Reaping what they sow, the members of KALASAG Farmers Producers Cooperative in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija was recently granted a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certificate by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Bureau of Plant and Industry (BPI) for white onions, confirming that the cooperative ensures food quality and safety.
The GAP standards enable farmers to address different aspects of on-farm production and post-production processes that result in safe and quality agricultural products. It covers food safety, consistent quality produce, worker’s health, safety and welfare, and environmental management.
BPI inspected KALASAG farms last February for GAP qualification. A month after, BPI and DA qualified 41 KALASAG farmers for the GAP certification. “We told them that GAP certification is just simple, they just need to be more careful when it comes to the safety of their products. The farmers were very optimistic about it even though it seemed impossible for them at first. In fact, they are the first cooperative in the country to receive GAP certificates,” said DA Region III GAP Inspector Angel Tulabut.
“We are happy to be regarded as ‘Certified GAP Farmers’. Our market will surely expand and we can now enter the international market because we already met the standards,” said KALASAG member Ferdinand Gomez of the certification.
Of this, KALASAG General Manager Wencelito Gomez explained, “We hope this serves as an inspiration to other farmer groups. The GAP accreditation will help improve their farming practices and their lives. We hope that the day will come when all farmers will have improved lives. And we thank Jollibee Group Foundation for helping us reach our dreams.”
Bridging the GAP
KALASAG is one of the first partners of Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) in its Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP), which aims to help smallholder farmers achieve a more sustainable livelihood and increase their income by linking them to the supply chain of institutional markets like Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC). KALASAG has been regularly supplying white onions to JFC since 2009. In 2016, KALASAG delivered close to 500 metric tons of white onions to the food service company.
KALASAG learned about GAP through JGF and decided to make GAP accreditation one of their main projects. “JGF helped us through trainings on leadership and agro-enterprise, and giving us an option for a sure market. We are also able to use all the knowledge that we learned from FEP in our transactions with other institutional buyers and get more opportunities that help us and our community“, said KALASAG Chairman Arnold Dizon.
JGF has been implementing FEP since 2008 and has trained more than 1,800 farmers. Twelve farmer groups from Luzon and Visayas regularly supply to JFC, and have delivered more than 2,000 metric tons of vegetables to the company. FEP has proven that by combining the elements of market, finance, and agro-enterprise clustering, farmers could meet the volume, quality and timeliness requirements of institutional buyers.
“If a farmer is poor, then so is the whole country.”
So goes a Polish proverb that has its own relevance in the Philippines. For a country so blessed with diversity of natural resources, it is ironic that our farmers remain to be among the poorest in our society. Year on year, our farmers make decisions based on resources available to them, and keeping a watchful eye on increasingly erratic weather patterns. It’s no surprise, then, that we are slowly losing the battle of numbers: for every year that passes, our farmers get older and smaller in quantity. Most of their children opt for city jobs in factories or call centers where the financial rewards are perceived as better felt and easier achieved.
Farming as a Profession of Hope
However, for every farmer that gives up, there are a number of farmers who still choose to hope. Even with the odds stacked up against them and their community, they seek opportunities to change the one thing that they are in full control of — their mindset. That is why Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) endeavored to find a way to help change mindsets of Filipino farmers. Together with partners, JGF established the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP) in 2008 which assists farmers increase their productivity potential, and earn more for their labor.
Michael Regencia of the Caoayan Onion Growers Multipurpose Cooperative from Caoayan, Ilocos Sur is one of the partners under the program. He shares that being a farmer in these uncertain times can be challenging. “As a farmer, life is difficult. I never had a formal education. I used to be very reserved and did not want to talk to people. I never would have thought that I would become an officer in a group, let alone manage a cooperative,” said Regencia.
The cooperative he speaks of was one formed with his fellow onion farmers by the Nueva Segovia Consortium of Cooperatives (NSCC) in partnership with JGF. Registered as the Caoayan Onion Growers Cooperative, Michael and his colleagues went through a series of trainings where they learned business skills, product pricing and linking with the right markets. “As a cooperative, we now own and manage all the operations. We have benefits and access to resources like seeds, fertilizer and other farming technologies that would be difficult to get if we were working individually as farmers,” he added.
Given the small size of the lands that they individually farm, the group discovered that the power of collective marketing has given them the opportunity to earn more as a cooperative. The strength they found in numbers also gave them the opportunity not only to consolidate their produce but also to put their heads together and visualize how to enrich their productivity. When before, most of the farmers in the area would plant crops with no clear plan, they now understand the value of a logical farm plan and a viable business plan. “We used to plant crops based on what seemed to be selling for high prices in the market, even if we didn’t have sure buyers.” Removing the guesswork from their jobs has given them the confidence that they are now more in control of their fate. “FEP didn’t teach us just how to be good farmers, but how to be businessmen. Best of all, it gave us a steady market for our products,” Michael happily shared.
JGF took it a step further in 2016 by developing the FEP Leadership for Agro-enterprise Development (LeAD). Twenty-two farmer-leaders and members from eleven partner farmer groups that directly supplied to JFC were tapped to become “fellows.” They took part in activities geared towards developing their leadership and entrepreneurial potential in the hope that they will apply their enhanced skills for their personal and organizational growth. Another FEP partner, Richard Sabdao of the Mayon Farmers Association from Camalig, Albay shared, “The most important lesson I learned from LeAD is the formation of a leader to inspire his group and perform with excellence.” The biggest goal of the program is to create their own Action Learning Project (ALP) which they themselves should design, implement and evaluate. Their ALPs should aim to develop their organization’s sustainability and growth. But it doesn’t end there.
“Beyond the program, we envision that the fellows will form a network of farmer leaders who support each other and champion the idea of farming as an enterprise,” says Ms. Grace Tan Caktiong, the President of JGF. As part of the program’s culmination, JGF recognized the Fellows’ hard work and accomplishments on January 19, 2017 in EDSA Shangri-la Hotel. “We hope to celebrate with them as they mark the end of their LeAD journey,” she adds.
It seems then that success really starts with the right mindset. Hopefully, valuing our farmers’ work and appreciating how our daily survival depends on their good welfare encourage the support it deserves from more institutions. The success of farmers like Michael and Richard can become the norm. “As a farmer, the FEP program has made a big impact on my life. In terms of my livelihood, I see that we are continuously improving. I know that I can now give a better future to my children especially through education,” Michael shared.
If we can hear these words more often from our Filipino farmers, maybe then we have better hope of a sustainable livelihood for our smallholder farmers and ensuing food security for all.
Click here to know more about the Farmer Entrepreneurship Program.
Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF), in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Capas, Tarlac launched the Busog, Lusog, Talino (BLT) Kitchen for School Feeding, a pilot initiative that supports the implementation of DepEd’s School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP).
JGF established the BLT Kitchen in Capas Gabaldon Elementary School and provided standards on food production, safety and cleanliness. The model aims to ensure the preparation of safe and quality food with less time and effort. Through the BLT Kitchen, the school, together with parent volunteers, prepare meals and allocate portions for distribution to four other schools in Capas enabling them to serve more than 600 pupils in four (4) hours.
Speaking at the BLT Kitchen Launch and Commitment Signing on October 23, 2015, DepEd Undersecretary Mario Deriquito said that their agency is currently assessing different implementation models for the nationwide coverage of its SBFP.
“From 2013 to 2015, SBFP has grown about 30 times. Next year, we are expecting the program to increase further to about 60% so that the program will cover all severely wasted and wasted pupils in all public elementary schools nationwide,” said Deriquito. “The BLT Kitchen located in one school that will serve the needs of four other schools is a good model that will help the Department of Education make the feeding program more effective,” he added.
Ensuring safe and quality food
Food safety and cleanliness has been a major component of the BLT Program since it started in 2007. According to the school principal, Mrs. Nimfa de Guzman, all parent volunteers underwent food safety seminars and medical exams before the start of the program. “Dapat naka complete uniform sila. Meron silang hairnet, apron, gloves, at saka tamang footwear. Meron din mga quality standards na naka-post na dapat sinusunod.”
“Naglilinis kami bago magsimula magluto” said Alma Yuson, one of the 11 parent volunteers. “Hinuhugasan namin lahat ng mga sangkap bago magluto.”
“Para sa akin, mas madali ito kaysa sa iba’t-ibang eskwelahan nanggagaling yung pagkain para isahan na lang ang pagluto,” said head cook Elma Capil. “May supplier na nagdadala ng mga kailangan lutuin dito kaya hindi na kami namamalengke.”
A Public-Private Partnership Model
DepEd Schools Division Superintendent of Tarlac, Dr. May Batenga Eclar noted that the approach demonstrates effective inter-agency collaboration in the most cost efficient manner. While JGF’s support is the establishment of the kitchen facility and putting the kitchen system in place, the schools are responsible for overseeing daily feeding operations. Meanwhile, funds for feeding come from the DepEd SBFP budget. The LGU of Capas provides the medical exam for parents and the transportation requirements for the delivery of cooked food to four recipient schools.
“The pooling of talents, expertise, and resources from each member of the community will ensure that the objective of SBFP, that is to improve the health condition of our identified school children, is achieved,” said Eclar.
Feeding the future
Hon. Victor A. Yap, Governor of the Province of Tarlac, committed to allocate funds for the replication of this approach to school feeding.
“Before our term ends, we would like to ensure that Tarlac will be one of the first provinces where the central kitchen model is applied province-wide. We are willing to allocate Php 5 million from our funds for the development of the BLT kitchen approach in all municipalities of Tarlac,” announced Gov. Yap.
With the help of the local government, Gov. Yap also promised to incentivize home-based feeding programs to ensure that hunger is addressed at home beyond the days covered by the school feeding.
JGF President Grace Tan Caktiong expressed her gratitude to DepEd for undertaking a massive school feeding program that will address hunger and malnutrition among public school pupils across the country.
“From JGF’s years of supporting more than 1,500 schools nationwide through BLT, we are deeply pleased to witness the nationwide government support for school feeding.” said M’ Grace.
On behalf of JGF and Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), M’ Grace pledged continued support for the public-private partnership with DepEd.
“When we proposed the BLT Kitchen model, our objective was to put in place the structures and systems we have learned from JFC and from BLT over the years to facilitate effective SBFP implementation. With this pilot, we hope to gather our learnings and determine the feasibility of this model in helping SBFP achieve its goals,” concluded M’ Grace.
Click here to see how the BLT Kitchen works!
Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) took home a total of seven (7) awards, including three Gold Anvils for programs under its Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF), in the recently concluded Anvil Awards. The company was recognized for continuously promoting positive social values across the country.
The award-winning JGF programs were: Busog, Lusog, Talino School Feeding Program, which provided nutritious lunch meals for the most undernourished pupils in partner schools to facilitate more effective learning; and Farmer Entrepreneurship Program, which linked smallholder farmers with the supply chain of JFC to promote inclusive business growth. JGF also won for its “Stories of Change” videos, which shared the compelling stories of partners behind the success of JGF’s programs.
Established in 2004, JGF has remained true to its mission to implement community programs that create sustainable impacts and promote Jollibee’s values of excellence, humility, honesty, and integrity.
Another winning campaign of JFC is for its proudly-Filipino brand, Greenwich Pizza, which received accolades for the #UltimateBandkada Search, a competition that required groups to mash different musical styles together to form a barkadasong, in celebration of camaraderie and collaboration in the face of diversity.
Far from its roots as a simple over-the-counter pizza store back in 1971, Greenwich Pizza has grown into one of the largest and most loved pizza chains in the country today.
The company’s flagship brand, Jollibee, also reaped awards for its recognition of Filipino families’ roles in values formation through the Jollibee Family Values Awards, and for the opening of its 900th store in Palo, Leyte, a milestone for the company.
One of the Philippines’ top companies since the 1980s, the Jollibee brand has grown far beyond its roots as an ice cream parlor in the 1970s, maturing into the largest and most popular fast food chain in the country.
Dubbed as the “Oscars” of the local PR industry, the Anvil Awards is the annual recognition bestowed by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines upon shining examples of marketing, public relations, and corporate communications excellence.