Social Entrepreneurship: Missing link in the Agriculture Sector

The success of the social entrepreneurship projects of the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services lies on instilling the values of social entrepreneurship as the more effective way of uplifting the lives of the rural poor.

Unlad Kabayan is a pioneering non-government organization that links Filipino migrant workers with community development by urging them to invest in microfinance operations and micro-enterprise building in the Philippines’ agriculture sector. This model was presented by its founder and executive director, Ms. Maria Angela Villalba, during SEARCA’s Agriculture and Development Seminar Series (ADSS) on 5 April 2011. She also presented stories of migrant workers who were able to pool their savings into building sustainable businesses in their communities.

Ms. Villalba explained that a social entrepreneur is someone who seeks ways to create both social and financial value. Unlad Kabayan projects did not only create viable businesses for the migrant workers but also provided livelihood for people in the rural areas. The projects’ focus on the agriculture sector also helped create markets for local products and made way for innovative products and farming strategies. “Social enterprises contribute to the local development thrust for a more productive community,” said Ms. Villalba.

Applying this model to other areas could help improve the living conditions of the 11.6 million poor in the country. However, the presenter described the lack of entrepreneurial skills, the incoherent policies and programs, and the high cost of entrepreneurship as barriers to the advancement of social entrepreneurship. The non-entrepreneurial mindset of the Filipinos is also paramount to the lack of interest in starting up their own businesses.

As an advocate of social entrepreneurship, Ms. Villalba calls for more investment on its study and promotion, and a supportive policy environment that rewards social entrepreneurs. Finally, to foster the values of social entrepreneurship to the Filipinos, she recommends the popularization of good practices as well as the integration of entrepreneurship into the education system, starting from the early years.

Unlad Kabayan also arms migrant workers with the business knowledge, skills, and support they need to successfully reintegrate when they return to the Philippines. This provides Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) with an alternative to migration. Ms. Villalba was exposed to the plight of OFWs when she worked in Hong Kong as a training and organizing consultant. Her involvement with migrant issues led her to create the Asian Migrant Centre in 1989. In 2007, she was awarded Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Ernst Young/Schwab Foundation. (Regine Joy P. Evangelista)

The point of view taken by this article is entirely that of the presenter's and does not reflect in any way, SEARCA’s position.


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