Changing perspectives, changing lives: The Farmer Business School experience

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The Farmer Business School (FBS) has gone a long way in the Philippines since introduced by the International Potato Center in 2012.

Hopes were kindled through the opportunities offered by the FBS. The comprehensive training allowed farmers to become entrepreneurs, develop new products and enter the market. At the end of the FBS process, a business launch is held as a culminating activity for the participants. To many of them, this was the highlight of their FBS journey – when they went on stage in front of many people and promoted their products – something that they never had imagined in their life. “I gained confidence to face people.” Marilou Aboguin, a farmer-fisherfolk from Jiabong, Samar said.

The journey to the business launch was challenging. There were times of doubt and fear that all the farmers’ efforts were worth nothing. But it all paid off as people began to know and purchase their products after the business launch. Not only did the farmers rejoice, but also did their facilitators who journeyed with them for the past 10 months or so. The facilitators patiently guided the farmers through the training modules, even sharing their resources to help them complete the FBS. My joy was that of a parent seeing his children graduate and feeling so proud.” Said Narlito Armada, a facilitator from Basey, Samar.

To date, there are 3,874 individuals (76% women) who have undergone the FBS in the Philippines, India, and Indonesia. These are implemented by investment projects supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in these countries in collaboration with the International Potato Center through the Food Security Through Asian Root and Tuber Crops (FoodSTART) and its second phase project, the Food Resilience Through Root and Tuber Crops in Upland and Coastal Communities of the Asia-Pacific (FoodSTART+).

As a commodity-neutral approach, the FBS was adopted in different regions as it catered to the needs of the target beneficiaries. A good example is the adaptation of the FBS by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources into an Aqua-based Business School (ABS).

Diverse products were developed, ranging from sweetpotato and cassava chips, jams, candies, juice, to mussel chips, crackers, seaweed noodles, dried fish, and many more. It is envisaged that with the support of the local agencies and business development service providers, the micro-enterprises will continue to grow and contribute to change the lives of farmers for the better. As Miraflor Divina Gracia, a farmer from Inabanga, Bohol put it, “We see that there is a huge possibility that our business will boom in the future.”

A collection of stories of change will be featured in a coffee table book to be published by FoodSTART+ in the third quarter of 2019.

Written by Camille Joy Enalbes, Communication Specialist, CIP-FoodSTART+