Ironically, despite our high economic growth, unemployment and poverty is still on the rise. The solution to that is inclusive growth.
But you cannot have inclusive growth unless you address the sector that has been left behind: agriculture. This is where the most underemployment and poverty takes place.
By itself, the Department of Agriculture (DA) cannot significantly uplift the agriculture sector. The approach must be inclusive agriculture. This means many different sectors must work together to achieve this goal. We saw inclusive agriculture in action over the last few days.
On the 27th anniversary of the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF) last Feb. 23, KDF worked hand in hand with the DA to showcase what inclusive agriculture can do. Spearheading the DA was Fernando Lorenzo, regional head of the High Value Crops Division. He is fully supported by Regional Director Andrew Villacorta and Secretary Proceso Alcala.
How the KDF teamed up with the DA to promote inclusive agriculture is a model others can follow.
The foundation was founded 27 years ago with former DTI Secretary Rizalino Navarro as chair. It started with the program “Rural Industrialization Can Happen (RICH),” and initiated the One Product, One Town (Otop) strategy, which the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is actively promoting today.
KDF also established productivity centers after the Mount Pinatubo eruption. The centers today help to fill thousands of world-class sustainable jobs.
Seven years ago, PLDT’s Manny Pangilinan was elected the second KDF chair. He recommended focusing on People with Disabilities (PWD).
Since then, KDF has established the only hospital in Asia that gives free services to poor PWDs. That strategy emphasizes the inclusive nature of the foundation’s work. So far, it has helped 58,414 PWDs using this approach.
With the Jesus Datu Medical Center as its base, KDF partnered with several other groups such as PGH, UERM, and Arellano University to provide artificial legs for poor amputees. Another partner, Physicians for Peace and the Central Luzon Society of Opthalmology, help out those who need cataract operations and eyeglasses, while proponents of Operation Smile and the Rotary Club tend to those needing hairlip operations.
In 2012, KDF approved Pangilinan’s recommendation to add an initiative for agriculture livelihood programs, starting with the PWDs and the poorest of the poor. He advocated the same partnership approach to attain inclusive agriculture.
We saw some of the significant results in the last few days.
Last Saturday, Secretary Corazon Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Pampanga Chamber of Commerce president Jimmy Jimenez signed a memorandum of agreement, under which the chamber committed to help market the products produced by beneficiaries of the DSWD’s Community Cash Transfer (CCT) program and who were trained by KDF.
A day later, more than 700 participants attended the KDF-DA daylong training session and were assisted by dzMM’s Louie Tabing in his radio program. To show the inclusive nature of this effort, other radio stations such as Radyo ng Bayan, DZAS, and Eagle helped promote this activity.
Cognizant of the local governments’ primary responsibility to develop agriculture, municipalities such as Mexico, Mabalacat, Minalin and Magalang sent their officials to participate in the training as well. Mayor Edwin Santiago of San Fernando, Pampanga, stayed the whole day to learn how his LGU could help promote inclusive agriculture.
One of the highlights of the session was the presentation of Honorio Bungay (0921-2053368), president of KDF Satellite Nursery Association.
Bungay talked of how everyone could participate in achieving KDF’s objective of planting 1 million certified fruit trees in 10 years.
Another project that was proposed was a solar lighting device presented by student-inventor Ricky Macolor (0915-8110310).
He showed how small farmers could assemble this device that would cost a one-time investment of P550, or P24 a month for two years. This is much less than the equivalent monthly kerosene expenses of P600 a month.
The Alyansa Agrikultura provided follow-up sessions and organized participants into groups, which could undertake doable action programs.
New participants included former Finance Secretary Ernest Leung and his agribusiness entrepreneur wife, Edwina Nepomuceno, who joined the One Million Certified Fruit Tree project.
What attracted them to this project was the idea that small farmers could plant two or three fruit trees, which could finance the tuition of their children.
This past weekend, we saw how local governments, the DSWD, state universities, NGOs, as well as trade groups and people’s organizations, such as Alyansa Agrikultura, take part in the DA-KDF inclusive agriculture strategy.
The Agriculture department cannot do the job alone. As Hillary Clinton had said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Cabinet secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112.)
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