President Noynoy Aquino is pushing for inclusive growth. While the significant economic gains have benefited the entire nation, more of the benefits should be received by the less privileged in our society. Poverty and unemployment should be addressed more directly.
This is where the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) come in. DSWD caters to the welfare needs of the poor sector, while DA should create more employment opportunities in the countryside, where most of the poor people are.
We recommend here a national DA-DSWD joint program to address poverty and unemployment through soy.
There is an on-going free exhibit and demonstration of soy’s benefits that started yesterday and ends tomorrow. Held at SM Megamall in Edsa, it will show how a P50 investment can give a return of P10,450 in three months. Here is the summary of how it happens, which was described in detail in last week’s commentary.
The P50 is used to buy and plant a kilo of soy. In three months, this will yield 25 kilos of soy. Processing this will result in 200 liters of soy milk and 12.5 kilos of sapal (soy meal) which can provide protein and be made into delicious soy bola-bola. At P46 per liter of milk and P140 per kilo of bola-bola, this results in P9,200 and P1,750 respectively. Thus, a P50 investment will have a gross return of P10,950.
Let us now look at how this works for a poor family. A poor family of five ideally needs 10 glasses of milk a day and added food protein of half a kilo. After processing the soy, the family will enjoy nutritious food at a value of P146 a day (P76 for milk, and P70 for bola-bola).
Roles of DSWD and DA
The DSWD can identify the priority families to be taught the soy technology. The DA can then assist the LGU agriculture extension in providing this technology.
At the start, this initiative will benefit individual families who will produce their own milk and soy bola-bolas. But since the first investment in soy planting will yield more soybeans, this can expand to the production of milk and food beyond the families’ needs. This is the opportunity to start a small business. Thus, the challenges of poverty and employment can be addressed through soy.
An added innovation is for the soy program to be made a part of the DSWD Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCT) in selected areas. Right now, a poor family gets a monthly cash maximum of P1,400. This is on condition that the children have health checkups and go to school while the mothers go to pre- and post natal care and attend parental sessions.
In a sense, this is giving the poor families “fish.” But teaching them “how to fish” is still lacking. An added condition that can be made in the selected DA-DSWD CCT areas is for these families to learn how to grow and process soy into milk and food.
The DA-DSWD partnership is already succeeding in some areas. An example is the DA-DSWD project catalyzed by the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF). The KDF, with Manuel Pangilinan as Chair and Benigno Ricafort as President, suggested that poor families had to be trained in income generation on the assumption that the CCT program will expire.
Thus, KDF now sponsors training programs on a regular basis, given by DA and LGU extension workers for CCT beneficiaries. There is a free KDF-DA-DSWD jointly sponsored soy seminar on Friday, Oct. 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University, Bacolor, Pampanga (0917-8403711).
We recommend that this be done in a systematic way by DA and DSWD, perhaps with NGO support, on a national level, and that soy be a priority unifying point for this undertaking.
Soybean Program National Technical Working Group (TWG) Chair Rose Marie Aquino (0915-4622438) says: “Soy is the best beneficial crop that can help poor farmers”.
She is probably right.
Soy promotes health through organic nutrition, unifies the family with each member helping in the growth and processing of soy for milk and food, and has good business potential with such a small investment. I ask: “What P50 investment can yield a value of more than P10,000 in three months?
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax 8522112).