Inclusive growth key to peace and prosperity in Mindanao

An inclusive atmosphere in business is necessary to maintain the gains of peace and continue the enabling environment for prosperity in Mindanao.

This was emphasized by Dr. Annette Pelkmans-Balaoing, Escaping the Middle-Income Trap: Chains for Change (EMIT C4C) convenor, during a workshop in UP Diliman on July 12, 2019.

“In the context of conflict and war, we need markets to be humane. We need markets to be inclusive,” she said.

Pelkmans-Balaoing cited the case of Unifrutti Tropical Philippines, a firm that invested in a 1,300-hectare banana plantation called La Frutera in Maguindanao, and their relationship with the community and the farmers operating there.

Unifrutti, she said, recognized the land rights of the people in Maguindanao; it employed former rebels or combatants to build trust and establish relationships.

“Investment usually expose you to higher risk. but in this sense, investment in the form of social capital lessens the risk in operating in a risky environment," she added.

According to Senen Bacani, chair of Peace and Equity Foundation and one of the co-founders of La Frutera, this success is due to the recognition that peace and development should always come together.

“Unifrutti went there for profit, but we believed that to do that, we needed to take care of the people, community, and environment,” he said.

Bacani further noted that cultural sensitivity matters in dealing with the social realities on the ground.

“If people trust you, they will do what you requested them to do. We always wanted to work with community leaders in the area,” he said.

Other topics such as the proposed details of a model Islamic community and logistics, and opportunities and challenges in connecting different producers and players in agriculture and urban markets in Mindanao were also discussed.

PEF is a partner in the EMIT C4C, a research program under the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies that collaborates with the Partnerships Resource Center of the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University), seeks to understand the conditions for enhancing the competitiveness and inclusiveness of agriculture value chains. EMIT C4C, for instance, studies how smallholder farmers are linked with mainstream companies and social enterprises.