEP farmer groups in the country have collectively delivered 11M kilos of fresh vegetables worth more than P500M in sales to the Jollibee Group. 

These milestones do not only secure a sustainable supply chain for Jollibee Group, but more importantly, they uplift the lives of the farmers and their families. Pan proudly shared that he built a home, bought a car, and supported the education of his nephews, among other goals, through the program's help.

Like Dorado, the AGAP farmers have become determined to achieve and scale their business even more. "Mas lumalabas na ideas nila. Pangarap na nila na araw-araw na nila maka-deliver, na mas maging maayos pa ang mamahan nila dahil nakikita na nila ang benefit ng ginagawa natin sa kanila na mapaayos ang kanilang buhay."


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