Agriculture is a key driver of the Philippine economy and employs a significant portion of the country’s workforce. However smallholder farmers and fishers endure persistent problems that keep them trapped in poverty. Accelerated efforts to increase farmers and fishers’ income are necessary to ensure the sector’s sustainability.
Recognizing the need to do and achieve more, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) is taking steps towards encouraging a whole-of-society approach in helping smallholder farmers and fishers. PRDP recognizes the huge need to strengthen its convergence with other partners of the DA and build more public and private sector partnerships.
In partnership with the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA), PRDP organized a Business Conference (BizCon) to engage the private sector and introduce the PRDP Scale-Up Project.
Attended by more than 100 representatives from the government, business, and financing sectors, the BizCon also shared different investment components where the private sector can potentially get involved. The forum also facilitated knowledge exchange in technology, parallel investment, marketing arrangements and the co-management of enterprise operations.
The PRDP Scale-Up is an expanded response of the DA to boost commodity value chain development for greater connectivity, mobility, accessibility, availability, and affordability of food in the market. Farmers’ and fishers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), clusters of FCAs, producers associations, federations, processors, consolidators, food manufacturers, and players across the value chain are expected to benefit from this project. The project will be implemented in 82 provinces from 2024 to 2029 with the local government units as primary implementing partners of infrastructure and enterprise development subprojects.
OPPORTUNITIES TO COLLABORATE
DA Assistant Secretary for Operations and PRDP National Project Director Engr. Arnel V. de Mesa opened the forum discussion by emphasizing that the heart of the PRDP Scale-Up is to increase the income of farmers and fisherfolks. To achieve this , the private sector’s participation will help the project to succeed.
We are given bigger investments and we want the project to be sustainable. In our experience, that can only be possible if we bring in the active participation of the private sector. We want to establish alignment and collaborate for the long term, starting at the planning stage. Hence we are organizing this Business Conference,” said De Mesa.
PRDP National Deputy Director Shandy M. Hubilla added that the PRDP Scale-Up will host several venues where the private sector can be engaged in the project. Hubilla highlighted their partnership with Farmer Cooperatives and Associations (FCA) and the Local Government Units in implementing the Scale-Up Project. This partnership between FCAs and LGUs is characterized by an investment-sharing structure and collaboration on the preparation of the enterprise proposal.
PRDP I-REAP Component Head Leni Pecson emphasized that the private sector can engage in different modes of partnerships with the FCAs and LGUs such as providing support in technologies, co-management, sharing of expertise, becoming an institutional buyer, or through an equal financing.
“The private sector can explore partnership approaches with either the FCAs or the LGUs. There’s no specific allocation wherein the private sector can come in, they can be part of the PRDP Scale-Up through several partnership modalities that works for all.”
The discussion also raised the need for in-depth analysis of the commodity value chains to ensure that the interventions of the project will give local farmers and fishers the chance to compete in the foreign market. DA Undersecretary for Finance and National Project Coordination Office I-PLAN Component Head Agnes Catherine T. Miranda reassured that the PRDP Scale-Up will focus on looking at comparative advantages in the market to improve the livelihoods of farmers and fisherfolks, while enhancing the domestic market supply to provide Filipinos with good quality produce and commodites.
“Part of the mainstreaming efforts of PRDP is that we look at the budget allocation of the DA and lay down our priorities. I believe that a thorough value chain analysis will help us achieve that. That’s why we need the commitment of stakeholders like you so we can have a more holistic and inclusive approach on the project.”
Director Hubilla also highlighted that PRDP provides technical assistance to organizations to help them develop their enterprise proposals for the PRDP Scale-Up. This ensures that those involved have the capacity to implement the project plans by looking at different aspects of their enterprise development. Organizations also undergo a thorough validation process to ensure their eligibility and capability to implement the enterprise proposals. Asec. De Mesa added that these precautionary measures are done to ensure accountability and guarantee the success of the project.
“We’re very keen on the eligibility process to ensure that the project funds are used appropriately by the right people. We owe it to our Filipino taxpayers to ensure that the project is implemented properly.”
CONVERGENCE OF EFFORTS
During the forum, the private sector expressed interest in potential partnerships with DA PRDP, highlighting support in terms of financing and capacity building. They also expressed appreciation for providing a platform for various agri-players to convene and for promoting collaborations to prevent working in silos.
The DA welcomed the support of the private sector and expressed their gratitude for the private sector’s active participation in the BizCon.
“We thank you and we welcome potential partnerships to further enhance the capacity of our cooperatives, associations, and our smallholder farmers and fishers. We really want to emphasize that our main agenda in PRDP is to increase the income of Filipino farmers and fisherfolks,” said Asec. De Mesa.
As an organization advocating for action oriented dialogues, Grow Asia Head of Partnerships Amy Melissa Chua who moderated the forum encouraged partnerships between the DA PRDP and PPSA’s private sector partners.
“You can expect dialogues like this in the future. You may reach out to the DA-PRDP or PPSA if you want to be connected and pursue meeting and exploratory calls with the DA,” said Chua.