Opelia Tadena and generations of her family have been tilling rice in the Philippines for decades. Though modern techniques have helped many farms around the world become more productive and resilient to climate change, farmers like the Tadenas—who live off five hectares in the province of Bohol—are so focused on subsistence that their methods have hardly changed over time.
The lack of progress puts their livelihood at risk. “We suffer losses because of pests and natural calamities. It drives me to tears sometimes,” Tadena says.
Like the Tadenas, many other farmers from the poorest areas of the Philippines also face declining productivity, are vulnerable to extreme weather events and infestations, and have limited access to financing. Most of them farm without a clear business plan in place.
IFC and Bayer CropScience, a leading agricultural company, have created a program to train these farmers in business and financial management, and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). The initiative, supported by the government of Canada, has trained more than 40,000 farmers (almost half of whom are women) in 40 provinces across the Philippines since it started in 2014. Bayer CropScience is replicating the program to benefit farmers across East Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and also in India.
Skills for a Lifetime
Glenn Ramirez, a rice farmer in Laguna, knew little about managing a farm when he signed up for the Bayer CropScience program. Its sessions on how to keep records of loans and expenses, project and track profit, maintain savings, and plan for the next planting season prepared him to think of his farm as a business enterprise.
Ramirez is already seeing a return on his investment of time and education. Since the class, he has acquired more rice farms to manage, bought his own farming machines, and set up other small businesses on the side.
“I now consider myself an entrepreneur, because I now know how to manage my finances to help improve my farming business,” Ramirez says.
Tailored Training Programs
Bayer CropScience’s trainers engage with adult learners—including those in remote farming communities where even electricity is out of reach. In addition to serving farmers who are seeking to strengthen their business, the program also conducts training for local government units and institutes doing agricultural extension work.
IFC created the module that prepared the trainers for this engagement. After IFC’s advisory services conclude in March, Bayer CropScience will continue the training program so that future generations can benefit from the information. Partnerships with the public and private sectors help expand the program’s reach even further.
Globally, there are an estimated 500 million smallholder farming households—representing 2.5 billion people—relying, to varying degrees, on agricultural production for their livelihoods. The activity is especially important in the Philippines, where 40 percent of the land is used for agriculture, and the sector employs nearly one in every three people. However, poverty in households that depend on agriculture is three times higher than in other sectors.
“We want to close the loop, not only to help farmers in terms of technology, but to teach them about farming as a business, to find credit, and above all, find customers for their produce,” says Iiinas Lao, country commercial lead for Bayer.