Not all heroes wear capes; many of them spend days under the heat of the sun ensuring that every family in the country can have enough food on the table.
In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, every Filipino household faces a basic need: enough and steady supply of food so that their families will not go hungry.
More than ever, the important role of our farmers now is highlighted as they serve as one of the frontline heroes in these trying times.
However, not all agricultural workers and businesses have the capacity to run their livelihood during this crisis.
From Day 1 of the community quarantine, farmers have deeply been distressed by the health threats and hampered by the necessary measures laid out by the government in containing the virus.
The agricultural sector, heavily reliant on transportation facilities, faces the challenge of transferring goods from their farms to the markets.
Additionally, peddlers and vendors cannot simply roam around to sell their products due to restricted movement. As a consequence, they suffer financial losses even as their perishable products could not be sold. These are either consumed, given away to neighbours or sadly, left to rot.
If not for institutions and organizations who protected our food security frontliners, the agricultural sector would have been on the brink of collapse.
Fortunately, the government has put in place programs that support the sector. On the forefront is the Department of Agriculture implementing initiatives to respond to the needs of agricultural and fisheries workers.
DA has announced the provision of cash subsidies and other financial assistance to farmers which can be used for farm inputs or their families’ basic needs.
In partnership with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), DA is offering online training on the “new normal” in terms of food production and food value chain.
Another important initiative is the Kadiwa, an online shop for agricultural produce. Through this, the public has greater access to cheaper and healthy food supplies. This approach directly connects the farmer-producers to the consumers, thereby lessening the cost of the agri-products.
Furthermore, a number of LGUs have started distributing seeds to encourage residents to plant in their own yards.
In addition, they have been buying produce from local farmers to include in the package of relief goods that they are distributing to their communities.
These initiatives supporting farmers have greatly inspired us in CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement similar meaningful programs for our clients in the agricultural sector.
REBUILDING SMALL AGRI-BUSINESSES
From when it first provided services to landless farmers in 1986, CARD MRI has long recognized the significant contributions of farmers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has called us to go back to our roots and come up with innovative solutions to the challenges our farmers are facing now.
It all started with one CARD MRI client who supplied agricultural products as part of relief packages to a local government unit in Panabo, Davao del Norte.
Then it sparked the concept of consolidating all CARD MRI clients with on-going businesses through a Facebook buy-and-sell group.
As CARD MRI strives to create impact on a bigger scale, CARD MRI partnered with DA as consolidator to the Kadiwa online shops through our network of microfinance and SME clients all over the Philippines.
From such partnership, our clients can now indirectly supply commercial volumes of agri-products to local government units (LGUs). Through this, CARD MRI hopes to support many microfinance and SME clients.
As the health crisis changed our buying habits, we also saw an opportunity to ease the delivery and distribution of food supply more locally.
Recently we launched Likha ni Inay Palengke on Wheels to help our farmer-producers and vendors earn during the pandemic while providing the general community greater accessibility to basic farm products while on quarantine.
The food lane pass granted to CARD MRI allows us to bridge several producers and vendors to consumers. This virtual initiative is hoped to significantly help in reducing the spread of the virus.
Palengke on Wheels is now available in San Pablo City in Laguna, Lipa City in Batangas, San Fernando City in Pampanga, Bais City in Negros Oriental and Mati City in Davao Oriental.
Securing the Future of our Agri Frontliners
Because many of our farmers, vendors and peddlers are crippled by the crisis, they will need greater assistance to help their family and the whole nation in taking small steps forward towards the “new normal”.
While ‘high-risk’ areas in Luzon remain on lockdown until May 15, CARD MRI will gradually resume its operations on May 4 in some areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to help clients slowly restart their business after more than a month of confinement and amidst financial difficulties.
The financial institutions under CARD MRI will also resume offering agricultural loans for the clients’ capital at the start of the planting season.
In the big picture, this will help the agricultural sector address the country’s food security those in lockdown areas.
As Department of Agriculture Secretary Dar says: “While improving our food adequacy level, we should aim for food security. If no action is done, the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus.”