The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) has supported the development of organized and skilled farmers that now form part of Grow Asia, a farm production partnership platform that is benefiting about 117,000 smallholders in coconut, coffee, corn, fisheries and vegetables.
Searca also reported that Grow Asia, through its Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Development (PPSD), has become a successful farm partnership model.
Bernie Justimbaste and Edwin Bacani reported in the Searca-published “Competency Certification for Agricultural Workers in Southeast Asia” that Grow Asia has demonstrated farming models that integrate smallholder farm owners into the big value chain of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Asean co-founded Grow Asia with the World Economic Forum.
Grow Asia-PPSD has built synergies between different value chain players in agriculture. It facilitates delivery of many interventions including agricultural and technical-vocational skills training in the production of the following farm products:
Coconut — Grow Asia-PPSD is providing a Mindanao-based program multiple interventions in farmers’ production of coconut water: development of skills and know-how in coconut intercropping, replanting and market access. Partners in this program are Unilever, Friends of Hope, and KFI Center for Community Development.
Coffee — Ten cooperatives in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur are being assisted by a Nestle project through technical assistance, intercropping, provision of quality planting materials (Robusta coffee), and establishment of market. Macnut Philippines is also involved in contract growing and buy-back of Arabica coffee. This project has 15 other partners including the Philippine Coffee Alliance.
Corn — Farmers in Zamboanga del Norte have been connected through ZMDC Grains Inc. to a hog farmers’ cooperative in Batangas to buy corn. Aside from skills training, interventions include credit and provision of postharvest technologies. Partners are Pioneer and eight other entities, including the Philippine Maize Federation Inc.
Fisheries — A hatchery for mudcrab for export has been constructed that is supporting 1,000 farmers. Interventions include working capital credit, know-how on the development of loan products and business development, and technical assistance via the Zamboanga Peninsula-wide baseline and performance indicators system. The project has eight other partners including the Dipolog School of Fisheries.
Vegetables — Interventions in this Zamboanga program include design of vegetable supply chain from quality seeds to the sale of vegetables to supermarkets. Other interventions are credit, post harvest facility, and a water management system. Partners are EastWest Seeds, Jollibee and the Zamboanga local government unit.
Searca Director Glenn Gregorio said a common competency certification system among Asean member-countries will enable freer exchange of farm workers between countries.
Also, Asean member-countries working toward the Asean Qualifications Reference
Framework (AQRF) in order to allow the matching of farm skills and competencies between countries.
He said QRF recognizes both non-formal and informal learning in assessing farm workers’ skills level and qualifications.
“The AQRF would benefit agricultural workers as they acquire skills and knowledge largely through non-formal and informal learning modes provided mostly by agriculture extension services systems,” Gregorio added.