Global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic have disrupted and paralyzed many farming communities, leaving smallholder farmers and agricultural cooperatives struggling to face the steepest challenges to recovery and setting off a snowball effect on the nation’s economic productivity. To further support the Philippine agriculture sector, Cargill Philippines is launching the Agri-Sagana Project in Cagayan and Isabela with the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST). Aiming to capacitate farmers and cooperatives in the corn supply chain to boost agricultural yields, improve their standard of living, and contribute to the country’s food security.
According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Philippines has been dealing with the perfect storm, which it describes as a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, the African Swine Fever, and geopolitical conflicts. This continues to hurt the agricultural sector, causing devastating impacts such as loss of jobs and shackling of food supply chains. The president Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has stressed the urgent need for food security measures, stating that global crises have exposed global food access challenges. During his visit to the United States in September, president Marcos met with Cargill executives to discuss how to achieve food security and self-sufficiency while also exploring ways to boost agricultural productivity in the Philippines by empowering smallholder farmers.
The marketable corn yield of smallholder farmers is declining over time due to poor farm production investments, inefficient harvesting techniques, and inadequate post-harvesting processing infrastructure. Corn farmers, are also exposed to unpredictable weather patterns that destroy crops. As a result, according to a Philippine Statistics Authority report, 34.3% of corn farmers are poor, which is higher than the national average of 21.6%.
“Building a more sustainable, food-secure Philippines amid crises can be complex but possible through focused, collaborative, and sustained efforts to improve farmer productivity and increase the resilience of value chains. With our purpose to nourish the world, Cargill is deeply committed to harnessing the power of agriculture, supporting our farmers, and achieving food security for Filipinos,” said Sonny Catacutan, country president, Cargill Philippines.
In the spirit of sagana, a local term meaning bountiful, the Agri-Sagana project’s purpose is to bring bountiful agricultural opportunities to corn farmers located in Cagayan and Isabela through established pathways – training and capacity development initiatives, development of an inclusive business process, and provision of infrastructure support for environmentally-sound agricultural practices.
The Agri-Sagana project seeks to empower ten cooperatives and 8,000 corn farmers, the majority of whom will be female, with the implementation of a Corn Academy and a Virtual Coop Training Hub to develop agricultural practices, business, and financial literacy among participating farmers. Further training will be provided on crop quality management control, specific to Cargill’s requirements, while establishing the contact, connect, collaborate approach to ensure corn farmers’ increased access to markets.
The project also intends to transform existing post-harvest facilities into enhanced eco-smart post-harvest facilities, with over 500 to 1,000 farmers projected to gain from improved corn quality through the use of sustainable and environmentally-sound drying systems.
“With the Agri-Sagana project, we are excited to connect Filipino corn farmers with the right solutions and opportunities that create far-reaching and sustainable impact for their families and communities. We are equally thrilled to partner with ASSIST, who shares our commitment to advance farmer livelihood,” said Joseph Liwag, commercial leader - Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain Philippines.
“As ASSIST moves forward in this partnership with Cargill Philippines, we will remain committed to creating more capacity-building opportunities that fit the needs of the smallholder farmers. We acknowledge that other farming communities would greatly benefit from the Agri-Sagana project. As such, we hope to replicate and extend the bountiful agricultural opportunities program in other farming communities and locations in the Philippines,” said Francis Macatulad, executive director, ASSIST.
“We are eternally grateful to Cargill Philippines and ASSIST for choosing Cagayan and Isabela as the first two provinces where the Agri-Sagana project will be implemented. Our ministry is committed to supporting the successful implementation of this project as we see its potential replicated in other provinces within the region,” said Paul Vincent Balao, regional corn coordinator, Department of Agriculture Region II.
The Agri-Sagana project is made possible through a partnership between Cargill and ASSIST in agreement to work together to capacitate corn farmers with training and support to improve their productivity and quality of produce.