MANILA - 10 December 2020 - Agriterra Philippines convened partners from the government, private sector, civil society, and agriculture sector for its 2nd Generating Rural Opportunities by Working with Cooperatives (GROW Coop) Consortium Meeting and Dialogue with Partners.
With funding from the USAID, Agriterra is implementing the GROW Coop project with the goal of transforming successful agri-based cooperatives, federations, and other relevant organizations into Local Resource Organizations (LROs). They provide in-depth mentoring and capacity development support, as well as support participation in value chains, to micro, small, and medium growth-oriented agricultural cooperatives. Additionally, LROs act as connectors and influencers, and are seen as hubs for ideas and knowledge resources that other organizations trust when they seek help, advice, or expertise.
“A key element of the GROW Coop project is that it builds on the existing structures of more advanced and already developed cooperatives. This is the leverage to link with other cooperatives from different parts of the value chain and to help them build market expertise that will make the cooperative sector more professional, therefore allowing them to reach higher levels of development,”
said Agriterra Manager Agri-Advice Cees Van Rij in his welcome remarks.
As of November, Agriterra Philippines has partnered with five primary cooperatives, federations and private companies to become LROs. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Agriterra conducted business continuity training for its project partners and launched Coops4Food initiative, a under the USAID GROW Coop project which built on coop-to-coop trading to catalyze access of farmers and communities to markets and supply.
GROW Coop also made strides in engaging the private sector as it seeks to leverage $1 million in non-donor investment, marking it as an indicator of a sustainable and robust agriculture market system. According to Jenna Diallo, USAID Deputy Director for Economic Development:
“Agribusiness companies benefit from ensuring that their supplier cooperatives are operating optimally with better organizational capacity, performance, and sustained source of inputs. This is the essence of private sector engagement—addressing the pain points of business and leveraging private sector resources to address development challenges.”
With the initial implementation phase, some LROs shared their milestones through the assistance of the project. AgriCOOPh Federation, one of the LROs under GROW Coop, was able to identify seven dairy cooperatives in the Visayas and link them to the Philippine Carabao Center to support the DepEd Milk Feeding Program with their milk produce. It also implemented the Coops4Food business model and now plans to scale up the program into an e-commerce platform as a new market opportunity.
With the support of GROW Coop, East-West Seed (EWS) became the first LRO to complete the scoping assessment of its seven cooperatives. They were flexible to adapt to the challenges imposed by the pandemic and successfully conducted online cooperative assessments while mobilizing its internal experts. EWS also continuously involved Landbank Countryside Development Foundation, Inc. in its activities thus enabling partner cooperatives to have the opportunity to possibly acess funds.
Meanwhile with the leadership of their CEO, the Federation of People’s Sustainable Development Cooperative (FPSDC) was able to connect with Grameen Foundation and establish a formal agreement under the latter’s Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer program. This partnership is vital for the rollout of FPSDC’s HIVE (Hand-holding in Viable Enterprise) program for coco sugar.
Agriterra also trained the Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC) on the Agro-enterprise (AE) clustering approach to help them address issues and challenges in corn production. The AE clustering approach helped SIDC and the farmers enhance their supply plan and market chain while deepening their understanding of the corn business. As a result, farmers were given fair business opportunities while SIDC is able to fill the gap in its corn supply chain.
In this event, Citicore Candlewick Bioenergy Inc. (CCBI) was introduced as the 5th LRO. They will assist seven farmer organizations and cooperatives in Negros Occidental.
Jun Virola, Agriterra Business Advisor and GROW Coop Chief of Party, shared that their team has begun conceptualizing the process for developing the Agri Coop Development Agenda for the Philippines, building on insights from the policy forum conducted by Agriterra last October 27, 2020. Agriterra has extensive advocacy experience at the international, regional, and national levels to ensure a systematic approach to farmer lobby.
An important development is the setting up of the Cooperative Resiliency Mechanism (CRM) which will enable cooperatives to access funds for post-disaster credit and agricultural insurance. The incubation of the CRM will be taken up by GROW Coop while the LROs, with support from government partners like the Cooperative Development Agency (CDA), shall take the lead in establishing the fund.
In his closing remarks, CDA Chairman Orlando Ravanera highlighted the importance of providing these supportive mechanisms to Philippine cooperatives:
“In our journey towards the new normal, cooperatives play and will continue to play an important role in food security and the distribution of agri-produce to Filipino families across the country. In order to ensure that cooperatives continue to contribute to this endeavor of the government, the necessary support mechanisms must be provided to farmers for them to become more productive and resilient in facing the challenges that lie ahead.”