‘Grow Asia farm program help PHL planters improve skills’

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said Grow Asia, through its Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Development (PPSD), is helping Filipino farmers improve their skills and hike their output.

Searca said PPSD is a farm partnership model that’s benefiting 117,000 smallholders in coconut, coffee corn, fisheries and vegetables.

In a report published by the Los Baños-based institute, titled “Competency Certification for Agricultural Workers in Southeast Asia,” authors Bernie S. Justimbaste and Edwin P. Bacani said Grow Asia has demonstrated farming models that integrate small farm owners into the big Asean value chain.

Grow Asia, which was founded by Asean and the World Economic Forum, has built synergies between value chain players in agriculture via PPSD. It facilitates delivery of many interventions including agricultural and technical-vocational (Tech-Voc) skills training in the production of various farm products.

Searca noted that Grow Asia-PPSD is providing a Mindanao-based program multiple interventions in farmers’ production of coconut water and development of skills and know-how in coconut intercropping, replanting and market access. The partners in this program are Unilever, Friends of Hope and KFI Center for Community Development.

In coffee production, 10 cooperatives in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur, are being helped by a Nestlé project through technical assistance, intercropping know-how, provision of quality planting materials (Robusta coffee) and establishment of market. Macnut Philippines is also involved in contract growing and buy-back of Arabica coffee. This project has 15 other partners including the Philippine Coffee Alliance.

As for corn, Searca said farmers in Zamboanga del Norte have been connected through ZMDC Grains Inc. to a hog farmers’ cooperative in Batangas to buy corn.  Aside from skills training, interventions include credit and post-harvest technologies. The partners here are Pioneer, and eight other agencies and groups, including Philippine Maize Federation Inc.

Searca said it supported the replication of such farm production model as that of Grow Asia.

“Grow Asia-PPSD has proven to foster skills capability building of agriculture human resource, a major Searca function being Asean’s graduate education and research center,” Searca Director Glenn B. Gregorio said in a statement. Gregorio also said a common competency certification system among Asean countries will enable freer exchange of farm workers between countries.

Asean countries are working toward one Asean Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF) to allow this matching of farm skills and competencies between countries.

Gregorio said the AQRF recognizes both nonformal and informal learning in assessing farm workers’ skills level and qualifications.