Linking Farmers and Consumers amidst COVID-19 Lockdown: The K-GAT Experience
It’s time to invest efforts in building food consumers’ cooperatives or retool existing credit coops and homeowners’ associations (HOA) which will directly source food from local agri-fishery-forestry cooperatives.
This is the key message of Raul Socrates “Soc” Banzuela, Executive Director of PAKISAMA, as a panelist to the May 22, 2020 online discussion organized by the Asian Solidarity Economy Council (ASEC) for its Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) Online Academy.
The ASEC forum aimed to present cases on how SSE principles – socially responsible governance, edifying ethical values, and the “triple bottom line” (people, planet and profit) – are put into practice.
Banzuela showed the case of Kababaihang Dumagat ng Sierra Madre (K-GAT), a start-up agroforestry cooperative of indigenous people (IP) locally known as Dumagat Remontados.
K-GAT was organized in November 2019 with 250 members from five municipalities of Quezon, Rizal, and Bulacan surrounding Mount Irid, to provide a platform for the marginalized women IP members to gain economic and political power in the community.
The women leaders of K-GAT thought it would be more strategic to sell their agri-forestry products directly to urban consumers so that they could get better prices. However, this would be very challenging due to travel restrictions, among other measures, imposed by the government since March 15 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Metro Manila and the entire Luzon were on lockdown, PAKISAMA started to assist K-GAT beginning May 2 with the help of various groups and individuals.
In three weeks’ time, the following initiatives were put in place: a) A farmers market at De La Costa Homes in Marikina City, serving lower middle class homeowners; b) Delivery of food packs to church institutions that are providing relief operations; and c) Online delivery service to urban consumers in Metro Manila and nearby areas.
Summing up the impacts thus far: 70 Dumagat-Remontado women farmers served, with farmgate prices higher by 25%; retail price savings of 5% for 355 consumers; 1,233 urban poor families provided with food packs; 100,000 pesos net income earned by K-GAT agroforestry coop; jobs created for 35 sorters, riders, drivers.
Key Lessons Learned:
- Consumers market is big and need to be tapped. Supermarkets have been the key markets of our coop products neglecting four other consumer market typologies: Farmers Market, food pack distribution, online deliveries, coop/HOA-based household deliveries.
- Systematic producer-consumer link is key. There are very few community organizers (CO) focused on linking producers to consumers, and can mobilize existing networks.
- Capability of primary agricoops to ensure quantity, quality, and regularity of supply remains to be a big challenge.
- Consumers are largely unorganized. Consumers coops, has been a neglected area of CSO interventions over the years and we are paying the price. Agricoops/farmer organizations (FOs) have no ready channel for their products but the traditional traders/supermarkets.
- KGAT Capability Building: Professionalized staffing, acquisition of key assets: warehouse and trucking; partnership with delivery businesses/couriers coop.
- PAKISAMA Capability Building: Focus on building capacity of KGAT and other PAKISAMA members; Business Development Service (BDS) staff to take on the role of CO focused on producer-consumer linkage.
- AgriCOOPh Ecosystem Capability Building: Build the national infrastructure, mobilizing significant percentage (20%) of 18,000 operating coops in the country to transform as food consumers coops and/or agri-fishery-forestry coops directly linked to consumers.
- Broader civil society: Mobilize most members to organizing food consumers coops to cover 1,700 town and city centers, linked to local agri-fishery-forestry coops; Advocate for logistics and human resources support from their existing funders.
- Government: Channel finance, human resource and logistical support to help form and strengthen agri-fishery-forestry coops and food consumer coops.
View the PowerPoint presentation here