Govt urged to give incentives for private sector to invest in smart agriculture, renewable energy, tap ESG bonds for climate actions

April 18, 2023

Multilateral financier World Bank has urged government to give incentives for private sector to invest in climate smart agriculture and renewable energy and to tap ESG bonds to finance climate actions countering disasters.

   Presenting its Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) 2022 in a forum of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), World Bank officials stressed government has to raise access of climate financing to private sector.

   That along with making investment policies for climate action attractive and encouraging access particularly to ESG bonds.

   “Public and private investments are needed to finance adaptation through climate-resilient infrastructure.  Financing mitigation measures from private sector should be incentivized by new regulatory technology-push and demand-pull policies,” said Souleymane Coulibaly, World Bank project leader and lead economist, at the SEARCA forum.

   “On the private side, issuing ESG bonds under the recently introduced Sustainability Financing Framework could leverage private financing for climate actions.”

   ESG bonds (environmental, social, governance) are generally part of sustainability financing supported by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Eligible green expenditures are clean transportation, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction projects, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydropower).

   Dr. Stefano Pagiola, World Bank senior environmental economist, also said at the SEARCA forum that attractiveness to farmers of climate smart agriculture practices should be improved as these have triple wins. 

   These are higher productivity, higher resilience, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

  Some policies must be avoided.  A policy for farmers not to pay for water does not give farmers incentives to use water efficiently.

   In Luzon and Cordillera, a technology that may have higher financial return for farmers is the use of blight resistant white potatoes in crop rotation with green cabbage and rainwater harvesting.

   Financial return is estimated at more than P500,000 per hectare.

   In Visayas and Cordillera, another technology with good financial return is rice-onion crop rotation with the use of early maturing rice.

   Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, said that talks on climate policies are now so critical.  He himself has been immersed since 1986 in developing adaptation solutions to climate challenge.  

  “Sustainable Development Goal 13 for climate action is close to my heart. I have been a plant breeder for abiotic stresses, (developing rice) for drought tolerance, submergence tolerance, and salt tolerance,” said Gregorio.

   Climate change adaptation techniques in agriculture enable crops to withstand increasing temperature from global warming and receding rainfall. 

   Gregorio stressed collaboration from the academe and industries are important to promote sustainable practices.

Focus on benefitting the poorest

   The poorest population will be the most adversely affected by climate disasters– with consumption reducing by almost 9% compared to the richer population’s lower 6%.

 As such, solutions should prioritize the poorest, along with women, for their target beneficiaries.

Climate smart agriculture benefits Credit-World Bank

   The Philippines is extremely vulnerable to erratic climate change, with temperature that has risen by two 0.68 degrees C (Centigrade), further rising by 1-3 degrees C, on various scenarios. 

   As financing the cost of climate solutions is extremely high, total gross domestic product (GDP) of the Philippines is foreseen by 2030 to shrink by 7.6% than what it should be in the absence of climate shocks, the World Bank experts said.

   The good news is climate solutions are well-known as the Climate Change Act (RA9729) has been ratified 15 years ago. 

   For Philippines, these include no construction in flood-prone or coastal areas and prohibition of water facility built-up in areas where ground water is shallow—where land subsidence is high.

   Other solutions are investing in irrigation and in farm technologies that emit less greenhouse gas (such as methane produced in rice farms).

   “When you apply the solutions, you reduce the cost of climate change by two-thirds.  (The other) one-third is inevitable,” said Coulibaly.

   “You see a lot of opportunities for win-win solutions like scaling renewable energy to reinforce energy security and reduce the cost of electricity.” 

Mitigation measures

   With climate change mitigation measures, ominous predictions on GDP could be reversed.       

   Mitigation actions that reduce greenhouse gas emission such as from the use of renewable energy and electrifying transport GDP could increase by about 0.5 percent and generate about 80,000 jobs in 2040. 

   These measures have a positive impact on GDP if carbon tax revenues are used for investment, said Coulibaly.

   To enhance budget procurement, government can also use green public procurement and “layered Disaster Risk Financing Strategy.”

   “Setting a moderate price of $5 per ton of carbon dioxide could signal firms to adopt low carbon technologies while raising revenues of up to 0.4 percent of GDP per year.”

Renewable energy

   Reducing power rates is a significant factor for Philippines’ competitiveness.  Decarbonizing brings enormous savings in health costs as it reduces pollution.

 The greatest reduction in emission of greenhouse gas is from converting transport to electricity. Reduction in GHG may reach 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent given renewable energy investments up to 2050. This entails electrifying 90% of public transport and 72% of private vehicles with $100 billion investment.

   Other climate solutions are scaling up mass transit, additional bike lanes and non-motorized transport, promoting inter-regional passenger and freight rail, and promoting telecommunity through Internet access.

Local approach

   Aside from the private sector, local government units (LGU) should be empowered and trained in capability for climate actions.

  “It’s important to get down to the local level.  You need numerous localized interventions to address local climate change realities,” said Coulibaly.

   Forum participants asserted LGUs should invest too in climate actions as the Mandanas Ruling is enabling these to have increased budget.

  International financing—concessional and grant–  may be limited given many countries’ need for the climate actions.

   “Financing should be concessional to sweeten investment that government wants to do.”

Urban development

   Pagiola said another key sector that must be addressed and financed is urban development as 50% of Filipinos live in urban areas.  Construction in floodplains vulnerable to storm surges must be avoided.

   Water infrastructure should also be beefed up.

   “Improving water storage is not only an infrastructure (solution) but also one of watershed management, along with forest cover improvement.  Their benefits are resilience, diversifying biodiversity, and carbon sequestration,”  said Pagiola.

   There is increasing risk of hunger as food price rises.  So, farm technologies and their financing should be attractive to farmers.  The poor and women will be most vulnerable due to agriculture’s dependence on climate and rainfall.

   Right incentives include using environmental taxes to discourage harmful activities, removing regulatory obstacles to private sector climate action, attracting foreign investors, and strengthening finance sector’s financing capability . 

   Training on green jobs should be made available, along with improving resilience of education system and introducing climate-sensitive health policies. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

ADB commissions SEARCA for 10-year agriculture modernization plan that needs a multi-trillion budget

August 17, 2022

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has commissioned the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) for a 10-year plan in an aim to catapult Philippines to be a major agricultural producer, probably a farm produce exporter.

This endeavor apparently aligns with the pronouncements of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. about Philippines’ pursuing food security aims, even agriculture modernization, having himself taken on the task as secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio told a press orientation that the “National Agriculture and Fisheries Organization and Industrialization Plan” has an indicate implementation schedule for 2021 to 2030.

The press orientation was in conjuction with the lauch of the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Young Generation (SHARING) Cafe.

“We have already submitted our recommendations to the Department of Agriculture (DA),” said Gregorio.

The industrialization plan has a nine-point track to carry out:

  1. Consolidated production and post harvest facilities (commodity systems-oriented
  2. Construction of critical infrastrucutre spatially integrated within agri-fisheries industrial business corridors (AFIBCs
  3. Modernized food terminal facilities and similar facilities linked to transport nodes in urban and peri-urban areas.
  4. Smart irrigation and water impoundment or retention systems serving two or more commodities
  5. Other large-scale infrastructure (waste management facilities, fish ports, ICT (Information Communication Technology) including high-speed connectivity
  6. Scaled up mechanization and adoption of other commercial scale-oriented technologies
  7. Large-scale production and distribution of biologically safe technologies including biopackaging
  8. State-of-the art R&D (research and development) facilities linked to PAFES (province-led agriculture and fisheries extension systems) networks
  9. Development of agri-fishery enterprises and business incubation initiatives linked to large investors.

Gregorio said the 10-year industrialization plan requires a budget of P5.03 trillion.

“The budget should come from the public sector, P2.5 trillion, while the other P2.5 trillion will come from the private sector,” he said.

SEARCA itself has launched its own programs inspiring investments in the knowledge economy which taps on the economy’s intellectual resources in order to generate wealth.

For one, the SHARING Cafe provides for creative learning experience that can lead the young generation to contribute to farm industrialization.

SEARCA conducts sessions on Lego education robotics at its SHARING Cafe

“The SHARING Café is an interactive component of the SHARING innovation spaces, which aims to provide a creative learning experience geared towards Agriculture 4.0 in Southeast Asia,” said SEARCA.

“The SHARING Café will be an innovative venue for ‘play-to-learn’ activities for guests and fun learning modules for K-12 students in the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Kids Who Farm lure youth into agriculture using hydroponics that is less susceptible to pests and is “soil-less”

March 21, 2022

Non government organization Kids Who Farm KWH) has started luring the youth into agriculture using  hydroponics technology which  produces vegetables prolifically without requiring much pesticide and can grow “soil-less.”

   During a “Pista ng Pagkain at Kabataang Pinoy” festival held by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA),  KWH Founder Muneer Hinay said that households can significantly contribute to solving Philippines’ food security concern.

   “I realized that even a small child can actually propose solutions to the pressing problems of food security,” said Hinay. 

   That has been true for his family as his daughter Raaina jointly put up KWH’s micro urban garden in her school, Catalina Vda de Jalon Memorial School in Brgy Tumbaga, Zamboanga City.  She was only nine years old then – three years ago.

   Now KWH not only has a joint urban farming project with Raaina’s school.  But its partnership is with a host of other institutions who have the like mind to entice the youth that agriculture is a profitable venture. As an incentive to kids, they are able to bring home and eat what they produce and also get a commensurate pay for their efforts.

   Aside from its partnership with the Department of Education’s “Gulayan sa Paaralan,” KWH has micro farming project with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD Region 9, iVolunteer and Google.

   It had urban farming lectures for Haven for the Children and Haven for Women facilities, Rotary Interact Clubs from different universities in Zamboanga, Isabela City Youth Organization, and the Special Forces Battalion in Basilan. 

   With its advocacy, it has so far trained more than 400 youths in urban farming.

   Hinay, project manager  for sustainable food system at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), believes his own home province should be food self-sufficient.

    “There’s a big opportunity to really make Zamboanga city food secure.  At present it is 40% self-sufficient in vegetables.  As a city which is the third largest in the Philippines in land area, it’s very ironic that we import 60% of our food as far as from Baguio,” Hinay told the SEARCA seminar. 

Muneer and Raaina Hinay during the SEARCA hydroponics demonstration

   SEARCA aims to popularize farming technologies as part of its contribution to transforming food systems to better achieve food security.

    Obviously, it is important for households to have easy a nearby access to their source of food—making it fresh and nutritious, Hinay stressed.  And what a better way to have a nearby urban farm, no matter how small, than through the hydroponics technology.

   “When we talk about urban agriculture, a big challenge is on space.  But the truth is when you have a small space, then what you need is a big mindset,” he said.

   Hydroponics, which has been proven productive long ago from the Hanging Garden of Babylon to the Aztecs’ floating garden, comes from the Greek words “hydro” or water and “ponos” or work.  That is working or cultivating plants with water.

 “In hydroponics, the plant roots absorb balanced nutrients dissolved in water that meet all the plant development requirements. The basic setup is you have a container or grow box, water inside with nutrient solution, and an air space so the container is not filled with water,” said Hinay.

   The plants are in a growing media such as coconut coir  or coconut peat– instead of soil.   The plants get their nutrients from air and water—macronutrients, micronutrients—vitamins and minerals.

   Among the plants that can be grown via hydroponics are lettuce, pechay, kangkong, bell pepper, tomato, and herbs like basil.

    While the sizable portion of food production is still soil-based, 95%, producing food from hydroponics offers advantages.  Among these are its modular setup (vertical or horizontal), ability for monocropping season after season, and nearly pest-free nature.

   “There isn’t so much waste. There is no leaching (contamination of the water table since plants are in a contained area).  Generally, it is hygienic, and there’s no emergence of pest and diseases.  It is very rare that  hydroponics setup gets pests.”

   There are different types of hydroponics—wick system, ebb and flow which uses submersible pumps for irrigation, and nutrient film technique which also uses submersible pump.  The drip system has continued slowly-releasing irrigation.

  The deep water culture is a passive system without pump as the plant is submerged in the water. Aeroponics uses misting, or roots of plants are sprayed with water or mists using high-pressure pumps.

   The easiest type to use and requires less startup money may be the deep water culture, particularly the Kratky method. 

   Developed by University of Hawaii’s Dr. Bernard Kratky, the method requires less effort to set up and is nutrient and water-efficient, Hinay said.

   What is needed are a growbox, hydroponic nutrient solution (nutrients and fertilizer), a seedling plug (where you put or transplant the seedling ), and a growing media.  Instead of soil, the media uses coconut coir, coconut peat, or foam.

   For the seedling plug, styro cups, plastic cups, and many other waste materials can be used.

   The steps in Kratky are 1.  Make the growbox (using styrobox used as fruit containers),  2.  Transplant the seedlings (seeds should first be sown in a separate sowing medium like a seedling tray).  The upper box, which has holes, is where the seedling is placed. 3.  Make the lower box where you put the water and nutrient solution.  It should be well-sealed. 4. Grow and maintain (make sure the nutrient solution does not run out of water), and 5. Build a greenhouse.

   Soon, the roots can be observed, and the plants are soon harvestable—lettuces  can be harvestable 22 to 25 days from transplanting.  

   In cases when pesticide should be used,  KWH recommends a simple biopesticide.  It is just a mixture of chopped garlic (1 bulb), onion (1 medium), 5 to 6 chilli peppers, dishwashing liquid (1 tablespoon), and water (1 liter).  This is used as spray on plants early in the morning or late afternoon.

    With Kratky hydroponics, learning how to grow plants will not be discouraging for beginners since it is easy to experience success with it.

   “Within a short period of time, you can have immediate success or yield, so you will be encouraged to grow more,” said Hinay. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

IFAD-supported agro-enterprise project beefed up “value chain” opportunities for Filipino farmers in 21 poverty-stricken provinces

February 8, 2022

An agro-enterprise project supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has beefed up “value chain” opportunities for Filipino farmers in 21 poverty-stricken provinces, linking them to markets, credit, training, and technology.

    In a webinar hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reported that a project called “RAPID” has been helping raise income for small farmers and unemployed rural women.

   RAPID stands for Rural Agro Enterprise Partnership for Inclusive Development and Growth.

   The concept of RAPID is first to organize farmers into bigger groups as there is strength in number and in organization.  Then, they are provided with all the business support they need in order to succeed.

   “There was sustained growth of agri-based MSMEs (micro small medium enterprises) with strong backward linkages to farmers.  The project generates employment and livelihood opportunities,” said Mysol Booc Carcueva, RAPID national value chain officer told the SEARCA webinar.

   The webinar is part of SEARCA’s SOLVE (SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement) series in support of its five-year thrust toward Accelerating Transformation through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).

   The RAPID project has so far helped 78,000 farming households increase their income by 60%. 

   Carcueva said this increase in household income is attributed to increase in production due to rehabilitation and expansion of farm production areas. 

   The farmers also reduced transaction costs from consolidation of produce, creating economies of scale.  There was better quality produce from improved production and post harvest technologies that raised prices of the farm goods.  The households also earned dividends from cooperatives.

   MSMEs were able to expand their markets and raised income from value addition.

   RAPID generated 31,000 direct jobs and 155,0000 indirect jobs.  A total of 1,050 micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) increased their sales by 100%.

   As an “anchor firm,”  or a market to purchase the farmers’ produce is vital to an enterprise’s survival, coffee farmers in Bukidnon have so far formalized their supply agreement to Nestle. 

   Cacao farmers have formalized their supply agreement with Kennemer International which supplies cacao products to global brand Hershey’s.  Coffee farmers are able to sustain their sale of specialty coffee to Gourmet Farms and roasted coffee to Equilibrium Intertrade Corp.

  RAPID also links organized farmers to a Financial Service Provider or FSP. That includes Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), rural banks, and other small banks.

Enabling small farmers to enter the global value chain– the business model that integrates them to the entire range of business activities like marketing and distribution– is critical to helping them become successful entrepreneurs.

   DTI which runs RAPID has entered in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).  This is to facilitate the construction of roads, bridges, and needed infrastructure to support delivery of produce from farms to market.

   RAPID operates in seven regions including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Region 7 (Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros), 8 (Samar, Leyte, Biliran), 9 (Zamboanga provinces), 10 (Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, and Misamis provinces), 11 (Davao provinces), and 12 (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, Gen Santos).

   Its focus crops are coconut, coffee, and cacao.

   There are now more than 500 coffee farmers whose produce are consolidated via the Bayanihan Millennium Multi Purpose Cooperative.  They are clustered based on their location—Nabaliwa, Mendis, Poblacion, Concepcion, Lantawon.

   Cacao farmers in the Davao provinces were assisted in acquiring post harvest facilities through RAPID’s matching grant in accordance to markets’ standards.  They were given support in farm expansion and rehabilitation. The project gave farmers training in entrepreneurship.

  The cacao farmers, totalling around 2,900,  were also linked to domestic markets—Nutrarich, Rosarios Delicacies, Cacao de Davao, MS3, CSI, AECMPC, and Malagos Chocolate

   RAPID has enabled farmers’ organizations (FO) to hurdle many kinds of difficulties in upscaling. 

   FOs that cannot provide counterpart financing are rather asked to provide non-cash counterpart such as labor, existing facilities, and assets.  They are trained in preparing their own farm plans, business plans, business proposals and in managing their enterprise. 

   They are also assisted in reconstructing historical financial statements.  

   RAPID helps maximize the interbank arrangements of government financial institutions (DBP, LBP) with other small banks to facilitate credit and matching grants.

   “Technical assistance to Financial Service Providers and assessing their capability for designing value chain financing schemes are pursued to make them more accessible to project beneficiaries. The project focuses on sectors where investments matter.  Partnerships should have a clear business case model with profitable returns,” said Carcueva. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Govt asked to cut onerous 26-27% agri insurance tax that hinders entry of cash-rich private sector investors

April 2, 2021                                                                                                                   

The government should slash the onerous tax of 26-27% on non-life and agriculture insurance premium that blocks entry of cash-rich private sector investors that can significantly accelerate rural farm activity through financing.

  The misery of Filipino farmers is often blamed on the dearth of facilities on micro-financing and its constant aid micro-insurance.

   But agri-finance expert Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip asserts in a webinar hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) that cutting tax on insurance premium will significantly raise the number of private insurance offerings. 

   Alip is  chairman emeritus and pioneering founder of  the country’s largest microfinance firm CARD MRI (Center for Agriculture & Rural Development Inc.-Mutually Reinforcing Institutions).

   He said tax on non-life insurance, including those for crop or agriculture insurance, should be around the rate of life insurance which is only at a minimal 2%.  Other non-life insurance with high tax he cites are disaster insurance and health insurance.

   “If you want private sector participation, you must level the playing field.  You should lower down non-life premium tax (including tax for crop or agriculture insurance). I think there will be many private sector players (given this),” said Alip during SEARCA’s microinsurance forum.

   SEARCA held the virtual forum “Agricultural Investment Risks:  Empowering Smallholder Farmers through Micro-Insurance” as part of its thrust toward Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).

   Government does need to subsidize agri insurance because the regime will be market-driven.

   “It will be the law of numbers and the law of efficiency (that will work).  The gap must be addressed.  Lawmakers should make non life insurance affordable,” Alip said.

   Alip, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee (2008), stressed micro-insurance plays a significant role in boosting private sector investment in micro-financing or in extending loans to small farmers.

     Once there is insurance or a guarantee program for farmers’ loans, banks are automatically willing to lend even to small farmers, Alip said.

   CARD pays insurance claims fast — precisely because there has already been a pre-deposited insurance premium for the disaster, calamity, or typhoon.

Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip pioneers micro-financing in the Philippines

   “Within 8 hours we’ll pay.  If there’s an issue (problems) involved, in 48 hours we will pay.  The speed of payment shows how serious you are.   Microinsurance should be believable.  It should just be  like a  deposit when there’s a claim.  You pay it right away,” he said.

   Insurance or a loan guarantee is critically important in financing the marginalized farmers, in enabling them to get out of poverty.

   If farmers are paid right away, they will be able to re-invest in agriculture again after a misfortune.

   “Insurance is an important safety net so that the poor will not slide back to poverty.  If we’re able to pay farmers right away, their loyalty and affinity to insurance will be there,” he said.

   Because of digitization, CARD accelerated its payment systems.  It now pays  through mobile means (celfone).

   With the Covid 19 pandemic’s lockdowns, its clients do not need to go to its offices.  They can make payments, deposit, and withdraw online.

   CARD was put up in December 1986.  It has grown into a group of 23 mutually reinforcing institutions (MRI).

   “My vision was for a bank owned and managed by the poor.  I believe the reason why poor people are poor is not because of lack of access to resources.  It is the lack of control over resources,” he said.

   “After 10 years, we put up the first microfinance institution in the country, the CARD Bank, owned by its members.  We completely turned banking system upside down.”

   CARD Bank cut all bureaucracy in lending.  It releases loans just two days from application.

   It does not require collateral from borrowers.

CARD’s digital initiatives enable it to pay insurance claims fast.

   Instead of requiring small borrowers financial projections or feasibility studies and numerous documents, it just requires a one-page form for loan application. 

   Now it has spin-off companies engaged in lending in both rural areas and urban areas.

   It has the CARD MBA (mutual benefit association) owned by members and a non life insurance business linked with Pioneer Group

   “All policies, all regulations within the standard of the Insrance Commission, are implemented by the owners. What is our value proposition for these companies? Since they own it, we have a very small premium,” he said.

  Overhead cost of the company is only 1-2% while some insurance companies incur 40-60% overhead cost.

   CARD now has 3,482 offices in 85 provinces covering 1,577 municipalities and cities and 40,440 barangays.

   “The last frontier of the country is in Tawi Tawi, in Sitangkay.  We are present there,–

30 minutes away from there by pumpboat, you are in Malaysia.”

   It is in Balut Island in South Cotabato; 45 minutes to 1 hour from there, you are in Indonesia. It is also in Batanes, right near Taiwan.

    It has 17,157 full-time staff.  It has offices for OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in HOngkong, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

      “This is how we are exporting the technology of CARD in micro-financing and micro-insurance.”

   As of January 2021, it has so far served 7.43 million clients; insured 27.219 million individuals; has outstanding loan of P30.77 billion; savings of P28 billion; operational efficiency, 117.1%; financial sufficiency, 114.89%, number of stockholders, 120,252.

   It accounts now for 20% percent of the entire microfinance industry in the country.

   It has extended 14,761 scholarships; 9,783 graduate scholarships; and 4.693 million with access to its health services.

   It accounts for around 80% of entire insured Filipinos.  Those it insures are mostly in the poverty level who are given the chance to bounce back economically in times of difficulty and loss.

   Its repayment rate before the pandemic was 99.9 percent.  It faltered a bit due to the pandemic and is now recovering in repayment rate to a more stable 93-95%.

   “   “We’re not just in the business of microfinance and imicroinsurance. Were in the business of poverty eradication,” said Alip. “Our major focus is on very poor women.  If you’re able to help poor women to do business, their priority will always be the family, food for the children, education for the children.”

  These are among its functions:

  1. It owns hospitals, clinics and keeps doctors and nurses.  It has a pharmacy company that supports clients with affordable and generic medicine.
  2.    It has a marketing support for farmers and businesses engaged in cottage products  to help these expand and grow.
  3. It has a school on microfinance and microinsurance. 
  4. It has health insurance and hospitalization insurance
  5.    It has training programs and a school for college courses offering Entrepreneurship, Accountancy, Information Technology, and Tourism. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Plant breeders urged to use genomics to fast-track development of crops with superior traits

November 19, 2020

By Melody Mendoza Aguiba

The Philippines should tap genomics to develop crops with “novel traits” and rich nutrition content such as as Golden Rice which solves blindness-causing Vitamin A deficiency with its pro-betacarotene content hitting 14 parts per million (PPM) through “gene transformation.”

   The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has pressed plant breeders to use the technology that makes use of gene transformation to fast-track development of crops. That with superior traits such as that of pro betacarotene-rich Golden Rice.

   Golden Rice, just awaiting go-signal to be released to the market anytime, has hit pro-betacarotene (Vitamin) A rich level of 14 PPM compared to zero Vitamin A content for non-Golden Rice. PPM stands for parts per million.

Human genome mapping in 1986 started a revolution in systems biology including crop development; Credit: Natl Genome Research Institute

   Effectively, it is averting blindness for up to 500,000 children who go blind yearly due to Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).  VAD also affects immunity and increased mortality among children in the developing world including Philippines.

   Such efficacy in significant nutrition supplementation holds true too for “Zinc rice” which has reached a level of 25 to 51 PPM zinc content from zero. And “Iron rice” has likewise already reached the target at 12 to 15 PPM iron content from zero.

   These crops are among the desperately needed by end-consumers.

   Meeting such market’s needs should be the focus of genomics—an interdisciplinary field that revolutionized research in many fields — and of systems biology that started in human genome’s mapping in 1986.

   “Most important for us is genetic gain– the difference genomics gives to a new product from the original. If you have molecular markers for gene editing, that’s where you increase (and fast-track) selection (of a plant variety) with accuracy.  That  reduces  breeding cycle and product development time. You could see the genetic gain,” said Dr. Glenn B. Bregorio, SEARCA director.

   Gregorio himself was a plant breeder for 29 years at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and at hybrid vegetable producer East West Seeds.

   “I  am a plant breeder, and I’m very familiar with (molecular) marker-assisted selection.  As I get older, I realize the importance of sales, of commercialization. We should have market-aided selection so that our selection for traits should be based on the market, not only markers (molecular markers). There should always be a business component in everything we do,” Gregorio said.

Breeding with genetic selection fast-tracks development of crops with superior trait

   Breeding costs can be reduced by 32% and is even faster using genomics, he said.

   Molecular markers of desired traits in genes — identifying targeted novel or superior traits in plants — have played a huge role in fast-tracking crop development since the human genome mapping started in 1990. 

   Such desired genes – disease resistance or high yield, for example–  are inserted into the “transformed” crop.  

C4 rice now has the yellow content representing the protein corn originally has

    Genomics, and other “omics” disciplines – eg. Metabolomics which studies metabolites in relation to precision medicine in metabolic diseases–  should have huge commercial function in the following according to Gregorio:

  1. Developing more cereals by up to 45% in 2030 and raising yield of rice by 2.5% increase yearly as in the 1970-1990 era in order to meet population food demand. Rice yield growth slowed down to 1% yield yearly from 1990 to 2011.
  2.  Developing more climate-smart products as the C4 rice (ongoing development) which has “photosynthesis-efficiency” as that of corn. That means C4 rice is more drought resistant and produced with half the irrigation water used in normal rice.  It  even has 50%  yield increase due to nitrogen efficiency.

“We have to copy what has been done in corn. Because of hybrid, because of GMO (genetically modified organism), corn increased productivity very fast,” said Gregorio. Super diet rice, corn, and vegetables; low-glycemic cereals; and crops with novel traits such as the blue rose.

3. Crops grown with low carbon footprint demanded in rich markets as Europe.

Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Malunggay, dilis help fight malnutrition, SLSU developed highly marketable Malunggay Powder and Dilis Flour

September 28, 2020

Amid the threats of Covid-19, malunggay and ‘dilis’ is turning out to be a “go to” for nutrition as the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) has developed a highly marketable Malunggay Powder and Dilis Flour (MPDF).

   The SLSU in Tagkawayan, Quezon has developed the MPDF which is now a product deemed as highly marketable under the Technology and Investment Profiles (TIP) monograph series published by Southeast Asian Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).  The project is funded by the Bureau of Agriculture Research (BAR).

   Results showed that the malunggay products have met the parameters for each tool to be identified as a financially viable investment project.

   The SEARCA- feasibility study of MPDF used cash flow analysis, net present value, benefit-cost ratio, and financial internal rate return.

   SEARCA Director Glenn M. Gregorio said that SEARCA is now actively promoting technology-based innovations among local enterprises.  This is under SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan focused on Accelerating Transformation Though Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) program.

   The experts said MPDF technology can be used as food ingredient in many dishes and as flavoring to various food delicacies including ham, longganisa, tapa, sausage, pork-fish siomai, kropek, macaroni soup, porridge, polvoron, squash cake, ensaymada, pizza pie, toge, tart, and hotcake, among others. With this, it aims to increase home consumption of inexpensive yet highly nutritious food.

   The project was led by Dorris N. Gatus, project leader;  Veronica Aurea A. Rufo, project coordinator; and Nemia C. Pelayo, technical adviser.

   It also targets to create livelihood opportunities for residents and non-residents of Tagkawayan, Quezon, Philippines

   The authors of the TIP said that the technology’s market and use extends from feeding programs of school children, bakers from five municipalities in Quezon Province with high incidence of malnutrition (i.e., Tiaong, Catanuan, Dolores, Quezon, and Mulanay), and local restaurants.

   Its target consumers include other institutional buyers (e.g., bakeshops, eateries, restaurants, hotel establishments, and hospitals); entrepreneurs who are engaged in food processing business enterprises; households, particularly those with lactating mothers and malnourished children; vegetarians, especially those suffering from anemia; and government agencies implementing feeding programs.

   Many times richer in vitamin-C, malunggay (Moringa oleifera) is being touted as “better than cure” as it may help prevent many other diseases.  It has been known that fresh malunggay leaves haves seven times the vitamin C of orange, 4 times the vitamin A of carrots, and 4 times the calcium of milk.

   This popular vegetable is part of the Filipino diet for generations.  ‘Tinolang manok’, chicken cooked in papaya will not be complete without malunggay leaves.  For Ilocanos, the leaves of the malunggay and its pods are perfect when cooked with other vegetables and fish.  Those who know this often has a malunggay tree beside their house.    

   Some are now using malunggay powder to fortify the all-time favorite pan de sal. Malunggay’s use has been promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a low-cost health enhancer in poor countries around the globe.

   Millions of Filipinos, particularly children, are suffering from undernourishment and malnutrition not just because of hunger and poverty, but also because of poor diet and eating habits.  Access to nutritious food has also been identified as the reason for this alarming health concern.

   Meanwhile, dilis or Philippine anchovy, more known in its dried fish form, is abundant in the market.  While they are quite popular among the older generation, they are not a hit to the young ones.

   Like malunggay, dilis—a small, common saltwater forage fish—has been identified as rich in protein and other minerals and vitamins with high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Specifically, anchovies are a good source of minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and sodium. Moreover, anchovies are rich in vitamins such as B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12), vitamins A, C, E, and K.

   The SEARCA-published monograph on technology of malunggay products may be downloaded for free from the SEARCA website:  


   Dilis, according to BAR, paper, can is a flavouring for “sauces, salad dressings, pasta, and pizza.”  It is also a snack for the native Filipino.

   SLSU Professor Doris Gatus said sensory analysis and consumer acceptability studies have already been conducted for the MPDF. The product has also been tested in

 school feeding activities to supplement children’s nutritional requirement and intake.

    Recommended ratio for the product mix (maluggay to dilis) is 1:1, 3:1, and 3:2 (depending on the use)

   “One kilogram of fresh malunggay leaves can produce 300g malunggay-powder and 1kg. dilis (utilizing the fleshy part) can likewise produce 100g dilis powder,” said Gatus.

   Through the program,  Filipinos in rural areas are hoped to improve their productivity and while increasing home consumption of  the highly-nutritious yet inexpensive MPDF.

   “For every 100 grams of dilis flour fortified with malunggaypowder, the following nutritional values can be achieved: carbohydrates (3 percent), protein (5 percent), vitamin A (40 percent), vitamin C (2 percent), calcium (40 percent), and iron 10 (percent),” said Gatus.

Technical Panel for Agriculture reconstituted to make agriculture a poverty reduction tool, Gregorio appointed chief

August 18, 2020

A Technical Panel for Agriculture has been reconstituted by the government as part of an emerging trend to put agriculture as a preeminent policy tool in poverty reduction and economic growth that begins by massively hitching up intellectual capital.

    The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has appointed Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, director of ASEAN agency Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) as chairperson of its Technical Panel for Agriculture (TPA).

   “The reconstitution of technical panels is anchored on the need to align higher education to standards, priorities and needs in international, regional, and national settings. The experts from academe, government and industry will assist the Commission in policy formulation,” said CHED Chairman J. Prospero E. De Vera III.

   As agriculture remains a major engine of economic development in most Southeast Asian countries, Gregorio reiterated the strategic position of higher education (HEIs) to pursue initiatives on food and nutrition security.

   Development economists have long been proposing a reform in the country’s agriculture education as rural poverty has prevailed along with wealth distribution inequalities.

   Not only has interest among the youth to take a career on agriculture declined.  This has adversely affected innovation and technology development in the agriculture sector.  

   “Agricultural modernization is essential in the Philippines’ strategy for inclusive growth. The mandate of many public sector higher education institutions is to create a pool of skilled workers to increase the competitiveness of our agriculture and fisheries sector,” according to Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) President Gilberto Llanto.

   As early as in 2007, economists proposed  to former Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo three major components of the agriculture education reform. These are

policy research, institutional capacity enhancement for entrepreneurship, and support to agri-enterprise building in SUCs (state universities and colleges).

   “This program came about at a time when pressing issues on spiraling food prices, food security, climate change, and environmental degradation brought agriculture to the limelight. These have prompted calls to rethink development efforts in agriculture,” they said.

   “The support to this program recognizes that universities have a crucial role to play. Apart from being the knowledge and resource base in their localities, the SUCs should be able to churn out graduates as champions in fueling development and sustainability in the countryside.”

   Llanto said the decline in skilled labor force arising from a decrease in Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources (AFNR) enrolment makes Philippines’ future prospect in agriculture questionable.

   The proposal to Arroyo was supported by experts both from PIDS and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

   “Now is the most opportune time to implement the long overdue rationalization of SUCs to allow them to offer agri-oriented Technical Vocational Education and Training programs, focusing on agribusiness-oriented agriculture,” according to Dr. Patricio Faylon in “Higher Education in Agriculture, Trends, Prospects, and Policy Directions.

   The country’s agility in designing curricular and extension programs (technology transfer from the hands of scientists to farmers) to produce professionals who can engage in achieving food and nutrition security goals is critical, Gregorio said.

    The diversification of the agriculture sector and AFNR-related programs will significantly address the changing needs of the local and global economic environment in employment and better income.

   “Agriculture diversification, agribusiness promotion, and investment in rural and market-related infrastructure should  be pursued,” said Faylon, a former PCAARRD executive director and five other co-authors in a separate position paper on “State and Future Supply and Demand for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Graduates in the Philippines.”

   A major component of the reform is the provision of venues for students to have practical training on entrepreneurship and technology business incubation.

   HEIs and SUCs must supply the needs of business and industry for skilled labor which consequently will prop up demand for agriculture graduates.

   “SUCs might need to reinvent themselves as producers of a new breed of students and graduates like agribusiness entrepreneurs engaged in lucrative enterprises. When wage employment prospects are dim, graduates can opt to employ themselves through their self-run agricultural businesses.”

   Faylon’s co-authors are Ruperto S. Sangalang, Albert P. Aquino, Melvin B. Carlos, Richard B. Daite, and Ernesto O. Brown.

   The students themselves should have “adequate immersion” in managing and operating actual enterprises.

    This includes introducing new modes of training through Educational Income Generating Projects (E-IGPs), Technopreneurial Learning Projects (TLPs),Technology-Based Enterprise Development (DATBED), and Technology Business Incubators (TBIs), according to Faylon’s group.

   The proposal to Arroyo  envisioned AFNR graduates as professional entrepreneurs capable of “exploring and exploiting business opportunities in AFNR.”

   The PIDS and PCAARRD experts stressed, “Economic theory suggests that formal education is a productive investment in human capital, an important determinant of economic growth (quoting other economic theorist Schultz, 1971 and Becker, 1975).”

  “Education is deemed to increase the productivity and efficiency of the work force, thereby facilitating higher output, and consequently stimulating economic growth. At the micro-level, investment in education increases the potential for employment and enhances earnings of individuals ((Mincer 1958).”

   PIDS research experts said the role of agriculture and environment sectors in economic development has been placed in the backseat in favor of manufacturing and services.

   “More so is the importance of education and human resources development in the AFNR sea mctor itself,” said Roehlano M. Briones, PIDS senior research fellow.

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio

    Gregorio said reforming the agriculture curriculum in the country’s HEIs is critical in making labor competencies more relevant to  future job markets.

   Other members of the TPA from the academe are Dr. Candida Adalla and Dr. Domingo Angeles, former College of Agriculture deans from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, and Dr. Danilo Abayon from Aklan State University. Representatives from the industry are Nikole Ma. Nimfa Alicer, farmer and founder of Kalipayan Farms. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

‘Knowledge economy’ pushed; harness ‘intellectual’ capital to boost food security, economic recovery from COVID 19

July 19, 2020

The government was urged to tap “intellectual capital” of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to boost food security and economic recovery by fostering a “knowledge economy” amid the COVID 19 crisis.

   An eight-point recommendation has been pushed by experts at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) who believe developed countries have put up incentives for a “knowledge economy” (KE). 

   This is to meet their people’s needs.  KE accelerates economic growth objectives.

   Top 10 countries in 2008 that have high knowledge economic index (KEI) based on a criteria of the World Bank Institute are Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Philippines ranked 79.

   KEI measures the conduciveness of an environment to use knowledge for economic development.

   It maximizes use of human capital to enrich productivity and aid in food production and manufacturing and services industries.

   “A country like the Philippines needs an adequate cadre of researchers who appreciate the need to shorten the gap between research productivity and its translation to economic development,” according to “Food Security Amid the COVID 19 Pandemic” (FSACP).”

    “Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored.” 

   The FSACP recommendations are being pushed by Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, and Rico C. Ancog who is also with the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).

  Their recommendation is for HEI’s human capital to contribute to the development of the following priority areas relevant to four pillars of food security:

  1. Food availability— (incomplete list) commercial and industrial farming, organic farming, Big Data system, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence; urban agriculture; integrated pest management; pest and disease control, nutrient-enrichment of food; biotechnology (genetically modified food production); 
  2. Access to food —Transport and logistics (to bring food from producer to consumers), use of online and internet based solution, automated weather stations (predicting weather for more stable food production);
  3. Stability of food supply—financial technologies; agricultural policies and regulations (e.g. a ban on GM food restrains food security); and GM food labelling
  4. Utilization of food for nutrition, health and safety—transboundary food quality standards, trade regulation and standards; responsible consumption, food quality and safety, and food technology for health and wellness; bioefficacy and bioavailableit of novel products, and pesticide use and regulations.
Key priority areas for “Knowledge Economy” enhancement in agriculture

   To foster this advanced KE economic phase, incentives must be given so that the intellectual capital in HEIs (faculty, researchers) can generate commercialization tools that will meet Filipinos’ imminent needs–food security, in particular, amid the pandemic.

   Many agencies considered HEIs are also administered by the government –State Universities and Colleges (SUC). These institutions offer not only college courses but master’s and Ph.D. As part of the academic activities, considered output in HEIs are researches.

   Now, such researches must not be done just for academic exercise.  But these should reach out to the needs of society— produce food, solve hunger and malnutrition, help farmers develop into profitable entrepreneurs.  

   While agriculture HEIs in the Philippines have long been established, these institutions need to partner with the government that provides policies and funding for initiatives in technologies. 

   And their partnership should be with the private sector which has know-how in sustaining economic activities through business and commercial tools.

    Agricultural researches should have a “reorientation as seen from business perspective

 to afford systemic change of the agriculture sector,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   These are among their eight-point recommendations under an Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) collaborative setup:

  1. Provide incentives so HEIs’ human capital will stimulate generation of more revenue-producing economic activities.  The incentives are to be given based on “profit” and four other P’s – people, partnerships, patents, and product.
  2. Re-orient HEIs’ human capital so that they will generate tools in commercialization used in businesses. These are  patents in technology (for instance, food and medicine products) and other intellectual property assets (utility model, trademarks—for instance, consumer health, cosmetics, and nutrition products). 

   HEI human capital’s  reorientation must also include expertise on technology transfer systems (business models) and technology business incubation (starting new businesses). 

   These incentives empower them to partner with venture capitalists, financiers, investors and investment houses that offer IPOs or initial public offerings, and startups/entrepreneurs so their technology will be sold to consumers or end users.

  • Provide HEIs’ human capital with all they need – grants, financial assistance, conducive policies for them to legally partner  with private companies, the industry, and all enterprise stakeholders.

   These partnerships should enable them to tap the entire “supply chain” – from production of goods and services, packaging, storage, distribution, logistics, marketing, and retailing to end consumers.

  • Provide HEI human capital all they need to produce innovative and technologically advanced goods and services.  Such production of innovative goods usually come from teams and partnerships of multi-discipline experts.  Such partnerships should be encouraged.

   “(We should) provide the enabling environment for faculty members and researchers to be encouraged in mutual-learning and co-learning through the establishment of multi-and interdisciplinary research laboratories, centers, and institutes,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   KEI of the World Bank Institute is based on 4 pillars:

  1. a regime that provides incentives for the use of knowledge and in enhancing entrepreneurship;
  2. an educated/skilled population that uses knowledge;
  3. an innovation system of “firms, research centers, universities, consultants that tap a stock of knowledge to meet people’s needs and create technology;” and
  4. use of information and communication technology to share and process information.

   KE, also called “post-industrial economy” and related to “information” and “digital” economy, is a migration from the agrarian age and manufacturing (industrial) and service phases of economic development. It taps not just the basic factors of production—labor, capital, land—but largely human intellectual capital.

  These are Gregorio-Ancog’s other suggested initiatives that should be under the Academe-Industry-Government collaborative projects:

  1. Resource sharing both in  human and financial capital to facilitate strengthened linkage between basic and applied researches with the industry needs.
  2. Designing and implementing digital agriculture infrastructure and open-systems innovation systems across the agricultural supply chains.

   “For universities and research organizations managing scientific journals, investment towards real-time online publications or advanced online publication is a must to be relevant in this time where researchers need to publish their research results as early as possible and make it readily accessible to all.”

   KE evolved from the tenets of economists particularly Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter who believe that competitive advantage lies in continual innovation arising from technical knowledge.  Usually referred to here are knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and relevant multi-disciplines practiced by biotechnologists, chemists, biologists, among others. 

   Models of knowledge economies prevail in “Silicon Valley in California; aerospace and automotive engineering in Munich, Germany; Biotechnology in Hyderabad, India; electronics and digital media in Seoul, South Korea; and petrochemical and energy industry in Brazil,” according to Sanna Ojanpera and co-authors of the “Engagement in the Knowledge Economy: Regional Patterns of Content Creation with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.”

   “The need to ensure that research efforts would have significant societal impacts is a philosophy that must be widely upheld. Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored so it can be customized to their specific needs,” said Gregorio and Ancog. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Small Mindanao vegetable farmers, Dong Lieu starch farmer- processors in Vietnam now ‘agricultural clustering’ success models

June 1, 2020

Small Mindanao vegetable farmers and the Dong Lieu cassava starch farmer-processors in Vietnam have levelled up to global competitiveness, being now success models of “agricultural clustering” and of achieving efficiencies through ‘economies of scale.’

   The Mindanao farmers have raised income by 47% after having been aided by a project of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) focused on organizing them to become somehow “big.”

Tomatoes yield higher through technologies obtained from agricultural clustering

   The Catholic Relief Services was also an institutional support.

   The Mindanao model, along with the Dong Lieu Root Crop Center (DLRCC-Vietnam) and the Malaysian Rice Cluster (MRC) are also now success models of the more profitable agricultural clustering.

  This was reported by think tank Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in a study authored by Dr. Glenn M. Gregorio and six researchers.

   “Small is beautiful.  But big is powerful,” said Gregorio, also SEARCA director.

   Upon having been organized, Mindanao farmers collectively raised their production for nine vegetables out of a total of 11 that they grow.

   The increased volume of produce was accompanied by an increase in value. 

   This is as the united group captured the market of institutional buyers— supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, and fast food chains.

   Selling to these bigger customers became possible as the combined farmers had a bigger volume of produce.  This empowered them to negotiate for a higher price.

   They raised revenue from sweet pepper from (figures approximated) P27,000 when they were yet disorganized to P39,000 upon clustering; bitter gourd, from P5,100 to P13,000; squash, from P1,000 to P10,000; and eggplant, from P4,500 to P41,000.

   The other gainers were chayote, from P3,000 to P28,000; string beans, from P3,000 to P3,500; tomato, from 9,000 to P42,000; okra, and from 2,000 to 4,000.

   The winning was also true in terms of net income for each of the vegetables.  For  sweet pepper, bottomline recovered from a loss of (figures approximated) P11,000 to a positive earnings of P22,000; bitter gourd, from P2,000 to P9,000; squash, from a loss of P1,000 to a net income of P7,000. 

   For chayote, it was a leap of net gain from P1,000 to P27,000; string beans, from P1,000 to P2,000; tomato, from P4,000 to P24,000; and okra, from P500 to P2,000.

Clustered farmers are more productive, more powerful

   At the Dong Lieu Root Crop Processing Center in Vietnam, farmers succeeded as the cluster enabled them to produce h igher-valued, higher-priced cassava starch.     

   They used to just grow raw cassava and canna roots. Now they are not just farmers but food processors.

   “They extracted and processed the starch through grating, filtering, and sedimentation.  The  actors of the clusters extended from root crop producers, root crop traders, starch processors,” said SEARCA.

   Their association with each other empowered them to use technology in farming to produce bigger quantity of the root crops. 

   “It also introduced the use of equipment, such as mechanical filtration, root washer, water filters, and tiling of tank walls with ceramic tiles to improve quality. The diffusion of technology  were greatly influenced by the linkages built with local engineers.”

   The cluster became an organized group of not only farmers but root traders  (built links with cassava and canna production zones in other provinces; communal engineers (repaired old and built new machines); and residue collectors (collected root processing by-product from household processors).

   The other cluster players are fish/pig raisers (utilized by-product of residue collector in fish and pig production as feeds) and maltose processor  (purchased starch from household processors for maltose production.

   There are also candy manufacturer that make candy from maltose, starch refiners and traders, and canna noodle makers.

. In another success model, the Malaysian Rice Cluster  remained to be producers of the Asian staple— rice– before and after  organizing themselves.

   The difference that raised their productivity and competitiveness is knowledge transfer between farmers and the ability to produce more.  This was after having availed of credit from Agrobank.  They also received government subsidy.

      “(Knowledge transfer) pertains to  appropriate input use. Information was obtained through informal channels such as observation of good practices from neighboring farmers.  This also includes information about the prevailing market risk, source of inputs, and awareness of new technologies.”

   The Malaysian cluster was able to attract more winning stakeholders that support each other–  local enterprises and market, research and development agencies, financial institutions, government agencies, and other marketing firms.

   The success of these organized farmers were attributable to several factors, according to Gregorio and co-authors Rodolfo V. Vicerra, Rico C. Ancog, Nikka Marie P. Billedo,  Rebeka A. Paller, Ma. Christina G. Corales, and Imelda L. Batangantang.

   First, farmers were linked to each other.  They were able to share the same techniques and best practices in farming- exchanging innovation in production.

  Marketing-wise, they have been able to commit a fixed quantity and a level of quality of produce to institutional buyers that demand a bigger volume of quality supply.  Their ability to supply the quantity and quality enabled them to negotiate for the higher price.

   Small farms that are “clustered” to achieve economies of scale face vast economic opportunities from the globalized market—only if they are aided to organize.

   “There are 500 million small and medium farms worldwide, 87 percent of which are in Asia Pacific.  Majority  are in remote locations and are geographically dispersed, making it harder for them to access modern technology, services, and information. Their profit margin is negatively affected by the market intermediaries involved in the value chain who could take advantage of the farmers’ limited knowledge of the market.”

    “They face difficulty in entering bigger and overseas markets where they can sell their produce at a higher price.  They experience higher transaction costs due to changing preferences of the consumers, which resulted in different and new sets of standards and regulations set by larger firms. Smallholder farms lose competitiveness, relative to the commercial farms, due to difficulty in accessing financial institutions and modern innovations that would help boost their productivity.” Melody Mendoza Aguiba