PLDT and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) together with social enterprise and e-commerce platform Cropital extended capital support to small-time rice farmers in Floridablanca, Pampanga in celebration of the birthday of PLDT and Smart Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan in July.
Smart turned over Php 100,000 from its ‘Buy Local’ sustainability fund to 20 farmer-beneficiaries of a community adopted by Cropital, as low-interest loans. The amount will help beneficiaries buy farm inputs for the next planting season.
“Smart continues to lend a hand to farmers who have difficulty looking for capital. The ‘Buy Local’ program offers not only access to affordable loans for farmers but also opportunities to boost their income by connecting them with consumers,” said Stephanie V. Orlino, Smart AVP for Community Relations.
Often saddled with high-interest loans and enterprising middlemen, rice growers are among the most financially challenged persons in the country. Based on the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, 3 in 10 farmers are poor, the highest poverty incidence across the basic sectors in the nation.
“Farmers in Floridablanca often find difficulties in accessing credit opportunities. Cropital supports farmers by providing them with low-interest loans to fund their farming activities,” said Jane Advincula, Business Development Officer at Cropital. She said that the organization also helps farmers insure their crops so they can receive compensation in case their community is ravaged by natural calamities.
Federico Manoto, a local rice farmer in Floridablanca who has been growing the crop for more than three decades, said that farming is a gamble. “If you’re lucky, you can earn P40,000 per hectare,” he said. The 58-year-old farmer added that he also drives a tricycle and grows vegetables to help pay for the high costs of farm inputs. Manoto said that his income is also being threatened by low prices of palay, the same problem that distresses his fellow farmers in the area.
Sonny Galang, who has been farming in Floridablanca for more than four decades, lamented the narrow margins they’re operating in to sustain the activity. “Our main problem is finding buyers. Current offers are so low that the price of one kilogram of palay is the same as a kilogram of rice bran.” The 61-year-old farmer also said he grows rice three times a year to maximize his profits.
Smart’s ‘Buy Local’ campaign has also been providing farmers with a platform where they can sell their harvest at fair market prices. Through the program, PLDT and Smart employees, as well as employees of other Pangilinan-led companies, can buy directly from the farmers providing them a sure market for their crops. Part of the proceeds go to a sustainability fund that is loaned to adopted farmers so they can buy farm inputs for the next planting season. The initiative is part of Smart’s corporate social responsibility programs aimed at promoting corporate RICEponsibility among the private sector to help increase the income of smallholder farmers.
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 No Poverty (SDG 1), 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