BACK-TO-FARM Project


Universal Harvester Incorporated

 
The project completed its program in 39 communities in 2014, and is currently assisting 153. The total estimated individual beneficiaries of 53,000, which is expected to double every cycle

INTRODUCTION

BACK-TO-FARM (Balik Saka) is a project of Universal Harvester, Inc (UHI) in collaboration with the Junior Chamber International, Philippines in 2013. The project was initiated to aid the communities, assist the rehabilitation and improve the productivity of farm communities in Eastern Visayas devastated by super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). Its mission is to ensure the beneficiary community achieve a sustainable agriculture livelihood and thereafter enable them to help other communities. The project aims to assist farmer-family through farmer’s cooperatives and associations to; i) Return to their damaged farms and jumpstart their agriculture activities; ii) Revive the productivity of their farms through technical and financial assistance, introduction of new crops and renewed cooperation; and iii) Empower farmers to help other farmers and share the moral responsibility of passing on the benefits of the project. This activity is part of the multi-dimensional support activities of “TOFARM Search and Award” to deliver direct, relevant support to the under privileged agriculture communities.

FRAMEWORK AND STRATEGY

A beneficiary community is jointly determined in cooperation with the Local Government Unit, non-government organization and participating national agency. After the ceremonial turnover of farm inputs and orientation of participants, a 14 to 16 week on-the-farm training commences (season-long). The community is called TOFARM Village. After the graduation ceremony and harvest festival the TOFARM Village nominates another community they intend to adopt following the project system of “pay it back by paying it forward”. The project continues to monitor the TOFARM village and ensures sustainability. When ready, the project introduces livestock, expansion to other crops or agri-business ventures. Part of the monitoring includes continuous involvement of the parent community in mentoring and coaching interactions together with other TOFARM villages, capitalizing the multiplier effect of social empowerment.

The project is connected to the UHI’s social mission of uplifting the lives of farmers by providing them with quality farm inputs at the lowest possible price by tapping the network of farmer organizations as hubs of distribution for these commodities. The BACK-TO-FARM Project’s uniqueness is presented in its i) collaboration between private sector, government and the beneficiary communities; ii) support on financial management and marketing of produce; and iii) in its “pay back by paying it forward” system.

ACHIEVEMENT AND IMPACT

The project completed its program in 39 communities in 2014, and is currently assisting 153. The total estimated individual beneficiaries is 53,000, which is expected to double every cycle. Statistics also show that 60-90% of the beneficiaries have improved living conditions due to their expansions in agri-business, improved homes and bank deposits. The BACK-TO-FARM Project has aided beneficiary communities in attaining additional income through intercropping of vegetables or high value crops (cash crops) with rice and coconut, which was before their only source of income. The quality and consistency of production also attracted major restaurant chains in the province to buy their vegetables on a regular basis. News of success brought other donor agencies to implement their own programs e.g. alternate livelihood and disaster preparedness.

FUTURE DIRECTION

UHI is now implementing its expansion programs with a much wider scope outside of the calamity stricken area, under the ADOPT-A-FARMER program, in areas with extreme poverty like Laguna (Luzon Communist Conflict Zone) and Zamboanga Del Sur (Mindanao Muslim Conflict Zone). Innovations this year include training on agri-entrepreneurships, introduction of agro-tourism, and partnership with other market organizations e.g. Chef or restaurant associations and public food terminals. The next focus areas is the preparation of successful TOFARM Villages for undertakings on dairy production and cassava and cacao intensification, and introduction of technology on crop nutrition management for rice and corn, and internet based product seller and buyer matching.
Universal Harvester Incorporated is the leading exporter, manufacturer and distributor of organic and inorganic fertilizer in the Philippines. Established in 2003, UHI has already proven its strength and continues to grow with a promising future. This year, the company is expanding to other agriculture business and massively implementing support programs for the agriculture sector.