RAFI Micro-Finance & One to Tree Empower Balamban Farmers - A Vital Step to Poverty  Alleviation & Biodiversity Conservation

Driven by its longstanding mission to uplift communities through sustainable agriculture, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. Micro-Finance Inc. (RAFI-MFI) partners with RAFI One To Tree (RAFI-OTT), the Municipality of Balamban and the La Mesa Farmers Association (LFA) for the pioneering implementation of the AgroEnterprise Cluster Approach (AECA) Program.

This new partnership was officially launched last Monday, April 25, 2022, during the MOA Signing Event held at Balamban Municipal Hall. The occasion was graced with the presence of Honorable Mayor Alex Binghay of Balamban, along with their Municipal Agriculture Officer, Felojyn Pepito Sundo, and the key players of the program, the members of LFA headed by Mr. Elisaldo Lapinid. The RAFI-MFI team was also present, headed by Jonar B. Dorado - Chief Operations Officer (COO), and Iris Louise R. Dorado - Vice President for Business Development (VP-BD). Mr. Anthony Dignadice - RAFI-OTT Executive Director, was also present in support of the event.

The AgroEnterprise Cluster Approach (AECA) Program is an initiative of RAFI-MFI that will provide both financial and non-financial support to farmer associations to pave the way for the establishment of their own clustered agricultural enterprise. The program aims to consolidate the supply of products from each small farmer from groups called “clusters” to sell to organized or institutional buyers based on an agreed production schedule. In the same way, the program promotes responsible stewardship through support programs that are in harmony with the local environment.

Both RAFI MFI and OTT empower the farmers and the agricultural sector, who are recognized as key players in food security and environmental conservation. Through this endeavor, RAFI-MFI shall conduct activities and workshops designed to enhance the farmers' skills for a sustainable clustered approach from business development, marketing efforts, and market supply volume, down to establishing linkages with potential buyers. RAFI-MFI will also provide financial support, particularly access to capital through its microfinance services.

Jonar B. Dorado, RAFI-MFI COO, underlined the importance of working closely with the Municipality of Balamban as LFA will be the ‘clustering model project’ for the implementation of the AECA Program, which will be developed through and with its members. He further discusses, “The highest poverty incidence in the Philippines are the farmers – they are the most neglected and abused sector. That’s where the problem is. So, that is why we are developing a comprehensive approach toward sustainable support to the farmers to enable them to thrive and elevate their own quality of life.

How? We provide them with the 5 points of access that they need: network, training, market, technology, and financing. We are really putting our best effort and people into this intervention because it is anchored at the community level – the value for the farmers themselves. Challenging as it is, the most important thing is, we are doing something that is beyond us and aligned to the social impact that we would like to frame.” Iris Dorado, RAFI-MFI VP-BD further highlighted the importance of the commitment of members and the impact of their efforts on the overall success of the program that aims to uplift their lives and their community. “Ang atung pangandoy nga naay sustainable income beyond what is needed on a dayto-day basis nga ato pong mabalik sa atong kumonidad. Kay kung molambo ang LFA, managhan ang clusters, mas mapalambo-on ang barangay. Mao kana ang among panglantaw, kuyog ug duyog ninyo. Dili mi makabuhat ani og wala mo,” added Ms. Dorado.

RAFI-MFI will work closely with the program partners to continuously monitor and help ensure the program’s progress and implementation in their respective agricultural areas through the conduct of site meetings, identifying and developing microfinance products and services for interested community partner members. Furthermore, OTT will also provide assistance through the carabao livelihood kit with the intention to aid farmers in production and provide additional opportunities for livelihood through breeding or renting. “AECA” (Carabao’s name) is now under the care and supervision of the association as they foster development in sustainable farming The partnership is also in line with RAFI’s “Bugsay philosophy” of capacitating individuals and providing them with effective tools – their own “bugsay” or paddle – to steer themselves towards the direction they aspire in life. From the local government’s side, Mayor Binghay also expressed his appreciation for the timeliness of the program, which complements their plans to integrate the sustainable planting of bamboo trees in the protected area. He further shared the purpose to plant more bamboo trees which can contribute to the goal of biodiversity conservation and be a useful source of livelihood for the community. He encouraged the members of LFA to take the program seriously and put out their greatest efforts to see the program succeed.

In addition, Mayor Binghay assures his constituents that the LGU, through its Municipal Agricultural Office, will continuously support the plans and needs of the LFA, from their financial needs to planting materials. “Nia man sila mga taga RAFI, because they can help us in these things. Makatabang kaayo sila nato kay sila may kahibaw unsa'y maayo sa merkado. Kita, igo naman lang ta mo produce, sila mao'y mo tabang nato og market. So ato ning seryosohon. Let's make this a serious matter sa atong panginabuhi kay kinsa ma'y mabulahan, kita man gihapon. Hinaot unta nga ang atong ka-ikag mopadayon para sa tong kaugalingon. Tabangan nato ang organization ... Pasalamat ta'g dako sa RAFI kay anaa sila ngtabang kanato, naghatag kanato ug oportunidad na ma-arang arang ang atong panginabuhi para mo-uswag sad atong pamilya.” Mayor Binghay expresses.

The partner farmers are optimistic for the AECA program as well. On a separate interview, Mr. Elisaldo Lapinid, LFA Chairman, expresses his insights on the program and how it will impact the lives of the farmers: “Ang AECA project nagpuno ug kahibalo ug pagpasabot sa usa ka mag-uuma, nagtudlo unsaon pagpahaom sa usa ka panginabuhian, ug naa ang suporta ug pagtabang sa mag-uuma nga walay kwarta ug kapuhunan. Training, nya human sa training naa na ang kwarta, kay ang kwarta, ingon nga huwam, pero lisod man gud sa mag-uuma nga walay puhunan. Kapila nami gitraining ug daghan na kaayo’g gitabang diri – among nakita nga dili lang mi mag-uuma nga bisag unsa lang, kung di mag-uuma nga malamboon puhon! Sa akong panan-aw sa akong mga cluster members, ning-apil sila kay interesado  sila sa panginabuhian gyud. Wala ko nagdahom nga ingon ani diay ka-impact ang project sa AECA kay sa kadaghan sa project nga akoang gidawat, karon pa nahitabo nga ang Mayor sa among lungsod gi-abot gyud haron aning project. So, nagpasalamat ko nga naa ni (AECA) ug sa RAFI MFI ug OTT, nga panginabuhian gyud ni para sa pobre. Kanang “RAFI walang iwanan”, lipay kaayo ko ana nga pulong.”

With the launch of the pilot site in Lamesa, Balamban, RAFI-MFI hopes to replicate the program with other farmers’ associations across the country, starting with RAFI-OTT farmer partners. Mr. Dorado added that they look forward to the success of the program and learning from the process. This will help RAFI-MFI develop an effective module that can be shared with the industry to help mitigate the poverty crisis at the macroscale. Among all these efforts, RAFI-MFI, RAFI-OTT, LGU of Balamban, and LFA, hope to achieve through this collaborative work, a successful program deeply rooted in the positive impact on the farmers and their families and branching out towards the community, and our environment.

The Microfinance Program of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI-MFI) provides financial and non-financial services to micro-entrepreneurs with a mission of elevating the lives of the vulnerable and disadvantaged communities through stable and rewarding livelihood.

RAFI Micro-Finance & One to Tree Empower Balamban Farmers - A Vital Step to Poverty  Alleviation & Biodiversity Conservation
RAFI Micro-Finance & One to Tree Empower Balamban Farmers - A Vital Step to Poverty  Alleviation & Biodiversity Conservation