PLDT and Smart continue to provide small-scale farmers with access to sure market and capital funding. Partnering with social enterprise Cropital, Smart extends funding aid to rice growers across Luzon through the ‘Buy Local’ program.
By the end of the second quarter of 2021, Smart’s ‘Buy Local’ campaign has raised almost Php 4 million in revenues from the sale of more than 56 metric tons of rice. This made it possible for the company to help more than 1,000 rice farmers in the country. Parts of the sale also go to a sustainability fund that that has now grown to Php 200,000. The fund is then offered as low-interest loans to farmers Cropital has partnered with.
“Many of our farmers borrow from loan sharks and traders that offer loans with interest as high as 20% per month. With many of our rice farmers having a difficult time competing against the cheaper imported rice in the market, many of them are trapped in the cycle of debt and poverty. That’s why Smart came up with the ‘Buy Local’ initiative to give rice growers access to sure market where they can sell their produce at a price that gives them dignity for their profession as well as access to affordable loans that they can use to support the next planting cycle without being burdened by high interest rates,” said Stephanie Orlino, Smart Assistant Vice President for Community Partnerships.
The ‘Buy Local’ program enables PLDT and Smart employees and their families to buy farm products directly from adopted farming communities through the Cropital e-commerce platform. Part of the proceeds goes to a sustainability fund that provides farmers affordable capital support for the next planting cycle. Six other companies led by PLDT and Smart Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan have also adopted the campaign.
Access to capital funding has been a challenge for farmers. Rice farming is not only labor intensive but capital intensive as well. Already saddled with high cost of farm inputs and unpredictable weather, many rice growers accept high interest rates just to get by. As a consequence, they barely earn enough from their harvest to pay off their debt and provide for their families.
“For every 100 cavans that you harvest per hectare, expenses amount to 40 cavans,” noted 50-year-old Rufo Sarmiento, Jr. who farms some 15 hectares of land in Barangay San Joaquin in Balungao, Pangasinan.
“The program is a huge boost for small-scale farmers. We don’t have to look for capital funding elsewhere to support the upcoming planting season,” added Aida Papa, a rice farmer from Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro who manages her family’s four-hectare rice field in Barangay Kurtinganan in Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.
Apart from granting low-interest loans to farmers, the ‘Buy Local’ campaign also boosts farmers’ income by providing sure markets for their produce.
“We’re grateful to PLDT and Smart for coming up with this program. This gives us the platform to sell our crops at a fair price,” Sarmiento, Jr. said.
To expand the program’s reach, Smart encourages companies and organizations to source their rice and vegetable donations for community pantries and families affected by the pandemic and disasters through the Buy Local platform. The Buy Local Farm-to-Pantry initiative has generated more than Php 200,000 in sales for vegetable growers in Aurora, Bulacan, and Isabela who were saddled with oversupply. The Buy Local Rice Donation campaign on the other hand has raised almost half a million pesos in revenues for farmers in Balungao, Pangasinan through the Rice Aid initiative of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
Smart has been collaborating with stakeholders to champion meaningful, inclusive, sustainable, technology-enabled, and crisis-responsive programs in education, livelihood, disaster resilience and tourism to enable Filipinos to live smarter for a better world.
The ‘Buy Local’ program resides under Smart’s framework of Technology for Development that aims to narrow down the digital divide. The program is also aligned with the commitment of PLDT and Smart to support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, particularly Zero Hunger (SDG 2), and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8).
To learn about Buy Local and how companies and groups adopt the program in their respective companies, please follow FarmSmart on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FarmSmartPH