RiceUp Philippines

RiceUp In The Philippines
Farm School
The contribution that RiceUp is making to the changing farmers and empowering them as individuals is
noticeable. The farmers notice it too. On this trip, we attended the graduation of at least 200 farmer
students in Davao, Philippines and conducted the graduation of over 80 farmers in Pampanga. Many of
these students were youth in their teens, which is amazing! One of the greatest problems we’re dealing
with in the Philippines is that farmers are aging and before, there was no interest in the youth to replace
them, because farming wasn’t profitable or socially “cool”, and it was a lot of work for close to nothing
returns. But through the RiceUp Farm School program, we are helping the farmers make farming
profitable as they learn to treat their farms as a business, complete with concepts in marketing,
accounting, finance, and technology in operations. They had successfully completed the requirements
for a twelve-week Farm School program in which they also learned essential goal setting,
entrepreneurship skills, and other farming skills. It was amazing to see their sense of community as they
all encouraged and worked together to complete the course and together, received recognition for their
work.
We visited with the farmers in Davao and the Farm School teachers to better understand the
effectiveness of the teachings and the students’ retainability. We learned that the students, made up of
younger students who attended in one village, found it harder to understand business principles than
those in another village where the students were older and more experienced. The older students also
had more opportunity to practice what they were learning on their own farms. The information that we
gathered about the effectiveness of the lessons and teaching methods now aids us in critiquing and
molding an improved curriculum that will have the power to lift the understanding and education of
farmers of all ages.
But one of the most amazing aspects of this trip was the collaboration with the local government and
more specifically, the daughter of the President of the Philippines who is also the mayor of Davao. We
partnered with her office to take part in their initiative called Peace 911. During this trip, we signed an
agreement between RiceUp and the government establishing the seven RiceUp Farm Schools in Davao
as the vehicle for peaceful assimilation of former armed rebels into society and for the rise of indigenous
tribes. We commemorated this event at a lunch with 250 farmers. This was the first time in recent
history where members of rebel groups dined peacefully with the indigenous people, marking a
successful union between these groups no longer divided by violence and divisive interests. We strongly
believe that a unified people is key to this peaceful agricultural revolution that is central to RiceUp’s
purpose. We are not here to simply provide charity, but we are establishing a new system that benefits
all.
Government and NGO Partnerships
We also met with our partner, former President of the Philippines Gloria Arroyo, now Speaker of the
House. We greeted her for her birthday. Her support has been monumental towards establishing our
Farm School pilot program in Pampanga, complete with our first two model farms where farmers could
practice raising new crops and culture seeds for their own farms. The current president of the
Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, also invited the founder of RiceUp, Elvin Laceda who is a BYUH student, to
discuss the project. Throughout this time, we also conducted interviews and shared our stories with
internationally renowned media like ABS-CBN and the GMA network. We also gained leverage with area
politicians who can help clear our projects for further expansion. The timing was crucial as Philippine
elections were coming at the end of April 2019.
The Youth
We also met with various youth group leaders, like the SK (Sanguniang Kabataan) Group. They focus on
helping the youth become productive members of society. Our focus on social entrepreneurship was
very attractive to them. So, during this trip, we developed a partnership with the SK Group Leader
Moshe Lacson and other area SK area leaders to help further our reach with our Youth Agri-“cool”-Ture
program. We are now drafting Memorandum of Agreement with them. During this trip, we held the first
ever Youth Social Entrepreneurship Summit in Pampanga, attended by over 100 young Filipinos where
they networked with local leaders, entrepreneurs, and our team from BYUH. The SK Group spread the
word and brought many of their youth to experience this historical event. At the beginning of the event,
we asked how many knew what social entrepreneurship is. They hadn’t even heard of it before. But they
came away not only with an understanding of social entrepreneurship, but with their own business
plans to start one! By practicing principles of Design Thinking, taught by a mentor from Romania whom
we invited to teach, they developed their own social enterprises to solve local issues. The youth were
very excited! They presented their business plans and we gave them awards for their successes. Through
this summit, we also were able to meet with a group of young people who already have a passion for
helping the Filipino Farmers. We met with them, listened to their story and purpose, then established a
formal partnership towards establishing the RiceUp program in their own villages.
Hydroponics
Before the trip, we have been experimenting with climate resilient ways of farming. We have been
developing our hydroponics farming systems at BYU-Hawaii in partnership with the SWATT team. We
brought this technology to island community called Batang 1
st
, with over 450 population. We gathered
all materials and instructions. We then coordinated with the local leaders to establish the first
hydroponics facility in Batang. We specifically established the program on one family’s property.
Throughout our time in Batang, we also learned that their main livelihood was collecting shells or
"suso" to sell to fisherman. Their average income per day is $7. Because of the low income with a back
breaking labor, 70% of the population have had to leave and work outside. After surveying the needs of
the people, the village leader agreed to fully support the idea of agriculture and hydroponics. We met
with people and leaders in that area who have the potential to open the minds of the people towards
the RiceUp agricultural ecosystem agriculture. We created a greenhouse to germinate the seeds and
hydroponic boxes to start planting. We expect that in the next 6 weeks, the people of batang will have
their own grown food and can impact the young people in their area to pursue agriculture.
Vermiculture
We also checked on the progress of the vermiculture facility where we develop organic bio fertilizer
using worms. This program was first established in Concepcion, which failed. We launched it again at
another location under the care of the Manabat family, led by their mother Fhe Manabat. This was the
first projected that generated positive income for RiceUp. Now we have also found that this project not
only has allowed the Manabat family to earn a better living, but they are also saving over 50% on
fertilizer costs. Using the vermiculture also increased their rice yield by 30%! Since the establishment of
this program, they have been able to fix their home and they have more plans to develop more parts of
their home. They have also been able to set up running water in their household, making life much
easier. They are also now able to afford certain luxuries and set goals towards being able to purchase a
car soon. This program will soon expand. During this trip, we met with the RiceUp project manager, Sir
Arnel Garcia and the vermiculture manager, Ms. Fhe, about expanding the fertilizer system in a clean
and efficient way. We hope to help more farmers through this program and make farming more
sustainable for all.
Conclusion
We see a future where farmers in the Philippines can be regarded with utmost respect, where their
labors can lift their lives for the better. We did not come to the Philippines and Cambodia simply to give
or to donate, but we came to champion a sustainable system of agriculture through business and
entrepreneurship. When we first established RiceUp in the Philippines, we started with only 50 farmers
in Pampanga. Now we have over 300 farmers in Pampanga and 200 more in Davao. Soon, we will have
more than 2,000 farmers by the end of the year, creating a generational impact. It was amazing to see
how many young people were able to engage in agriculture as well. We interviewed many of them. We
were overjoyed to hear that our young people now find inspiration through their parents’ work on the
farmlands. They want to build it up and they want to help restore its glory in the Philippines! Now it is
possible once again.

 

 

JOSEPH DUANO

Head of Business Strategic Team.