Wholistic help for farmers and fisherfolk
By Ernesto M. Ordoñez |Philippine Daily Inquirer12:01 am | Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
When help is given to farmers and fisherfolk, it is best to use a wholistic approach. Some limit themselves to production. Thus, they choose cost-effective technology and provide effective training. Others know that even with this help, a product without a market can be more bane than boon. Thus, they provide market information, market leads, market pricing and even market contracts.
The market-oriented approach is a big step forward in helping farmers. But even more progressive are those who look beyond the economic and add the health dimension. Poor farmers and fisherfolk often need immediate help in this area to effectively carry out their production and marketing activities.
The Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF) under its chair Manuel Pangilinan and president Benigno Ricafort uses a wholistic approach. Here is one example.
Five hundred participants received a whole day training session on different livelihood activities. From this session, the Alyansa Agrikultura helped organize three different commodity groups. They would get follow-up training and more importantly, organizational skills to start their income-producing activities.
One of these groups became the KDF Satellite Nursery Association (KDF-SNA) headed by Honorio Bungay (0921-2053368). Realizing that the lack of certified fruit trees was keeping Central Luzon from becoming the potential Fruit Center of Asia, 63 members each put up a certified fruit nursery. Their organization alone could put up more than one third of all the certified fruit tree nurseries in the Philippines. They used the most cost-effective technology provided by the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Plant Industry and received effective training programs from both government and private sector organizations.
The next step was to sell their products. Last Aug. 16, the KDF-SNA launched a small weekend market center. Seeing the bigger picture where poor farmers and fisherfolk sell their produce to unscrupulous traders who get the lion’s share of the profits, KDF-SNA opened their market center to other products. This way, farmers and fisherfolk could sell their products directly to the consumers and get the profits for themselves. This center is getting much support and is expanding on a gradual basis, thus addressing the marketing deficiency of many producers.
To be wholistic, one must look at the different aspects that make up a farmer’s and fisher’s life. Critical is the health dimension. The KDF saw a great opportunity to help in this area.
Last year, the Department of Health (DOH) started using the money newly collected from tobacco farmers (i.e. the sin tax) to help indigent patients. The KDF conducted an information campaign letting poor farmers and fisherfolk know of this program called “No Balance Billing.” This means that an indigent farmer or fisher can get totally free medical assistance using DOH-prescribed medical rates. When the No Balance Billing program was launched last year, KDF immediately connected the qualified farmers and fisherfolk to the Philhealth-accredited hospitals which would provide them with these services.
Today, in addition to KDF alerting its members to this progressive DOH program, they also set up the KDF People With Disability (PWD) Clinic in partnership with Philhealth. They have three basic disability programs namely: Born Free, which is done through 13 midwife-owned birthing clinics funded by the PLDT-Smart Foundation; Smiling Free, done with Operation Smile by addressing cleft lip and cleft palate patients; and Seeing Clearly, done through providing P13 reading eye glasses and prescription eye glasses from the Physicians For Peace. The clinic also provides pterygium operations that last only a few minutes by scraping the accumulated plaque over a person’s eyes and enabling him to see clearly again. Walking Free is done by providing prosthetics for amputees.
GOs, NGOs and POs. GOs are government organizations while NGOs are non-government organizations. Both these groups helped the small farmers, fisherfolk and other underprivileged people, who constitute the people organizations (POs).
When GOs and NGOs help the POs composed of small farmers and fisherfolk, they concentrate on the production aspect by providing technology and training. Often missing is the marketing aspect: a key to earning income. But the wholistic perspective would include also the health aspect, which is very often a stumbling block to a small farmer’s and fisher’s welfare and happiness.
GOs and NGOs should therefore take a wholistic approach in helping POs. They must add to the traditional production approach a marketing aspect, and supplement this by looking at the health dimension. The wholistic approach can be done most effectively by networking and jointly undertaking with other GOs and NGOs the important activities involving production, marketing and health. KDF provides such an example. It is this approach that POs sorely need today.
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax (02) 8522112).