Negotiating A New Terrain: Women Farmers in the Philippines

ma.chona lasaca
Posted January 31, 2015 from Philippines

In the olden days, it was enough for farmers to plant crops and by harvest time, go to the village market to sell whatever they produce. But with the opening of a borderless economy under the ASEAN integration which is set to take effect this year, farmers cannot afford anymore to just sit and wait for a trader to buy their product. Pitted against other Asian farmers, majority of the Filipino farmers are at the disadvantage because of inefficient production, losses due to the typhoons, poor infrastructure and declining government support.

But as competition becomes intense with cheaper agricultural products coming in from Indonesia or other neighboring Asian country, the farmers are under increasing pressure to become more competitive or else be left out in the cold. Being competitive means being able to produce more cheaply at the right time while ensuring that the quality is better. That means, to cut the cost and maximize profit, they have to consolidate their produce and cut through the intermediaries and engage the big buyers themselves.But negotiating with the big buyers requires them also to have the necessary volume and quality.

In response to these challenges, non-profit organizations in the Philippines such as the Xavier Science Foundation, are helping women and men farmersorganize themselves into production clusters and engage in group marketing by linking with buyers, preferrably institutional buyers. This is what is happening among cassava farmers under a cooperative run mostly by women farmers in a remote community in Misamis Oriental, Philippines.

Civil Societies such Xavier Science Foundation, in partnership with the government, provide business development services that aims to build the capacity of the farmers’ cooperative to negotiate their way through the market while improving how their crops are grown. Using the Value-Chain approach, a team of business development consultants are teaching farmers to understand how the local cassava industry works, to find ways how to become more efficient and to work around the dynamic market. Suddenly, the market they come to know is turning to be bigger than they realize. They now know that it is important to check first who their buyers are and what their demands are , before they decide what kind of cassava variety to plant.

“When we started the business of buying the cassava products of our members, we didn’t have a concrete plan,” Erlinda Cagmat, the leader of the cooperative recalled . “ But now, we realize that we need to put all our plans into a business plan. With a business plan, we don’t have to commit as many mistakes as we did. “

Emma Dagondon, the manager, is upbeat . “We can deliver what our buyer requires if only we have more capital and better post-harvest facilities”, she said."As farmers we have to be organized in our production and marketing order to have better income.”

As leaders of the cooperative, these women are stepping up to their new role as business managers.They are mastering the negotiating skills needed to deal with big traders. They are learning more about the different actors of the market chain.They are looking for ways to cut their marketing cost so that it will not eat up their profits. They know that cassava processed into granules gives them more income that just selling fresh tubers.

On the other hand, they are also struggling to operate their production and marketing of cassava granules because of inadequate capital and lack of access to drying facilities. They are still hesitant to obtain a production loan because of the high risk involve when giving out loans to their farmer-members.As leaders, they know their members need to be more responsible in using loans and in paying back.

They are on the lookout for resources that they can tap to be able to put up a dryer for their cassava chips. They are also looking for support in terms of accessing better credit services for their members. As the Filipino farmers negotiate their way through this new terrain, it is increasingly urgent that they be provided with adequate support by the government and private sector so that they become more competitive with their Asian counterpart and seize the opportunities that this new terrain brings to bring them closer to the goal of economic empowerement.

Comments 4

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Yvette Warren
Jan 31, 2015
Jan 31, 2015

Such progress taking place because of cooperation. This is wonderful news! Small farmers in the USA have used co-ops for many years. It is so much better than the individuals attempting to be treated fairly by the com[petitive corporations. 

Thank you,Ma.Chona, for sharing this inspiring story.

Thank you for being a blessing upon our shared earth.

Yvette

LeanaM
Feb 05, 2015
Feb 05, 2015

Thank you for sharing this store, Ma. Chona.  It's interesting how all around the world there are so many parallels - things like this have definitely been happening in our hemisphere as well, especially with all of the farmers have suffered dire consequences in Central America due to the NAFTA and CAFTA (North American/Central American Free Trade Agreement).   There have also been collectives an cooperatives that have formed, with varying levels of success.  Here is some information about that: NCBA.

I was thinking about what you said in regards to credit and capital...are there no institutions that provide micro-loans?  For example, organizations like Grameen Bank or Kiva don't exist there?  It seems like there is a serious need for some microfinancing organizations to support these farmers.  Perhaps someone else here has suggestions about these organizations?

Thanks again for sharing this perspective...

ma.chona lasaca
Feb 09, 2015
Feb 09, 2015

Hi Leana! I will try to check the site that you have mentioned and learn how farmers in Central America are dealing with the free trade agreements. There are micro-finance organizations here but are mostly focused on off-farm  businesses because they are also wary of the high risk that characterizes agricultural loan. The farmers need to be educated on handling credit responsibly. We are actually planning to hold a forum soon with MFIs and farmers to encourage the MFIs to invest in agriculture more. 

Yvette Warren
Mar 24, 2015
Mar 24, 2015

This post may be of some help in your efforts: 

Do you know Novine and her mobile payment program and microfinance program? https://www.worldpulse.com/en/node/36345 

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