Food security, agri-aqua enterprises amid COVID-19 crisis featured in #PEFtalks 3

The third installment of #PEFtalks highlighted the challenges and efforts of the partners of the Peace and Equity Foundation in helping their communities during this pandemic and devising potential solutions to combat the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

Norberto De Guzman of Center for Agriculture and Rural Development - Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), Nasrudin Buisan of TipidTanim Challenge, Therese Domine of Kalsada Coffee Roasters Inc., and Armel Amparo of Yakap of Halik Multi-Purpose Cooperative shared their work towards strengthening food security, bringing agricultural products to markets, and promoting cooperativism amid the pandemic.

CARD MRI’s support to farmers

CARD MRI’s Agricultural Program Head, Norberto De Guzman shared how their agri-finance program is catering to their farmer members, through provision of loans from PHP 5,000 to PHP 5 million. Their other programs include ‘Binhi’ which gives crop insurance up to PHP 10,000 for rice and corn; “Balikatan” for the consolidation of vegetable and fruits produce of farmers to supermarkets; and “Likha ni Inay” for marketing and promotion of agri-products.

He, however, noted that disbursement for the agri-finance program this year decreased due to travel restrictions and lockdown. They also suspended their trade facilitation program that provides capacity building activities to members because of low turn-out of enrollees.

Backyard farming for food security

When local governments throughout the country started implementing community quarantines, Agriculturist Nasrudin “Naz” Buisan said he feared that the restrictions would cause food shortage in the country.

“Tipid Tanim Challenge (Tita C) began in March after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. We believe that prolonged lockdowns will cause problems in food security with reports of stoppage of rice exportation from countries such as Vietnam and the restrictions of mobility of goods,” Naz said.

Tita C advocated actively in the Bangsamoro region for food conservation (Tipid) and food growing (Tanim) through backyard farming and gardening. It was mobilized mainly through social media with the support from the local government, academe, media and other civil society organizations. Seeds that were procured through donations were sent to pick-up points and distributed for free to those who wanted to plant in their backyards.  The social media page of Tita C also shares basic home gardening tips and agriculturists are also giving answers to farming concerns.

Tapping other markets for more sources of income

Because of the lockdowns, Tere Domine said that a huge challenge Kalsada Coffee faced was limited transportation, causing their coffee products to be stuck in farms. Restriction in the ports further delayed exporting of coffee.

With these constraints and low demand on local coffee, Kalsada shifted to homebrewing as customers are settling in working from their homes.

“We also boosted our online presence. Some of our kababayans abroad are also ordering so they can have extra income,” she said.

Tere emphasized the need to improve digital presence to tap the international market and attract customers worldwide.

Embracing cooperativism

Recognizing the hardships of households with the loss of livelihood, Yakap at Halik provided food packs to its members and implemented moratoriums on loan payments when the pandemic began.

Yakap at Halik further promoted the spirit of cooperativism to uplift their members during the crisis.

“We also strengthened consolidation of our fishers and we continue to tap other markets like fish ports and local markets to ensure our members have income. Some of our employees even lowered their wages temporarily. Our members also buy our products to boost the coop's profit and support other members,” Yakap at Halik General Manager Armel Amparo said.

Ways Forward for PEF

PEF Executive Director Roberto Calingo avowed that the Foundation will look into supporting diversification and food security to help households withstand the continuing effects of the pandemic.

“There is a very strong message that we should diversify our livelihood and ensure food security. What we need to do is to connect them and look into ways that will positively impact the households.” he said.

 #PEFtalks are online learning events organized by PEF that tackle relevant topics in search for moving forward strategies and solutions under the new normal.