Your address will show here +12 34 56 78
Photo courtesy of Bote Central Inc 

There seems to be no clear end in sight yet to the coronavirus pandemic. The government has put a name on the “new normal”— the general community quarantine (GCQ) involves more relaxed measures compared to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that is still in place in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas. Businesses now have to adapt to the long-haul reality that COVID-19 brought upon us.    

Fortunately for the local coffee industry, a social enterprise (SE) invested in changing the mindset and empowering coffee farmers to process and roast their own coffee. Now their investment is paying off, as some farmer cooperatives and groups continue to operate and sell their products in their own localities, keeping their livelihood despite the disruption in the supply chain caused by the lockdowns.  

Empowering local coffee farmers as agro-entrepreneurs  

According to Vie Reyes, co-founder of Bote Central Inc., the lockdown has affected the supply of raw coffee beans from Mindanao, Visayas, and Cordillera to processors in Manila, illustrating the plight of many farmers who are unable to sell their produce to the market.  Now, more than ever, farmers are realizing how important it is to have their own coffee processing.  “Swerte ‘yung mga magkakape na may mga sariling processing, na may roasting machines, kasi nabubuhay sila. In fact, nakakapagnegosyo pa rin sila ng kape dun sa communities nila, sa areas nila,” Reyes shares.   

Bote Central Inc., a partner of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI), is a social enterprise that promotes the sustainability of the Philippine coffee industry through rationalizing the supply chain and embedding Fair Trade principles in their business. Bote Central empowers farmers to be more than suppliers, and enables them to move up the value chain as small-scale processors.   

The enterprise was able to drive local economic development through technology. Bote Central designs and builds their own coffee roasting machines, which they share with their partner coffee farming communities across the country. Their roasting machines, suitable for smallholder farmers, made it possible for these farmers to economically process and sell their own coffee, paving the way for community-based coffee roasting business facilities. In that way, farming communities can add value to their raw coffee beans and create sources of income for their families.  

Photo courtesy of Bote Central Inc

In the end, Bote Central’s intervention is not only in providing these machines at a reasonable price to local small farmers, but in opening up opportunities, ones that used to belong only to bigger players in the industry.   

Grounded in market reality over promise of false hopes  

Besides taking ownership of their role in the coffee value chain, Bote Central also imparts to farmers the value of speaking their minds. “‘Yun ang ginawa namin na change as an SE, na baguhin ‘yung values or ‘yung confidence, ‘yung mentalidad ng farmers,” Reyes shares. Bote Central, however, understands that this is only one side of the equation.  

If you talk to the farmers, balewala na sabihin mo sa kanila na magtanim kasi maganda ang presyo…

Ang dami-dami mong pwedeng sabihin sa farmers, pero we call them the false promises. Kasi you’re just giving them false hopes.

Dapat konektado ang lahat ng binibigay mong promise or hope sa market.”  

When Bote Central entered the world of coffee, it was not only the farmers that they saw needed to be changed, but the market itself. Both the farmers and the market concerns in-address naminKasi ‘di pwedeng production lang. Kailangan may kasabay siya na consumption. ‘Yung promises dapat may kabangga on the other end of the value chainYou cannot just promise the farmers na they will have gold at the end of their rainbow.”  

Bote Central imparts that the farmer himself and the communities where the farmers reside are part of the market. Reyes emphasized that, in fact, that is the primary market that the farmers should focus on. Mismong sa bahay nila umiinom sila ng kape. ‘Yung kapitbahay ni farmerumiinom ng kape, ‘yung barangay, umiinom ng kape, she explains. This is the very same market which currently operating businesses take advantage during this lockdown, given limitations on travel and mobility. 

Besides the sale of roasting machines which unfortunately has temporarily stopped, Bote Central is also engaged in the sale of coffee sourced directly from their partner farming communities. They have developed brands to cater to different market segments, but they still only move within 10 to 15 percent of the market, which they try to expand. “Consumption of coffee in the Philippines is 85 to 90 percent commodity coffee. As an SE, if you want to really make an impact sa economy natin, sa market natin, sa farmers natin, dun ka gagalaw, Reyes shares.   

Their business philosophy  

Reyes is thankful that although it is not a basic necessity like rice or meat or vegetables, coffee is part of the food mentality of Filipinos. They were also lucky to stock up on a full inventory of coffee beans before COVID-19 hit. Their Basilio brand is still available in supermarkets, and they are also pleasantly surprised with the number of online orders they receive during the ECQ. It helped that they have set up online ordering prior to COVID-19 and are ramping up online sales. However, she admits that it is nothing compared to corporate accounts, institutional accounts, and monthly orders which make up most of their revenue and are currently suspended due to the ECQ.  

Raw coffee beans are also waiting to be transported from their source communities. “Ang essence talaga ng survival ngayon is move the beansWhen we say “move the beans,” it’s literally moving and selling,” she says.  

Under ECQ, Bote Central is operating at 20% production. Only select employees are also qualified to move around, following government policies. As with other businesses, their plans this year were also pushed back. However, in the midst of these concerns, Bote Central sees several windows of opportunities. For now, that opportunity is working with the Office of Vice President Leni Robredo and other volunteers in providing free coffee for front liners. We made it into an opportunity kasi lahat naman ng business opportunities come from a problemGanun kami mag-isipGanun rin yung binibigay namin na value sa mga farmer. Kung may problemapag-usapan natin, at tingnan natin kung merong solusyon.”  

Besides the significant decrease in production and income, they also experience a higher cost of moving their products around. In terms of needed support from the government and other organizations, the enterprise considers loans and grant facilities important to help them weather this crisis; relaxed loan settlements and tax relief will also be of great help.  

FSSI has provided its partners a 60-day extension on due dates of their loan amortization and is discussing additional flexibility terms as needed to help partners cope with the effects of COVID-19 on their operations. 

Bote Central’s “after-COVID” plan is already in the pipeline. They will be putting up more coffee roasting facilities in partnership or joint venture with other SEs, businesses, or individuals who share the same business endeavor.  

In the meantime, Bote Central is shipping its coffee products nationwide in a limited capacity. In these extraordinary and trying times, let a good ol’ cup of a hundred percent locally made, sustainably sourced coffee brighten your day.  

Their Basilio and Alamid coffee are available for deliveries. You may place your orders online through You may also follow  Bote Central and Basilio: Coffee to Share on Facebook


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted to an unexpected slump in the Philippine economy. The latest report from the National Economic and Development Authority estimates that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will likely be at 4.3 at best and negative 0.6 percent at worst, assuming the impact of the crisis is felt until the middle of the year.1 This is a staggering decline from the target growth rate set for 2020 which is at 6.5 to 7.5 percent.2 Midway last month, Metro Manila was put under a community quarantine, which was eventually expanded to the entire Luzon, in an effort to contain the spread of the disease. Other provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao have also announced lockdowns.

The “enhanced community quarantine” in Luzon, now extended to April 30, has included the suspension of public transportation, classes, and work for non-essential businesses. Big and small businesses alike have continued to bear the brunt of the crisis as the general population is encouraged to stay at home. Social enterprises are not spared. Among FSSI partners, 31 out of 35 surveyed said that reduced mobility has affected their enterprise.

LiveGreen International is one of the few social enterprises that are able to operate, despite limited personnel. LiveGreen is engaged in the production, processing, and distribution of 100% fresh organic vegetables. Paris Uy, President and CEO, shared that their ongoing production is due to farmers continuing to work despite the crisis. Crops were planted in January and there is still a steady supply of farm produce. LiveGreen has around 30 to 40 partner farmers in Benguet, and some 10 to 15 in Batangas, Cavite, and Tanay.

Helping farmers who feed us

For Uy, the crisis is a wake-up call for society to support the farmers who are relentlessly producing our food. This calls for stronger links between the national and local governments and a better logistical support in transporting produce from farmers especially in the north to where the demand is across the country. Uy shares that they had difficulty transporting vegetables in the first few days of the lockdown, “Tuloy-tuloy ang production. Ang problema lang ay confusion and intervention of the LGU shutting down while the national government said food-related [cargo] can pass through.”

LiveGreen hauls five tons of vegetables from Baguio to Manila daily. In Baguio, farmers who come down to deliver goods to their La Trinidad warehouse often encounter delays due to the lockdown. Fortunately, it became easier when the Department of Agriculture (DA) issued food passes to ensure the unhampered movement of agricultural products through the numerous checkpoints across Luzon.

Uy also identifies the importance of coordination between government agencies concerned in the food supply chain and bringing food from producers to consumers. Come harvest time, if farmers are unable to bring their goods to Manila and with the decline in purchase orders from big businesses due to closure as what they have experienced during the lockdown, farmers are forced to dispose their produce — when local governments could have purchased these to be given out to families as part of COVID-19 relief efforts.

The DA has recently moved to consider workers in the agriculture and fisheries sector as front liners in the country’s fight against COVID-19. Various programs are also lined up to empower these front liners and boost local food production and manufacturing.

This crisis is changing the way we understand our health and even our food. For LiveGreen though, it is more than buying and eating local.

“Natural food is still the best food. Eventually the best way to keep ourselves healthy is to boost our immune system,” Uy shares.

Naturally growing products is the way to go. LiveGreen has always put prime in making sure that they provide organic, clean, and healthy food produced without the use of harmful chemicals. He also encourages backyard farming, as growing your own food makes a lot of difference now when most are confined in their homes and are finding limited access to groceries.

Opportunities ahead

As with every enterprise, the crisis is a continuous learning experience on resiliency and business continuity. This year, it has become clear to LiveGreen that their strategy must be scaling up online. Aside from physical distribution to supermarkets, the enterprise saw triple sales through online deliveries. They also saw an increase in the demand for other vegetable besides lettuces. People buy tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots more than usual, most likely to secure healthy food options for their households.

LiveGreen is determined to bring their systems online for the long term. Along with this is their vision to help farmers build among them a consortium that could potentially bring the price down by cutting off the middle man through an online database where consumers could readily access information on where to source fresh produce.

There may be a long way ahead in the fight against COVID-19, but the end of this pandemic is not about returning to normal; it’s about learning and thinking of ways to become better, and ultimately putting investments where our priorities should be. Our front liners such as our partners at LiveGreen and their partner farmers are seeing us through this crisis. It must be our turn to take care of them as well.




Social Enterprise Stories

It was the early 16th century when Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, haunted the Philippine archipelago. People inflicted with leprosy were taken away from their families and isolated in far-flung communities. When medical treatments for leprosy were not yet discovered, patients had to endure unbearable pain from drug trials by physicians. Decades have passed and leprosy has slowly been eradicated, but the wounds have left marks and the stigma remains.

“When we transferred here in New Panay, we received petition to remove us from the community due to our illness. Though upset, we started running our cooperative through the help of FSSI and this helped us become accepted and respected,”said Seminiana Bawik, the general manager of Bagong Pag-asa Credit Cooperative (Bagong Pag-asa).

FSSI helps damaged people rise from their horrible situations and get on with their lives. In its vow to help former leprosy patients integrate with the community, FSSI partnered with the Bagong Pag-asa Credit Cooperative in Barangay New Panay, Pigcawayan, Province of Cotabato.

Today, Bagong Pag-Asa Credit Cooperative caters to its members – former leprosy patients – by opening an agri-production loan facility and a micro-lending window to help them become farmers, micro entrepreneurs, teachers and barangay officials in their community.

Facing the Social Stigma

The cooperative’s beginnings can be traced back in 1991 when 14 leprosy-inflicted families were discharged from the Cotabato Sanitarium after they tested negative from a multi-drug therapy test. In order to regain their lives, the Cotabato Sanitarium and the Missionaries of Christ Jesus gave each family 1.8 hectares of land for farming and relocation in Barangay New Panay, Pigcawayan. This is where they started their new lives with a new hope that they would soon be integrated in the community, thus the name Bagong Pag-Asa.

By forming the Bagong Pag-Asa Credit Cooperative, the families were able to face the challenges of overcoming the social stigma that comes with leprosy. They got full support from the Philippine Leprosy Mission (PLM), which provided livelihood project grants that included loans for hog raising, cattle raising, fruit-bearing tree seedlings and educational assistance. After the PLM exited in 2008, the cooperative tried to increase its financing and community services to nearby barangays. The cooperative has maintained the grant to continue these services up to this day.

In 2014, FSSI partnered with the cooperative to extend its financial assistance windows to nearby barangays, particularly in Payong-payong and Igbaras. This partnership has enabled the cooperative to empower more leprosy-victims by lowering its interest rate from 3-5% to 1.5-3%.

Getting their life back

Before the leprosy-victims established the cooperative, they received numerous complaints from the locals denouncing their right to live in Barangay New Panay due to their previous illness. The rise of the Bagong Pag-asa Credit Cooperative years later helped them regain their right to live in the community especially when the local government of Pigcawayan hailed the cooperative as a model of micro-lending structure in the municipality. The cooperative gained popularity among barangay and municipal officials due to its efficient credit windows, even prompting nearby barangays to request for the extension of the cooperative’s services to them.

Aside from its loan programs, the cooperative became active in environmental and civic projects, such as organic farming and feeding program. Currently, its 60 farmer-members employ organic farming of banana, mango and cacao in the 17 hectares of land owned by the cooperative. It is also involved in environmental programs such as the Mahogany Tree Planting in protected watershed areas in Barangays Payong-payong and Igbaras. It also engages in an annual feeding program for elementary school students in Barangays New Panay, Payong-payong, Igbaras, and Rogonan.

The cooperative has capacitated former leprosy patients to overcome the stigma by providing financial and technical assistance and more importantly by integrating its members in the community. Today, they are now accepted and highly respected by the community. Bagong Pag-asa has truly lived up to its name – always full of hope in its mission to empower and become the agent of change even in the face of illness and discrimination .


Social Enterprise Stories

MIARBA’s Mario Patricio harvests sugarcane in the communal farm in La Castellana. ANALYN ESCANES

La Castellana, Negros Occidental—Almost four decades ago, farmer Mario Patricio took up arms to resist the elite landlords or “hacienderos.”

Today, this 60-year-old man’s gnarled hand still holds on tightly to his weapon. However, he no longer holds a gun, just a sharp machete.

He wields the machete to reap the fruits of his labor in the 56-hectare sugarcane plantation he and 79 fellow agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) own and manage under the communal farming system.

This piece of land used to be part of Hacienda Isabel until it was awarded in 2000 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to the members of then Isabel Farm Workers Union (IFAWU), now Minoro Isabel Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (MIARBA).

Land struggle

Like other oppressed workers, Patricio, at 24, became an armed supporter of the underground New People’s Army (NPA) amid the widespread poverty caused by the sugar crisis in the sugar-producing Negros Island in the mid-1980s. The crisis was the effect of the United States’ (US) reduction of its sugar imports.

Thousands of farm laborers were also mistreated by hacienderos who solely owned farms and controlled sugar mills then. They were paid meager wages and even prohibited from planting crops other than sugarcane.

“When the landlords left, some 50 families in Barangay Sag-ang occupied the ‘hacienda’ and planted rice and other crops so we could survive. But with the serious threat of the return of the hacienderos, we tightly held on to guns for protection,” Patricio, who chairs MIARBA, says in Ilonggo.

Nonetheless, hope sprang after the passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) in 1988, which opened up an opportunity for workers to own the lands they had been tilling for ages.

‘Sweet’ redemption

Patricio says his life has significantly improved due to the agrarian reform program.

From a mere farm worker during the martial law period, he now owns a tricycle, rice mill and 3.5-hectare rice and sugarcane field separate from the communal farm.

He also no longer lives in fear, settling happily with his wife Mona in his own own house and lot.

Furthermore, he couldn’t be more grateful as he succeeded in sending his six children to school, allowing them to achieve their own dreams.

“My kids are now professionals. My eldest is a teacher, the other two are mechanics and the rest are still in school. Thanks to the agrarian reform program and communal farming for these little triumphs,” Patricio, an elementary graduate, proudly says.

Collective effort

Other members of MIARBA share similar success stories. But it didn’t come easy and instead entailed a lot of hard work and concerted effort.

After legally acquiring the land through a collective certificate of land ownership (CLOA), MIARBA thought of seeking proper knowledge and resources to cultivate the farm.

In 2001, it partnered with fair trade organization Alter Trade Foundation, Inc. (ATFI), an offshoot of the Alter Trade Group.

“I didn’t know how to dream. What I only knew was I had to work to get through the day. But when we met ATFI, we were taught to dream not just for ourselves but for the whole community,” Patricio says.

Established in 1977, ATFI now claims to operate as a social enterprise focused on supporting sustainable agriculture and organic farming. It was initially funded by German non-government organization Bread for the World–Protestant Development Service (BFDW-PDS).

ATFI provided loans and training in financial, organizational and agricultural management to 15 people’s organizations (POs) with over 500 members in the municipalities of La Castellana, La Carlota, Bago, Murcia, Talisay and Don Salvador Benedicto.

Although it has stopped securing certification from Fairtrade International and Institute for Marketecology due to the costly certification fees and low yields during the conversion period, it still consistently complies with the international standards of fair trade and organic muscovado farming, says ATFI program director for Sustainable Production Analyn Escanes.

“Our partner-farmers strictly practice non-application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. They also integrate inter-cropping and livestock production in the enterprise,” she says.

ATFI’s partnership with producers’ organizations such as the Negros Organic and Fair Trade Association (NOFTA) has also opened up a ready market for the farmers’ produce. Financial institutions Land Bank and Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI), meanwhile, have offered credit lines amounting to P15 million to support communal farming.

Communal farming is a type of agricultural production in which multiple farmers manage the farm as a joint business.

With ATFI’s helping hand, Patricio and his group figured that venturing in such an enterprise was the best option.

“Originally, we had 133 members. But only 80 stayed as the others didn’t want to engage in communal farming. But now, most of them have their land leased to hacienderos and ended up working for MIARBA,” he says.

Farmers harvest sugarcane. MARK TOLDO

Sustainable enterprise

MIARBA started managing its muscovado farm with an initial loan of P3.36 million from ATFI, at an interest rate of 21 percent a year.

Unlike other microfinance schemes, ATFI’s service is geared toward teaching POs the ropes of managing the business.

With its members actively working and managing their plantation, MIARBA has consistently improved its yield.

In 2016 alone, it earned P7.8 million in annual gross income and a profit of P3.28 million, 72 percent of which was allotted for the individual dividends of its 80 members, 10 percent each for labor incentive and capital build up (CBU), 5 percent for land amortization and 3 percent for organizational fund.

This year, it projects a gross income of P9 million.

The association has been also reinvesting since 2011 some of its profits into other enterprises like a swine project. 90 percent of the income is reinvested in the group.

The group also generates more income from machines and equipment it has acquired—farm tractors, welding machines, mechanical dryer and dump truck, among others.

It has also built a health center and “botika ng bayan” or a community drug store.

According to a 2014 impact report commissioned by BFDW-PDS, the standard of living of the majority of these partner-POs improved. Similarly, the households’ access to basic needs such as food, education, health, electrification and water supply also increased.

Each farmer’s household generates an average annual income of P67,747.

Empowering women

The enterprise has also been empowering women, who now occupy leading positions in the organizations, the study revealed.

Although sustainable agriculture and communal farming practices thrive with aid from non-government organizations (NGOs), it has been a challenge to reach more agricultural communities.

“Introducing sustainable agriculture to other provinces with ARBs is hard as there are already other groups working there. But with our business model’s significant impact in the agrarian reform sector, government agencies and NGOs alike are starting to gain interest in it,” ATFI executive director Edwin Marthine Lopez says.

Lopez hopes that such “trade, not aid” concept would provide more ARBs with a life free from worries of oppression and unsustainable livelihood, like what Patricio and the rest of MIARBA members are finally enjoying.


Social Enterprise Stories

A dairy enterprise boosts Isabela farmers stuck in a cycle of poverty and uncertainty due to typhoons and natural disasters

END PRODUCT. MDC processes cows’ milk to produce flavored milk distributed to different areas. Photo from FSSI

MANILA, Philippines – For the agricultural sector, typhoons and other natural disasters have placed them in a never-ending cycle of poverty and uncertainty.

To Romeo Bugarin, a farmer and chairman of Malaya Development Cooperative (MDC) in Mallig, Isabela, they are often put back to zero due to the damage typhoons inflict on their crops.

Noong una, rice and corn lang kami. Kapag bumagyo ay may kalamidad na sa rice, wala na, kasi bagsak na agad,” he recalled. “Lalo na sa corn. Kapag dumapa na, back to zero na naman kami.”

(Before, we only planted rice and corn. When calamities such as typhoons hit rice, we’re down immediately. The effect is worse on corn. When it bends, we’re back to zero.)

The ordeal of Bugarin and other Isabela farmers is not isolated.

It is a story familiar to 11 million Filipino farmers who bear the same problem after calamities. Crops are submerged in water for days, seeds mixed with mud and clay, and rice plants bent by strong and continuous winds.

On average, 20 typhoons enter the Philippines annually, many of them resulting in loss of properties, life, and livelihood.

In September 2011 alone, Super Typhoon Pedring hit Isabela, affecting 735 farmers and leaving a loss of almost 952.2 metric tons of rice and corn crops valued at around P2 million ($45213)*.


Regaining the losses incurred for one harvesting season is often hard to achieve. After the barrage of typhoons, farmers are left with nothing. (READ: FAO: Typhoon-hit farmers risk ‘double tragedy’)

Under normal conditions, the option would be getting loans at onerous rates to traders so they can buy seeds, fertilizers and other inputs for the next planting season and make sure that there is food on the table for the family.

This has worsened the dependency on traders, with the increasing damage to crops wrought by climate change. (READ: Empowering farmers against climate change)

With utmost concern on the pressing situation of farmers, development worker Ernesto Lactao, the present General Manager of MDC, worked with a group of women way back in 2003 to form a cooperative that seeks to uplift the lives of farmers by starting to lend money at minimal interest.

While the traders lend money to farmers at 10% interest per month, MDC gives it to farmers at only 1.5%. And while the traders are buying the produce of farmers at P15, MDC buys them at P15-P20 ($.33-$.45) per kilo.

But with climate change in the picture, the impact of more frequent and intense typhoons is magnified and cannot be overcome by microfinance services alone.

We need to have an alternative income,” Lactao said. “Dito namin nakita na hindi sapat ang microfinance, kailangang maghanap ng ibang option ng pagkakakitaan at ito nga yung dairy.

(We need to have an alternative income. This is where we see that microfinance is not enough, we need to look for other livelihood options such as dairy.)

Changing mindset

Through the assistance of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI), members of MDC were able to visit the dairy farms of Bulacan, Batangas, Quezon, and Laguna where they saw the potential of the dairy industry to provide daily and sustainable income to the farmers of Mallig.

Thereafter, MDC decided to venture into the integrated dairy enterprise with 3 main products: milk, animal, and organic fertilizer.

FOR BETTER FUTURE. Equipment in the Milking Area help community members collect milk from cows.

It was not smooth sailing at the start. MDC had to work with changing the mindset of farmers whose primary goal is to gain income even through unsustainable practices of hybrid and non-organic planting.

Fortunately, the cooperative was able to help its members realize the value of the environment and social welfare in the pursuit of gaining income. Aside from the initial training and seminars conducted within MDC, the organization worked out to orient all other dairy cooperatives in the province by forming the Isabela Social Enterprise Local Economy Development (Isabela SE-LED) Network.

Dairy multiplier farm

MDC’s dairy enterprise follows the multiplier model: upon procurement of 25 female cows through the assistance of the National Dairy Authority (NDA), MDC’s role is to multiply them and eventually distribute the calves to every member-household.

The dairy industry is seen as a source of daily income for farmers.

Under the program of MDC, each household is to be given 3 cows, each producing 10 liters of fresh milk every day.

With low inputs on corn and napier grass as food, each farming household expects an assured daily income of P660 ($14)* by selling the 30 liters of milk at P22 ($.49) per liter to MDC.

After buying the milk from farmers, MDC processes the milk and produces bottled products like fresh milk and yogurt. Profit from sales is then given back to farmers in the form of dividends.

Presently, the milk products of MDC are patronized by biyaheros who numbered 5,000 in 2014; the rest are also sold to schools in Isabela through dealers.

If dairy activity is practiced with planting crops, much more can be gained by farmers.

Some of MDC’s 600 farmer-members are now benefiting from selling corn leaves to MDC at P1.8 ($.041) per kilo. This can be translated to around P5,000-P7,000 ($113-$158) of added income per hectare of corn.

Other provisions are employment for production, marketing, and distribution of products and services that include production loans, micro finance, rice and palay trading, among others.

Opportunities in expanding

Through the Isabela SE-LED Network meetings and other government-arranged conferences in Isabela, MDC had the chance to meet other existing dairy cooperatives and associations in the province, as well as potential buyers and traders of dairy products.

They were later recognized by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to be the project proponent for DA-World Bank Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP).

FOR THE COMMUNITY. Members of the cooperative vow to continue to improve the lives of Isabela farmers.

Under the program, MDC will receive a total of P16 million ($361,000) for building facilities, procuring refrigerated van, retort machine, and chillers for retail markets envisioned throughout the province.

As one of the farmers initially given a set of cows, Bugarin is grateful for the opportunity extended to farmers like him trapped in debt.

“Malaki ang nabago sa pamumuhay ng farmers. Dati wala kaming alam about dairy. Ang alam lang namin ay mag-gatas,” he said. “Pero ngayon ay nakikita namin na may daily income dito at malaking bagay ito sa farmers para makakain sa araw-araw at makapag-paaral ng mga anak.”

(There have been great improvements in the lives of farmers. Before, we were not aware of dairy. What we only knew was how to milk the cows. But now we can see its potential of giving daily income and this is something big for farmers to provide food daily to their family and be able to send their children to school.)

With more intense and frequent typhoons ahead, MDC is assured that through the dairy enterprise and the changing mindset toward sustainable agriculture, farmers will be exposed to lesser economic and natural risks. –

A development writer and photographer, Kathleen is passionate about issues affecting farmers and the vulnerable sectors. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Development Communication at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and works as the Advocacy and Communications Officer of the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI). You may reach Kathleen at kathleenlungub@gmail.comFSSI is a social investment organization dedicated to support social enterprises that are empowering communities achieve economic, social, and environmental objectives. To know more about FSSI and how you can help, visit


Social Enterprise Stories

A cooperative of farmers in the municipality of Gamu shift to organic farming

Mang Kikoy, a farmer from Gamu, Isabela who has shifted to organic farming

Way before the onset of the storms we are experiencing now, there have been many times when 57-year-old Mang Kikoy stood under the scorching heat and looked afar, wondering if he still has crops to harvest. Every time rain has been scarce, the prolonged heat eventually shrank and withered his plants.

Malaking dagok talaga sa amin ang kalamidad. Dahil sa tagtuyot noon, nawalan ako ng hanap-buhay at napilitan ang tatlo kong anak na magtrabaho sa kalapit na mga probinsya para mapakain ang pamilya at mapag-aral ang bunso nilang kapatid,” relates Mang Kikoy.

Mang Kikoy embodies the life of 180,000 farmers in Isabela when a dry spell hit the province in 2013. In four months of reduced rainfall, more than 3,000 hectares of land dried up, resulting to more than Php 33 million worth of crops lost.

Despite its title as the rice and corn granary of the Philippines, Isabela faces problems aggravated by strong typhoons, frequent drought patterns and climate change. After every major disaster, food supplies are cut short; children are stopped from going to school; and with little or no savings at all, farmers tend to borrow capital from loan sharks who charge extremely high interest rates and bargain farmers’ products after harvest. 

The solution: organic agriculture

Realizing the vulnerabilities of farmers, several Belgian missionaries founded by Dirk Detemmerman visited the municipality of Gamu in Isabela in 1985 to assist the farmers through the non-government organization Parish Youth of Gamu (Payoga NGO). Originally formed to give free education to the children of farmers who cannot go to school, the organization later on promoted organic farming upon realizing that the poor conditions of farmers stem from the acquisition of costly synthetic chemicals and fertilizers – eventually dragging them to debts, especially with the occurrence of natural calamities. 

Organic agriculture is a farming technique that uses natural inputs such as animal manure and crop waste to produce quality crops without damage to the environment and the people who live and work with it. In contrast to chemical farming, organic agriculture enriches the soil and is cheaper with the use of existing resources in the farm.

For instance, a farmer who wants to plant 1.8 hectares of land will only need a total amount of Php 6,000 for 20 bags of organic fertilizer, compared to at least Php 20,450 worth of chemical fertilizer in one planting season.  Users of chemicals also expect higher cost for the succeeding years since its regular use develops dependency and thus, greater amount of chemicals is needed to sustain the same yield of crops every year. Its prolonged use also depletes the soil with microorganisms necessary to bear quality and nutritious crops.

With seminars and trainings provided by the organization, Mang Kikoy felt his responsibility in taking good care of the environment because it is where he gathers his livelihood. In 2008, he shifted to organic farming.

Akala ng mga farmers ay hindi ka makaka-ani kung hindi ka gagamit ngchemical fertilizers. Pero unti-unti kong nakita na mali pala ito, nakasasama ang kemikal sa lupa at kalusugan,” explains Mang Kikoy.

Despite the initial hesitation of some farmers, Payoga NGO continues to work in educating them about protecting the environment through organic farming. To date, 2,650 rice and corn farmers in Isabela have joined the cooperative and shifted from chemical to organic farming. 

Gamu farmers holding up their “Greenfriend”

Becoming a cooperative

Seeing the positive results, members of Payoga NGO decided to sustain its operations by becoming a cooperative. But as the cooperative grew in assets, they developed management problems that made it rethink its commitment to the mission of educating and lifting farmers’ lives through organic farming. 

Led by Julie Flores-Madrid, general manager of Payoga/Kapatagan Multipurpose Cooperative (Payoga/Kapatagan MPC), the cooperative retained its awareness-building activity and added capacity-building, livelihood and sustainable agriculture training, zero management training, values formation and community service, like giving of seeds to households and school children

It also ventured into nursery, trading and marketing, selling of livestock and production of organic fertilizer. Its organic fertilizer called Greenfriend is made up of biodegradable raw materials such as chicken, bat, carabao manure and rice straw. It is formed by mixing these materials with carbonized rice hull, agricultural lime, legume and enzymes in 80 percent water.

Members and non-members earn money from selling fertilizer inputs to the cooperative. Farmers who collect rice straw get Php 500 for every 250 kilograms while Php 30-45 for 50 kilograms of chicken, bat and carabao manure. Members who compile the mixture during harvesting and packaging also earn Php 16 per 50 kilograms.

From 45,000 in 2006, the production of Greenfriend bags has momentously increased to 280,000 in 2015. Regular employees also reached 70 and each member benefits from the low buying price of an organic fertilizer bag at Php 210 compared to dealers and government offices which buy each bag at Php 230 and Php 245, respectively.

Aside from these services, the cooperative also markets farmers’ products to private companies and government at marked-up prices. Compared with the traditional system where farmers sell their produce at a very low price, the cooperative ensures that the farmers are paid reasonable amounts for their quality organic crops. On top of marked-up price, members who are contracted to produce seedlings are given patronage refund and shared dividends of about 70 percent of the total earnings of the cooperative at the end of the year.

Julie Flores-Madrid, general manager of Payoga/Kapatagan Multi-purpose Cooperative

Social entrepreneurship

As the cooperative grew in terms of membership, so is its determination to encourage more farmers to practice organic farming. It was at this point when Payoga/Kapatagan MPC heard about the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI), a social investment organization that supports the development of sustainable communities through social entrepreneurship. It has been developing social enterprises in marginalized communities that are owned, managed and operated by the poor, and are economically sound and environmentally-friendly.

Mula nang marinig ko ang FSSI, naisip ko na magandang makipag-partner kasi pareho kami na nagpo-promote ng welfare ng tao, ng environment at gusto din nito na makapag-business ang farmers or mga tao sa community,” says Madrid.

At the onset of the partnership, FSSI gave the members financial and technical assistance and introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship to which they took delight on, as they realized that it is what they have been doing for so long. As a social enterprise, Payoga/Kapatagan MPC is equally mindful of its economic, social and environmental goals.  

Thereafter, Payoga/Kapatagan MPC was asked by the local government unit to represent all farmer organizations in the Council on Organic Farming, National Disaster, and Small and Medium Enterprises apart from helping in the implementation of the municipality’s environment policy.

Regional government agencies such as the Department of Education, Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources also formed partnerships with the cooperative by becoming the market of seeds and organic fertilizer.

The partnership with FSSI has also been essential in the cooperative’s participation in the Isabela Social Enterprise – Local Economy Development Network, a group of 14 organizations united to steer local economy development in the province of Isabela through social enterprises.

Looking back, Madrid can say that majority of what the cooperative envisioned has been realized. But among its achievements is the increased awareness of the farmers on protecting the environment.

“Way back 2001, kapag nag-discuss ka sa farmers about sa climate change, pagtatanim ng puno at kung bakit kailangan ng organic farming at fertilizer, marami sa kanila ang nagsasabing matagal pa iyan. Pero ngayon, nakita namin na nagbago ang pagtingin ng mga tao sa environment. Sinasabi na nila ngayon na ‘Mababaon lang ako sa utang sa chemical farming at saka sayang naman yung environment na siya nating pine-preserve for the next generation,” adds Madrid.