The private sector is encouraged to participate in an ASEAN-wide program that empowers the future of small farmers, at the same time maximizing the agricultural potential of the region.
The ASEAN Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) ASEAN arm SEARCA has supported the development of organized and skilled farmers that now form part of Grow Asia, a farm production partnership platform that’s benefitting 117,000 smallholders in coconut, coffee, corn, fisheries, and vegetables.
SEARCA reported that Grow Asia, through its Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Development (PPSD), has become a successful farm partnership model.
Bernie S. Justimbaste and Edwin P. Bacani reported in the SEARCA-published “Competency Certification for Agricultural Workers in Southeast Asia” that Grow Asia has demonstrated farming models that now integrate small farm owners into the big ASEAN value chain.
ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) co-founded Grow Asia with the World Economic Forum.
“The private sector can play a crucial role in spreading lifelong and reskilling opportunities among agricultural workers, while innovating on methods of education and training delivery that fit the prevailing non-formal and informal learning and skills development in the agricultural and rural areas,” said SEARCA.
“The driving strategy to scale up these opportunities is to put in place a competency certification system,” it added.
Grow Asia-PPSD has built synergies between different value chain players in agriculture. It facilitates delivery of many interventions including agricultural and technical-vocational (Tech-Voc) skills training in the production of these farm products:
• Coconut-- GrowAsia-PPSD is providing a Mindanao-based program multiple interventions in farmers’ production of coconut water: development of skills and know-how in coconut intercropping, replanting, and market access. Partners in this program are Unilever, Friends of Hope, and KFI Center for Community Development.
• Coffee—Ten cooperatives in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur are being helped by a Nestle 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.
• Corn- 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. Partners here are Pioneer, and 8 other agencies including Philippine Maize Federation Inc.
• Fisheries—A hatchery for mudcrab for export has been constructed that is supporting 1,000 farmers. Interventions are working capital credit, know-how on the development of loan products and business development, and technical assistance via the Zamboanga Peninsula-wide baseline and performance indicators system. The project has 8 other partners including Dipolog School of Fisheries.
• Vegetables—Interventions in this Zamboanga program include design of vegetable supply chain from quality seeds to the sale of vegetables to supermarkets. Other interventions are credit, post harvest facility, and a water management system. Partners are East West Seed, Jollibee, and Zamboanga local government unit.
SEARCA has supported the replication of such farm production model as that of Grow Asia.
This, as 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.
This mandate involves not only development of academic or entrepreneurial agriculture skills but also Tech-Voc farm skills to help improve the labor force in ASEAN agriculture.
SEARCA has actively supported Tech-Voc Education and Training (TVET) since it was tapped by ASEAN education ministers (SEAMEO) to lead a research on competency certification for agricultural workers in Southeast Asia.
SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio 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) in order to allow this matching of farm skills and competencies between countries.
Gregorio said the AQRF recognizes both non-formal and informal learning in assessing farm workers’ skills level and qualifications.