Team Philippines is flying to Manila on Friday to partner with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in addressing the needs of farmers in the Philippines. The team will be splitting up into two groups for the majority of the week. One team will be staying in Luzon, the largest island and the economic and political center of the Philippines; the second team will head to the southernmost island of Mindanao, the most economically impoverished island that is also very fertile and rich in resources.
Team Philippines is primarily attempting to determine where the key financing gaps are in agriculture. The team will also look at the possibility of bringing a mid-level lending opportunity to the Philippines to help clusters and cooperatives expand operations, add value to their products, and increase yields and storage capacities. The team will attempt to assess the current level of financing available to farmers and cooperatives and whether mid-level capital investments would help move farmers beyond strictly subsistence-level farming.
The team is eager to learn from the long-term involvement of CRS in the Philippines. CRS has worked in the Philippines since 1945 and has been involved in agroenterprise since 2005. In the agroenterprise sector, CRS has focused on organizing farmers into single-crop clusters. The organizing of small groups of farmers into clusters allows the farmers to collectively produce sufficient quantities of product in order to reach markets and buyers directly, without having to sell their products to mobile traders who pay only a fraction of market value.
Team Philippines will be meeting with many of the clusters and cooperatives that CRS has organized. The team also has meetings and interviews planned with other key stakeholders: microfinance organizations, government agencies, insurance providers, corporate markets/buyers, traders, CRS’ NGO partners, among others.
The team is excited to hear from all key stakeholders in agriculture to get a sense of how more farmers in the Philippines can move beyond subsistence-level farming and ensure secure livelihoods well into the future.