In a groundbreaking partnership that underscores a common commitment to uplift rural communities and enhance agricultural sustainability, the Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF), L3F, FB and MARS have joined forces to create a transformative initiative aimed at empowering coconut farmers in the Philippines. This collaborative effort, which melds IRDF’s community-driven expertise, L3F’s development consultancy services together with MARS’ and FB’s corporate social responsibility, is already yielding remarkable results, bringing positive change to the lives of countless farmers.
At the heart of this collaboration lies a profound dedication to enhancing the livelihoods of coconut farmers and bolstering growth of the coconut sector in the country. The initiative, which spans almost five years, has already exhibited significant impact on farm productivity and incomes of smallholder coconut farmers in the region.
The joint project of IRDF, L3F, Mars and the Franklin Baker aims to secure thriving livelihoods for small farmers’ communities through widespread adoption of a sustainable agriculture that delivers value across supply chains and public goods. The project, now on its fifth year has already accomplished its target of enrolling and enlisting participation of 5000 smallholder farmers. Most of the beneficiaries on the average own and cultivate 1.4 hectares The project’s digital enrollment process introduced in 2019 paved the way for accelerating integration of farmers into the project. A gender-balanced enrollment ratio of 55% male and 45% female farmers showcases the inclusivity and equity championed by this collaboration.
Kidapawan City emerges as a pivotal focal point, with 20.20% of the enrolled farmers hailing from this region, thanks to the presence of the IRDF Mindanao Field Office. Further enriching this landscape, the proactive assignment of Community Development Facilitators (CDFs) in various project areas ensures the effective implementation of the initiative’s transformative strategies.
The collaboration’s resilience was brought to the fore during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic. With swift adaptability and innovative solutions, the initiative managed to increase farmer enrollment by over 200% during its third year, demonstrating its commitment to economic empowerment even in times of crisis.
A key factor contributing to this success is the setting up of a “floor price subsidy” that the project introduced. This initiative not only safeguarded the farmers’ incomes but also encouraged enrollment, resulting in consistent deliveries to the FB processing plants even when traditional traders faced setbacks due to lockdowns and logistical constraints.
The partnership’s vision extends beyond immediate gains, addressing the complex issue of an aging farming population. Recognizing the potential challenges of declining productivity and loss of traditional knowledge, the initiative adopts strategic measures to attract younger generations to farming. By providing training, support, and avenues for agricultural innovation, IRDF, L3F, FB and MARS aim to bridge generational gaps and ensure the sector’s vitality for years to come.
As the collaboration progresses, the comprehensive surveys commissioned by MARS and conducted by COSA and Rogers McJohn reveal encouraging income growth trends. With an average annual farm income increase of Php 15,963, the initiative’s impact on uplifting the financial well-being of farmers becomes evident.
This joint venture between and among IRDF, L3F, FB and MARS not only showcases their shared commitment to rural development and sustainable agriculture but also serves as an inspiration for future partnerships.
By uniting community-driven expertise with corporate social responsibility, this initiative has the potential to redefine the way collaborations shape the future of farming, enriching lives and fostering lasting change in the process.