COVID-19 lockdown: PAKISAMA shares practical experience and coping mechanisms

COVID-19 lockdown: PAKISAMA shares practical experience and coping mechanisms

What are the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially on food security and supply chain, and how could we explore ways to move forward?

The University of the Philippines (UP) – CIFAL invited PAKISAMA, among other groups, to tackle this pressing issue and share its initiatives through a webinar on June 3, 2020.

The Centre International de Formation des Autorités et Leaders (CIFAL) Global Network is an international network of training centers coordinated by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

During the online discussion Raul Socrates Banzuela, Executive Director of PAKISAMA, emphasized the importance of cooperation among the government, the public, and private groups as well as linking consumers as cooperatives that directly source food from local farmers.

“Food and nutrition security amidst pandemic and beyond is possible only if we can organize cooperation (locally known as bayanihan) between food consumers and local agri-cooperatives,” Banzuela said.

“We make our farmers heroes, and treat them as such by encouraging them to do their noble mission of producing our food, and by patronizing their products and helping them to build their organizations, their cooperatives, to ensure they deliver, enough, quality food products, timely and regularly,” he added.

Some PAKISAMA members which include small fishers, indigenous peoples, rural youth and women have adapted themselves and came out with various coping mechanisms while on lockdown.

The Banasi farmers in Bula, Camarines Sur, got vegetable seeds from the Department of Agriculture and now they are diversifying their monocrop rice farms to include vegetables.

The members of Panaw Sumilao Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC) in Bukdinon have been producing organic fertilizers to promote organic farming and healthy food.

Members of the PATANOM agri-cooperative in Barotac Viejo, Iloilo transitioned from conventional to organic rice, milled and packaged them and are now selling them with the help of social media.

Women farmers in Bulan, Sorsogon have started their own rolling vegetable store, selling their products directly to their neighbors.

Leaders of COMFAS, a federation of municipal fisherfolk associations in Zamboanga Sibugay, have been engaging in relief operation, continuous development of their aquaculture farm, and uploading posters to inspire farmers and fishers in the country.

Banzuela highlighted the experience of PAKISAMA with one women-led indigenous peoples organization called Kababaihang Dumagat ng Sierra Madre (K-GAT). The agri-forestry cooperative made the following initiatives:

  • Five rounds of weekend farmers market at the de la Costa Homes in Barangka, Marikina City;
  • Food pack delivery for a relief operation project of the de la Salle Brothers benefiting 1,233 urban poor families living at North Cemetery and Montalban resettlement community;
  • With some earnings KGAT prepared 100 food packs for their own most vulnerable member indigenous people families;
  • Online home delivery food pack service catering to 75 families

K-GAT was  happy to report that they were able to help a hundred of their fellow Dumagats to increse by 25% on average the price of their products. They were also able to lower by at least 5% the retail price of vegetable, rootcrops, and fruits sold to their consumers. They were happy to contribute to supplying more nutritious food packs to urban poor families. As a young cooperative, they noted their members who paid their 2,500-peso capital share increased from four to nine and their capital increased from 10,000 to 79,000 pesos (or 250 USD to 1,600 USD)  with net income of 69,000 pesos (1,340 USD) in a month long operation. Most importantly, they felt that they were able to expand their contacts, and broaden their partners with different sectors, and increased solidarity among their own members with consumers.

But they are just starting and they faced several challenges, and committed mistakes. They realized the need to expand their sources of food products so that they can respond to the volume of requirements by consumers. They also need to put in place stricter internal quality control system so consumers don’t end up getting immaturely picked or mishandled fruits — good at the outside but rotten in the inside. Finally, they need to deliver their products to consumers on time.

K-GAT can improve by strengthening their governance, management and membership education programs which would require human and financial resources.

Thus, it will be more convenient to family farmers cooperatives if they have a counterpart food consumer cooperatives whom they can just relate with, who will organize the farmers market themselves or the physical or online home delivery service.

Both the producers and consumers cooperatives will have to undertake continuous organizational development, complete and expand their membership services, and build strong partnerships if they intend to be sustainable institutions.

“We should not underestimate the power of bayanihan among producers, among consumers, and among both producers and consumers, but bayanihan has to be organized,” Banzuela concluded. “We need to invest in community organizing!”

View the PowerPoint presentation

Watch the full webinar

Read the UP-CIFAL Philippines news article


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