Davao-trained veggie farmers to link up with SM Supermarket
by Prix D. Banzon
Davao City (11 November) -- Some 220 backyard vegetable farmers in Davao trained at Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers Training Program (KKFTP) of SM Foundation, Inc (SM) and its partners are working to link the farmers' and their market.
In the recent closing activity of the farmers training held at the Entertainment Plaza of SM City Davao, regional manager for Mindanao Debby A. Go said the three months training done at the vacant lot of SM Davao has equipped the farmers with skills and knowledge for them to move their crops to the market.
The training was also held in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, the Davao City Agriculture Office and the Davao City government.
She said the project aims to empower farmers by providing them venue to learn new skills, update their farming practices and exposing them to technologies that may aid them in their livelihood.
Cristie S. Angeles, executive director for outreach program of SM Foundation said the recent graduates was their 16 batch of their farmers training in the country accounting to a total of 2,092 farmers under the KKFTP which they piloted in Bacolod in 2007.
She said their Bacolod experience made good and in partnership with the Negros Educational Development Foundation the trained farmers are now on their own supplying markets including SM.
Angles said that the Davao leg has also made a positive impact because among the first batch of trainees in Marilog last year, farmers in Compostela Valley Province that were supported by the local government unit were able to replicate their learnings to other four municipalities and being carried down to the barangay level.
"It is good to know that the training we gave to farmers are also being passed on to other backyard farmers if only to help this sector improve their income," she said.
The training she said is handled by Harbest Agribusiness, Inc. where SM paid for the modules and taught to farmers for 12 sessions within three months period of lectures and actual farming.
The second batch of training in Davao was held at the 5,000 sq. meter lot located at the back of SM City Davao and was able to generate almost P100,000 worth of proceeds of vegetables and fruits that they sell to buyers right at the mall area during their graduation day.
Looking at the profile of the trainees Angeles said majority of the trainees are 30 to 59 years old with 69 percent male and 53 percent female.
She said what is interesting was the attendance of seven students. "I think this a good sign that the youth showed interest on farming contrary to the notion that many young people don't like to farm," she said.
She said there were also government employees and retirees and many of the trainees maintain a backyard farm of 20 sq. meters.
Harbest operations manager for Davao Celis Alla said they taught farmers how to grow safe crops as they follow 80 to 90 percent organically grown vegetables and fruits.
Alla said they found the Davao farmers very interested to learn the technology and hopefully they could make use of the learnings and apply them in their respective vegetable farms.
He said part of the training is their organization into a cooperative which they were aided by the City Cooperative Development Office. "Once these farmers are organized they could link up to suppliers and perhaps they themselves could directly negotiate with their market," he said.
But Alla said the farmers also must learn how to market their produce because established markets like SM Supermarkets follow specifics and details of the vegetables and fruits that they sell.
Supermarket manager Melbert Villegas said they have accredited suppliers where they make sure of sustainability of supply and volume and the quality of produce. He said their suppliers for their vegetables and fruits also ship agri products to markets in Manila and in other places like Cebu and in other cities in the Visayas.
Initially he said they will help link up the farmers with their suppliers in order for to work out on something that they could start on.
The DA for their part will also work with the farmers and SM so that these farmers can sustain not only their production but also in finding more markets even as Melanie Provido, coordinator of high value crops unit of DA XI said their office has the vegetable enhancement program that could support this livelihood project.
She said they could assist farmers in seed procurement and some organically produced inputs.
On the other hand Angeles said they also envision that these farmers also plant high value crops out of the learnings that they got and hopefully market it as produce of KKFTP in SM Supermarkets.
"This is still a long way process but what is important they started learning new technology and all they have to do is apply them in their own farms," she said.
The livelihood training will be a continuing program of SM as part of their corporate social responsibility, she said. (PIA) [top]