Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF) celebrates women who are sowing changes to break the gender barriers in agriculture.
For Imee Patingo, 41, the persistence and diligence of women farmers contribute to the growth of agriculture in the country. But she admitted that before becoming an official member of the MASIFAGCA Pangkabuhayan, Inc. (MASIFAGCA) in Nueva Ecija, she had no prior experience in farming.
“Sa Tondo po ako lumaki. Pagdating ko po dito sa Nueva Ecija, wala po akong alam tungkol sa pagtatanim. ‘Yong pagtatanim, paghaharvest ng calamansi ang pinakapinagkakakitaan po talaga ng mga tao dito kaya pinag-aralan ko na rin. (I grew up in Tondo and when I first came to Nueva Ecija, I had no idea about farming. But growing and harvesting calamansi is the main source of income for most of the people here so I had to learn how to become a farmer myself),” Patingo said.
Her hard work and willingness to learn transformed her into a skilled agro-entrepreneur that inspires female farmers in her community today. Out of the 13 active farmer-members of MASIFAGCA, majority are women. Patingo oversees communication and documentation for their group.
Through JGF’s Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (FEP), Patingo and other farmers are provided with opportunities to sharpen their technical skills and business acumen to expand their opportunities and earn more from their harvest.
“Through various trainings and coaching, FEP encourages farmer clusters to make sure that all members contribute to their success and remind them that they can all be leaders regardless of gender,” said JGF Executive Director Gisela Tiongson.
Tulay sa Pag-unlad, Inc. (TSPI), one of JGF’s local FEP partners, first introduced the program to these calamansi farmers in 2017. The following year, MASIFAGCA was officially founded and registered and started to sell and deliver to Jollibee Group.
FEP taught them supply management and financial planning. MASIFAGCA farmers also learned how to bid in price and quantity. Most of them were initially hesitant to explore the advantages of technology, but they eventually learned to embrace new ways of growing their agro-enterprise.
Before supplying to Jollibee Group, the organization used to rely on middlemen or traders to sell their calamansi to other provinces. They had no control over the price of their produce and had to settle on the little amount they earned from these transactions.
“FEP ensures that everyone benefits from the trainings and skills expansion. It is not enough that the leaders know how to apply these learnings, each member must take part and contribute. With this, more and more farmers are being empowered in the field,” said Aquilina Onesa, TSPI’s Head of Alliance and Programs Group.
Aside from the extensive trainings and farming techniques, JGF has also provided grants that helped the organization improve their sorting area and storage room. Meanwhile, TSPI has also provided funds for monitoring expenses and other coaching materials.
From August 2018 to present, MASIFAGCA continues to deliver calamansi to Jollibee Group, even with the various mobility restrictions and logistical challenges brought about by the pandemic.
The group was also able to connect to other big buyers. Their accreditation status at Jollibee Group helped them expand their clientele. Aside from calamansi, the fast-food giant is also looking at the possibility of sourcing other vegetables from MASIFAGCA.
MASIFAGCA is the first FEP group to be recognized at the Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) Supplier Summit. Bagging the Bronze Award in 2021, they were recognized for their meticulous compliance to supply requirements.
MASIFAGCA recently acquired the help of out-of-school youth in Nueva Ecija in picking and sorting calamansi. The porters were also trained to do documentation and delivery processes.
With the success of the organization, Patingo is dedicated to give back by helping provide livelihood to uplift communities. She wants to stay in agriculture to benefit the future generation of farmers.
“Mangarap tayong umasenso, ano man ang kasarian o katayuan natin sa buhay. Kailangan lang buksan ang isip natin, puso natin sa mga posibilidad na pwedeng pumasok. Kailangan po natin mag-isip kung ano pa ‘yong mga bagay na pwede pa natin ikaunlad sa pangkabuhayan, o sa kaalaman. Huwag matakot matuto. (We should all learn to aspire and dream, regardless of our gender and status in life. We need to open our hearts and minds to several possibilities. We should never stop learning, may it be in business or in life)”, she said.