Mr. Roberto R. Calingo, PEF Executive Director (PEF@15 Partnership Forum, 25 November 2016, Sequoia Hotel, Mother Ignacia Ave., Diliman, Quezon City)
Our speakers and resource persons most specially Assistant Secretary Evelyn Cruzada; PEF Chair, Mr. Benjamin Abadiano and the other trustees of our Board; our valued partners; my dear colleagues; ladies and gentlemen…a pleasant afternoon to all of you.
Fifteen years ago, we started our journey with our first step.
Admittedly, the first ten years was a long and steep learning curve for us. There was no precedence from where we could have culled valuable lessons and best practices.
We supported the delivery of basic services, provided capital and market access to farmers and micro-entrepreneurs, and provided inexpensive and appropriate technologies. In our desire to reach the poorest sectors of our society, we funded as many projects as possible. On hindsight, perhaps we should have been more strategic in order to ensure synergy and to maximize the impact of every peso we spent. We learned through trial and error. And inevitable, there were hits and misses. The important thing is, we learned from both our successes and failures.
But hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Thus, after a decade, our strategic focus shifted to social enterprises or SEs to help rural households generate income and move out of poverty. Building on proven social enterprise models, our efforts have been geared towards increasing self-sustaining households that are capable of providing for their own basic needs. The results of the Foundation’s initiatives to help SEs in the recent years are encouraging. It has been proven from first hand experiences that SEs can help rural households fight poverty. But we need to create an environment that is conducive to promote the growth of SEs and to sustain this growth.
These understanding and realizations are now reshaping the choices we make, what we do, where we want to go and how we go there.
For 2016 to 2020, we will be shifting our gears towards the engagement of right partners for long term-solutions to fight poverty through SEs. Our role is very much beyond fund assistance. For 2016 to 2020, we will focus on three pillars — productivity, value adding and marketing. These will enable supportive mechanisms to strengthen SE governance, scale up SE operations, enhance SE resilience to risks, and spur collaborations with other organizations.
Poverty is a long-term problem that can only be addressed through long-term solutions. Aside from being a long-term challenge, poverty is multi-dimensional. Thus, our approaches to address poverty must in themselves be multi-dimensional.
Given its considerable endowment fund, PEF can exist and be self-sustainable over a long period of time. PEF can and should sustain itself as a vibrant, dynamic and responsive partner in the long-term precisely given the nature of poverty as a long-term concern.
Any problem cannot be solved if that problem’s lifespan is longer than the means by which it can be solved.
Secondly, our approach and nature of engagement should be multi-dimensional and holistic. If we allow ourselves to be uni-dimensional, there is no consolidation of strengths; mass of concerted efforts needed to catalyze change.
Through a holistic and multi-dimensional approach, we can better respond to the issues of what keep rural farming households poor. Providing additional investments, affordable financing and capital are necessary but not sufficient to spur agricultural development.
Smart investments, technical assistance and capacity building increase the chances of success and decrease risks; they enhance human capital; they make families and communities more resilient to natural disasters; and they make them less vulnerable to unfair competition. Thinking outside the box may result to better production, additional value added features of commodities, and better and more creative packaging and marketing.
I have always believed that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Thus, with the right allies, risks are further reduced. Alliances result to synergy. Though we have been constantly engaging and collaborating with government since the start, I believe we need to strengthen this further for purposes of, among others, resource sharing, research and development, and marketing.
Smart and maximized use of the resources of PEF and its partners both from the public and private sectors will avoid costly duplication, inefficiencies and wastage. Despite the endowment of our foundation, we must spend resources with prudence. Aside from efficient investment of resources, there is a need to select priority areas so that limited resources will produce the greatest impact. The selection of priority areas should be based on sound reasons like the presence of credible and reliable partners, and the viability of the project given the natural and socio-economic characteristics of the locality.
The Foundation’s zeroing in on poverty reduction in specific agricultural sectors stems from the fact that these is where many of poorest in the country belong. Every one percent increase in agricultural income per capita reduces the number of people living in extreme poverty by a low of 0.6 percent to a high of 1.8 percent.
Aside from the lack of economic assets, poor and disadvantaged communities lack access to basic services like public utilities, housing, health and education.
The provision of basic services in these communities produces a multiplier effect that impacts not only the quality of life of households but also the socio-economic development of communities. To illustrate, freeing residents of a community from the daily struggle of manually fetching water miles away from their homes by providing access to safe and potable running water will mean that adults will have more time for employment and livelihood, and children will have more time for education. The hours and considerable efforts that before were consumed to manually fetch water from wells, streams and other sources become additional manpower that can be tapped more productively.
Aside from access to water, PEF needs to ensure that its targeted communities have access to electricity and energy with a bias for renewable energy especially in far flung areas; access to health that is made sustainable through SEs even though residents have to minimally pay for it; and access to housing even only in the context of rehabilitation after calamities.
The foundations have been laid. But much works needs to be done in the next five years.
As we look to the future, let us not forget what we have done and learned in the past. Let us continue the trek of our continuing journey with renewed vigor, hope and courage.