The Philippine Development Assistance Program, Inc. (PDAP) is a consortium of Filipino and Canadian organizations that for the last 19 years has been working to reduce poverty in the Philippines. In partnership with Philippine NGOs and peoples’ organizations (POs), PDAP develops and implements socioeconomic projects funded through contributions from Canadian NGOs and Official Development Assistance (ODA). In 1997 PDAP launched a program called “Promoting Participation in Rural Enterprises”. This Program which ended in 2004 sought to address rural poverty in agrarian reform communities, with a special emphasis on providing marketing support. While PDAP had previously funded several projects to sell farmers’ products, it was through the PPSE program that PDAP first sought to formalize the linkages between the rural communities and the market. Having established such links, PDAP acquired a new perspective on farming. Farming and its related activities were not simply livelihood activities but are an integral part of an industry that encompasses production, processing, marketing and distribution.
PDAP has since gone on to develop a new program called Promoting Rural Industries and Market Enhancement (PRIME), which seeks to create sustainable small and medium enterprises that create more, better and decent jobs for both men and women through components such as micro-enterprise development, enhancing participation in the market, policy analysis in support of rural micro-enterprises/industries and strengthening of the institutional capacity of PDAP to support the development of rural enterprises as well as to ensure their long-term institutional sustainability. The PRIME Program currently supports the development of organic and natural products, such as organic sugar, organic rice and seaweeds, towards becoming rural industries.
PDAP’s First Foray into Organic Marketing
In the course of implementing PPSE, PDAP singled out organic rice as having the greatest potential of becoming a full-scale industry, and aggressively promoted it. At the same time, PDAP identified a number of limitations of the organic agriculture sector in the Philippines, as follows:
- There is no distinct, stable and sustained market for organic products;
- There are no innovative programs to link producers with sustained markets;
- While there are operational certifying bodies for organic production and processing, there are no national basic standards nor a national accreditation service;
- There are no measures to prevent local prices dropping, especially with the influx of cheaper food from foreign markets.
In 2003 PDAP conducted a nationwide industry appraisal to determine whether its experience in the organic rice industry was shared by other organizations. The appraisal generated important information, especially the number of farmers practicing organic rice farming, the number of areas devoted to organic rice and the volume of production. The study was also able to map out the location of organic rice producers in the Philippines. Aside from such valuable information, the study also drew out from farmers the issues and problems besetting this sub-sector of the rice industry.
PDAP conducted two Business Forums on Organic Rice in August 2003 in Cagayan de Oro City and in September 2003 in Quezon City to validate the findings of the study. These forums culminated in a National Forum on Organic Rice Industry in November 2003 which was participated in by more than 80 organic rice producers, NGOs, marketing groups and government agencies. There was unanimous agreement among the participants to aggressively promote and strengthen the organic rice industry. This commitment was concretized through the creation of the Organic Rice Industry Technical Working Group (ORI-TWG).
The overwhelming support of organic rice producers and advocates led to the approval of financial assistance from PDAP for one year to follow up on the recommendations proposed at the national forum, especially with regard to engaging the government in the development and promotion of the organic rice industry.
On January 30, 2004, the First Organic Rice Industry Technical Working Group Planning was conducted in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. This historic event led to the development of the ORI-TWG Mission and Objectives.
In April 2004, the Secretariat of the Organic Rice Industry Technical Working Group was formed, with four staff members.
In one year, the ORI-TWG made some significant progress, namely, securing approval for a credit window program for organic rice farmers; development of the draft national standards on organic rice, the launch of the Healthy Rice brand at the International Food Exposition in 2004, and membership in the Committee of the International Year of Rice. The ORI-TWG also facilitated the inclusion of PDAP in the newly created Philippine National Organic Agriculture Board (PNOAB).
Strategies and tactics
PDAP, through the ORI-TWG (hereafter the TWG), sought to address the issue of farmers’ lack of market linkages through the following:
Opening a Quedancor credit program and other financing facilities for organic rice farmers to increase the production of small farmer-producers.
Credit is a critical element in ensuring the sustainability of farming operations. PDAP sought to improve the farmers’ access to credit by establishing a partnership with the QuedanCor, a government financing institution established by law. Through Quedancor Administrative Order 329 dated October 13, 2004 and signed by its President and Chief Executive Officer Nelson Buenaflor, a credit and financing support scheme was made available to organic rice farmer-partners and organizations that were part of the PDAP Organic Rice Program. This program was launched in November 2004 and piloted in three areas where PDAP was operating, including Pecuaria in Camarines Sur, Bago City and La Castellana in Negros Occidental with BIND and Masipag Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur with Ecotech-Masipag. This credit facility operated until the second cropping of 2004-2005.
Another financing facility tapped by PDAP was the Asia Japan Partnership Network for Poverty Reduction (AJPN)’s Enhancing Capacities on Sustainable Agriculture towards Poverty Reduction Program. This facility provided financial support to 75 farmers in Valencia City, Bukidnon for their organic fertilizer and marketing requirements. The project facilitated the conduct of exposure trips in Cotabato, Mindanao, which were participated in by 68 farmers, as well as a season long training which ended in August 2005. Demonstration farms were also established for organic rice seed production and as a showcase of organic rice farming.
Together with AJPN and PDAP, the TWG took part in the development of the Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Rice Master Plan Development for Valencia City. The Valencia City Local Government approved a PhP20 million guarantee fund for the conversion of 500 hectares of rice farms for organic rice production, an initial step towards declaring the City as the Organic Rice Capital of the Philippines. The Valencia City government is targeting to convert 6,000 hectares for organic rice production by 2015.
Developing the “green product” seal that would certify the produce of smallholders and ensure the integrity of the organic rice
The “green product” seal is the end-result of the Internal Quality Control System (IQCS) which has been installed within the processes and methods of every PDAP partner in preparation for organic certification. Several IQCS seminars have been participated in by PDAP partners since the IQCS’s institutionalization in 2004.
Three organic rice producers were assisted in the development of their IQCS Manuals. These are the Pecuaria Development Cooperative in Bicol, Macasabat in Iloilo and the Makakabus in Bukidnon. On-the-job coaching and monitoring of the groups’ compliance with the IQCS Manual were also conducted. However, only two of the three organizations have completed the requirements and applied for certification with the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP).
Technical and financial assistance for the development of the IQCS Manual was also provided to Negros Green Producers Association (NGPA), a group assisted by BIND. NGPA has already developed a manual that is ready for submission to OCCP. Don Bosco on the other hand has signified their intention to avail of TWG’s technical and financial assistance for the development of their IQCS Manual.
Facilitating the drawing up of marketing contracts between organic rice farmers and marketing arms to improve the viability of small farmer producers
PDAP, in partnership with the Upland Marketing Foundation, Inc. (UMFI) and the Bukidnon Organic Products Corporation (BOPC), was one of the first NGOs working on the organic rice sector to get its products into the big supermarkets in the Philippines. Traditionally, this marketing task is assumed by farmers’ cooperatives.
The TWG also assisted organic rice producers in linking up with other marketing groups. Pecuaria was linked to Gratia Plena, aside from its traditional marketing arm, the UMFI. An employee’s cooperative of PDAP assisted Pecuaria in linking with other buyers. The producer of DIONYSUS Organic Rice Wine got its supply of organic rice from Pecuaria.
The UMFI was assisted by the TWG in looking for suppliers of organic rice in Mindanao and was thereafter linked to BOPC and Don Bosco. Producers in Agusan del Sur and Cotabato were likewise linked to BOPC for the marketing of their organic rice.
Producers in Negros Occidental and Cotabato were assisted by their NGO partners in the marketing of their organic rice. Don Bosco has established the BioDynamic store in Kidapawan City while BIND maintains its Negros Greenshoppe in Bacolod City.
Adoption of a common brand to facilitate sustained brand management, expansion and identification of additional marketing partners and exploration of export markets, thus making the marketing arms more viable
To assist the marketing arms in the development of more markets for organic rice, the TWG developed a generic brand that could be sold anywhere in Metro Manila, the national capital region, as well as in any part of the Philippines. This generic label is the “Healthy Rice” brand. This brand/label was launched at the International Food Exposition at the World Trade Center on May 28, 2004.
Today, the brand is available in more than 90 outlets in Metro Manila and in neighboring provinces. It is also being used by Kooperatiba Sto. Niño in Koronadal City, South Cotabato. UMFI had received PhP180,000 from the TWG to produce the Healthy Rice brand. This seed capital was managed and revolved for the production of the label. The UMFI in turn pays the TWG a P0.25 royalty fee to help sustain the latter’s operations.
The TWG facilitated the conduct of the Export Seminar for Organic Rice to acquaint potential exporters of organic rice with the requirements of the export market. The seminar was conducted in coordination with the Centre for International Trade and Exposition Missions (CITEM).
BOPC was given financial assistance amounting to PhP230,000 for the expansion of its marketing activities in Bukidnon. BOPC was also linked to Gratia Plena and now regularly (every month) supplies Gratia Plena with organic rice. BOPC has identified and negotiated with potential institutional buyers to expand its market reach. For instance, it is eyeing Cebu as a potential market, and has entered into talks with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP)’s member-companies.
The TWG’s assistance was extended to Pecuaria Development Cooperative, Inc., which was recommended for inclusion in the CITEM/CBI program. This program provides technical assistance to organic producers in the Philippines wishing to break into the EU market.
Continued advocacy, networking and promotion of the organic rice industry
PDAP has sustained its advocacy, networking and promotion of the organic rice industry through the following initiatives:
1. Drafting of the National Standards on Organic Rice Production and Processing
In coordination with the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development, the TWG drafted the National Standards on Organic Rice Production and Processing (NSOR). The NSORs were developed on the basis of outputs of the IQCS Orientation and Trainers’ Training, and the current National Standards on Organic Agriculture of the IFOAM.
2. Regional Consultation on the NSORs
The NSORs were submitted to two regional consultations in Quezon City in October 2004 and in Makilala, Cotabato in November 2004, which were participated in by organic rice producers, government line agencies, funding institutions and marketing arms. The NSORs were also submitted to the Bureau of Agriculture Fisheries and Product Standards (BAFPS) for committee review and approval. The BAFPS held regional consultations in the 3rd quarter of 2005 to have the draft standards evaluated by key stakeholders in the organic rice industry. Once approved, the NSORs will serve as a guide in the production, processing and marketing of organic rice in the Philippines.
3. Participation in the First National Consultation on Organic Agriculture and the Creation of the Philippine National Organic Agriculture Board (PNOAB)
As the lead organization promoting the development of the organic rice industry in the Philippines, the TWG took part in the First National Consultation on Organic Agriculture on June 9-10, 2004 in Manila. The activity was sponsored by PDAP, the Organic Products Trade Association and the DA-BAFPS. The Chair of the TWG led a forum to talk about the organic rice industry in the Philippines and the TWG’s experience. Representatives of the organic sector and DA personnel participated in the conference.
Subsequently, the creation of the PNOAB was approved under Department of Agriculture Administrative Order 01 Series of 2005. PDAP was appointed to the PNOAB, owing partly to the TWG’s active involvement in the meetings and planning of the interim PNOAB. The TWG also recommended PhilDHRRA and BIND to be part of the new agency.
On December 27, 2005, the President of the Philippines further institutionalized the PNOAB by establishing the NOAB through Executive Order 481, the Promotion and Development of Organic Agriculture in the Philippines. Its implementing rules and regulations are currently being developed with the active participation of the members of the TWG.
4. International Year of Rice
The TWG played an active role in preparations for the International Year of Rice (IYR). It was part of the committee that prepared the program of the IYR Forum in November 2004. It also participated in the booth display during the IYR 2004 at the Philippine International Trade Center where the Healthy Rice was prominently displayed along with other products from across Asia.
5. Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Rice Master Plan Development
The implementation of the AJPN Project in Valencia City, Bukidnon has encouraged the City Government to declare the city as the Organic Rice Capital of the Philippines. To realize this vision, the City Government passed City Ordinance No. 03-2005 to develop the sustainable agriculture and organic master plan for the city. Meanwhile, the AJPN and PDAP committed to prepare the organic rice component of the master plan and provided financial counterpart of P300,000.
6. Second Organic Rice Festival and World Food Day 2004
The holding of the Second Organic Rice Festival was facilitated by the Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly-Pilipinas on behalf of the TWG, PDAP, and ANGOC. It was held on October 16, 2004 in commemoration of World Food Day at the Quezon City Memorial Circle. Topics ranging from organic rice marketing, sustainable agriculture from the Asian perspective, GMOs in Philippine agriculture and urban food production were tackled in presentations given by the Asian Farmers Alliance, PDAP, South East Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE), Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya and MASIPAG. The event also featured an organic rice taste test and poster making contest.
7. Newsletter and organicrice.org website and other advocacy activities
The TWG sought to promote the organic rice industry through the mass media, and other media forms. Radio interviews, newspaper articles, brochures, newsletters, speaking engagements and a website were some of the tools it used to get its message across.
The Chair of the TWG was interviewed during the Mindanao Consultation for the Development of the Philippine National Standards on Organic Rice conducted in November 2004 in Makilala, Cotabato. He was also one of the resource persons during the First National Consultation on Organic Agriculture in June 2004. PDAP was invited as a resource person for a World Food Day event in October 2004. The Coordinator of the TWG made a presentation on the status of the organic rice industry in the Philippines during the Asian Farmers Assembly held in Manila in 2004 and during the KALAHI-CIDSS Donors Forum in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur on June 16, 2005. The Coordinator was also a resource person during the Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Rice Master Development Planning held in Bukidnon on March 10, 2005.
News articles about Healthy Rice, the organic rice industry and the Quedancor project came out in the Daily Inquirer, a national daily newspaper, and in Mindanews, a regional daily in Mindanao.
Three issues of organic.update, the TWG newsletter, were produced and distributed. The articles featured in the organicrice.update were also uploaded in the http://www.organicrice.org, the official website of the TWG.
Brochures of the Healthy Rice Brand and the TWG were produced.
8. Memorandum of Understanding between PDAP and Philrice
A Memorandum of Understanding between PDAP and Philrice is being finalized. It outlines the role of the TWG, PDAP and Philrice in the organic rice industry. For a start, Philrice distributed free organic breeder seeds to Pecuaria, Kool-NE, BIND, Makakabus and Ecotech-Masipag for variety trial, testing and eventually mass propagation.
9. Networking and linkage building with funding institutions, organic rice producers and government line agencies
The TWG was able to link up with other organic rice producers, government line agencies, and funding institutions to get support for the industry. Among these are Quedancor, AJPN, the National Food Authority (NFA), the City Government of Valencia, Bukidnon, the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP), CITEM, Mancor, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Philrice, Philam Foundation, SIBAT, and YSDA.
10. Support for Marketing Arms
TWG gave its endorsement for UMFI when the latter needed a letter of certification to authenticate the integrity of the organic rice from Pecuaria. The letter of endorsement was forwarded to Shopwise when the supermarket questioned the integrity of the organic rice being marketed by UMFI. A letter of certification was also submitted to HEKS in Switzerland to inform them of the ongoing activities of the Negros Green Producers Association in line with their application for certification.
11. International Food Exposition, Bio-Search and Social Development Week
The TWG has promoted organic rice through its participation in various trade fairs. The IFEX 2004 and 2005 which were held back to back with the annual Bio-Search at the World Trade Center, and the Social Development Week held annually at the Ayala Center were participated in by the TWG and its member-networks.
Challenges and Opportunities
Threats and constraints
The Philippine rice industry continues to be hampered by the lack of government support in terms of infrastructure, post-harvest facilities, irrigation and technology. This nonchalance on the part of the government mocks the country’s failure to meet the domestic demand for rice.
At the same time, the Philippines is under pressure to open up its rice sector, as part of its commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Philippine government has requested an extension of its policy of imposing quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice imports, but even if it were to get such an extension, it would simply be delaying the inevitable. Nonetheless, the government should maximize the time it still has to work out a contingency plan with rice farmers.
The development of the country’s organic agriculture sector is also limited by the fact that large portions of potential areas for conversion are not being farmed by owner-cultivators. The lack of support services for the sub-sector is another problem.
It remains to be seen whether NGOs and POs, working together, would be able to break the stranglehold of vested interests in Philippine agriculture, such that the policies adopted by the Government would be the kind that truly responds to the needs and priorities of the majority of the rural population
The other threats relate to the current marketing efforts of the partners of PDAP, especially those that deal with big supermarkets. Among these threats are: the limited scale of operations of UMFI and BOPCI, which makes them unable to meet the increasing demand among health-conscious consumers; the lack of capitalization of these partners which makes it difficult for them to sustain their operations especially considering the payment terms demanded by the supermarkets, and their constant need to build up their inventories to deal with periods when they are not yet harvesting their produce, or the so-called non-harvest periods. Challenges like these need to be responded to concretely within the present financial and marketing set-up of the organic rice marketing system. It will take a while before they can be efficiently handled by PDAP’s partners.
Opportunities and facilitating factors
PDAP’s Program for Organic Rice has generated the following insights which can be useful in furthering the development of the organic rice industry in the Philippines as well as in encouraging community-based organizations working in Asia:
The commitment of organic producers to the IQCS
The organic rice producers’ (cooperatives, organizations, associations) internalization of the importance and benefits of the IQCS is important in maintaining the quality and acceptability of the produce. The IQCS is a crucial tool as it is a preparatory step to organic certification. It is also indispensable to gaining market acceptance for the organic product, and to fetching a higher selling price for the product.
It is also important to define the maturity level of producers before installing the IQCS. Organizations that are not ready to install quality systems in their organizations tend to halfheartedly accept the responsibilities associated with the IQCS, thereby causing failure all-around. In contrast, mature organizations readily recognize the importance of the IQCS, thus facilitating the systems’ installation.
Strong collaboration and support from various stakeholders and industry players
The multi-stakeholder approach is a common strategy employed by organizations to achieve a bigger impact. Simply put, cooperation and not competition is now the name of the game.
The TWG has done its share of promoting collaboration among key stakeholders in the organic rice industry. It has engaged the government and collaborated with producers, non-government organizations and funding institutions to promote and sustain the development of the organic rice industry. This collaboration has generated very significant accomplishments that have helped sustain the individual efforts of producers and advocates, like the approval of the Quedancor Program for Organic Rice Farmers, the drafting of the Philippine National Standards on Organic Rice, and the linkages/networking that have facilitated the marketing of organic rice in major cities in the country.
The role of consumers
Consumers are indispensable to the development of the industry. As consumer demand for organic products increases, organic farmers are encouraged to produce and supply more. There is however a need to educate consumers. The organic sector in the Philippines comprises a still insignificant share of the total market.
Exposure (trade fair, participation to forum and conferences) and linkages with support agencies
The participation of the TWG and its network members in trade fairs, seminars, training and consultations has broadened the perspective of the organizations of the challenges and potentials of the organic rice industry. Networking and linkages have facilitated the collaboration for the benefit of the industry.
The role of local government units in fostering local agricultural development
Aside from providing resources and programs, such as agricultural extension, local governments have a critical role in local policy development.
The Philippines has devolved its key government services as a result of the general policy of decentralization ushered in by the Local Government Code of 1991. In the field of agriculture, however, the national agency, the Department of Agriculture, has devolved its operations to the local government units without turning over the tasks of planning and preparation nor the resources these require.
Hence, local government units have entered into partnerships with NGOs and community-based organizations or peoples’ organizations to access the necessary technical assistance and even resources to build up the capacity of the local bureaucracy to deliver services to the constituents. This approach is exemplified by the experience of the Valencia City local government unit in its bid to develop Valencia as the Organic Rice Capital of the Philippines.
Feasibility for Rural Communities in Asia
PDAP’s model, which is currently being implemented in other areas of the Philippines, requires the involvement of strong civil society organizations with a long track record in Philippine rural development work. It must be realized that the push for organic rice happened in spite of the lack of explicit government support for its initiation and conceptualization. It must also be acknowledged however that in the succeeding phases of program implementation, the support of key government agencies, such as Quedancor and the Department of Agriculture proved pivotal.
The experience of PDAP can be replicated in other countries in Asia, but one element of it that may need some adaptation, especially in countries where civil society is not yet well developed, is the role of civil society organizations and how they can best be organized to work together to achieve common objectives.
The role of government in the development of the respective countries’ rice industries, particularly the organic agriculture sub-sector, needs to be examined, because even without full government support, other forms of input from the government, such as credit, could still help the model along.
Perhaps we would need to wait several more years to see how this model of market linkaging would help small farmers in a liberalized economic environment, and capacitate and enable them to survive the ups and downs of the local and international market.
This article is included in the recently published book “Initiatives on Pro-Small Farmer Trade”.