• A paradigm shift toward agripreneurship

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    DR. WILLIAM DAR

    Last of two parts

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    So how do we elevate the country’s agriculture sector through agripreneurship?

    One of the solutions is to increase the number of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the agriculture sector, which will require producing more agripreneurs in state universities and colleges (SUCs), and the crafting of programs for agripreneurship by government agencies and local government units (LGUs).

    Based on the research of InangLupa, which I founded and head, MSMEs comprise 99.6 percent of the 900,914 business enterprises in the Philippines, according to 2015 Philippine Statistics Authority figures. But less than 8,195 or below 1 percent of MSMEs are involved in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. So it is easy to conclude as to why the Philippines still lags behind its Southeast Asian neighbors when it comes to farm exports.

    The Philippines only has two farm export commodities – banana and coconut – that earn one billion dollars each every year, while Thailand boasts of rice, natural rubber, prepared fish, sugar, prepared chicken, starch, prepared shrimp, animal feed and food preparations as its top farm exports that each rake in at least $1 billion annually. On the other hand, Vietnam’s exports that earn more than $1 billion every year include rice, coffee beans, shrimps, fish fillet, cashew nuts, natural rubber, prepared shrimp and pepper.

    Now, don’t tell me that Filipino entrepreneurs or farmers, given the right support, cannot produce all of the top farm exports of Thailand and Vietnam! Yes we can, and we should create the environment for agripreneurship to take root so we can export more farm products in raw or processed form, and supply the local market with more affordable and higher quality farm products, and industries with their farm-based raw materials, among others.

    More government agencies should converge

    While it should be the Department of Agriculture (DA) that should take the lead in initiating the paradigm shift toward agripreneurship, LGUs and other government agencies like the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Commission of Higher Education (CHED) should take an active part in the effort. I should commend the DTI under Secretary Ramon M. Lopez for initiating and supporting programs to create more entrepreneurs. The same commendation goes to Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, the Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, and Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol for collaborating and putting into place the Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program (KAMMP). Under KAMMP, aspiring entrepreneurs are trained through coaching and mentoring sessions conducted by business owners and entrepreneurs.

    As for DAR, it can impart the spirit of entrepreneurship in all agrarian reform communities while the DENR can do the same for the beneficiaries of its agro-forestry projects, which include tribal communities and indigenous peoples.

    LGUs must (I say ‘must’) also partner with the government agencies that will take the lead in promoting agripreneurship, and the DILG must create programs and projects so local officials will also become “champions and advocates of agripreneurship.”

    National government agencies that have research and development (R&D) functions like the DA, DOST, and CHED should reorient their research agenda in support of agripreneurship. This means that agencies like the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under the DA, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) under DOST, and CHED must also develop and support common R&D programs and projects for agripreneurship that will set the groundwork or environment for agripreneurs to immediately adopt R&D outputs.

    Role of educational institutions

    Eventually, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), particularly agriculture-based SUCs, through CHED should also hybridize or reinvent their Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture, and Mathematics (STEAM)-based curricula to weave into these courses the art and science of agripreneurship. Through this, those taking up entrepreneurship or agripreneurship develop an understanding and appreciation of R&D technologies and innovations in modernizing farming systems and creating value-added products with export potential.

    It is also the intent for the SUCs concerned to produce graduates who will implement inclusive agribusiness thereby creating more incomes, more jobs and more wealth for the country.

    I also believe that the paradigm shift toward agripreneurship should also start at elementary and high school, so young people can appreciate agriculture and agricultural enterprises at a young age, and embrace agripreneurship as they advance their learning and studies. I hope the Department of Education would strongly consider this.

    Let us also not overlook the out-of-school youth who can be trained to initially become farmers and eventually agripreneurs through trainings outside of the formal education system under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). TESDA and LGUs can take the lead on this and link up with concerned institutions in training out-of-school youth.

    The idait model

    One good approach to develop scalable models in agripreneurship is through institutional partnerships, like the institutionalization of agro-industrialization, innovation and tourism (IDAIT) platform espoused by Rep. DV Savellano of Ilocos Sur. IDAIT, which means “to sew” in Ilocano, brings together multi-stakeholder participation in rural development to create an improved entrepreneurial ecosystem that will enhance the growth of MSMEs. So far, it was able to bring together DA’s high value crops and rural credit, the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council, DAR and grassroots-based organizations and small enterprises to collaborate in building-up the Ilocos garlic, and committed to “create an industry out of the commodity.” IDAIT as a convergence model is supported by 21 government agencies and is in the process of getting the nod of the Regional Development Council (RDC) of Ilocos region to promote inter-regional planning, budgeting and business promotion.

    Funds are needed

    Of course, funds should be allocated for the efforts of the various government agencies, LGUs and SUCs to start developing programs and projects to initiate the shift toward agripreneurship, and to sustain that over the long term. Non-government organizations (NGOs) are also encouraged to be part of the movement to promote agripreneurship.

    Also of equal importance is the creation of special lending windows for aspiring agripreneurs, which charge lower interest rates, and a system to invite venture capitalists to invest in technology business incubation, and in the new undertakings of agripreneurs.

    The DA, DTI, DAR and CHED can also put up an agripreneurship fund where graduates of agripreneurship (or even agribusinesses) can get grants (not loans) to undertake agricultural enterprises based on the feasibility studies developed during their apprenticeship with the industry for their future ventures.

    And never to be overlooked is assistance from the government agencies, LGUs and even SUCs in linking agripreneurs to the market, because a business enterprise needs a market to become profitable so it can sustain its long-term operations and also produce more jobs.

    So there are actually “Four Ms” needed to initiate a shift toward agripreneurship: Mindset; Mentors; Markets; and Money. Take out one of the Ms and everything falls apart.

    The four Ms help create the enabling mechanisms to develop and institutionalize the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country’s agriculture sector. This framework will lead to more synergy and convergence of programs of various public and private institutions including NGOs.

    Agripreneurship will be the game changer that will result in the agriculture sector contributing more to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), employment opportunities, and shared prosperity for all.

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