Even the largest harvests start from the smallest of seeds. This was proven true by the success of agricultural entrepreneurs Renato “Ato” Belen and his late wife Eleanor, owners of Ato Belen’s Farm.
The Belens’ story began in 1987 when they decided to put up a small plant nursery in their home city of San Pablo in Laguna, with only P700 as initial capital.
With Eleanor’s education in agriculture and experience in running the day-to-day operations of her father’s farm, complemented by Ato’s hard work and determination, they became well-known in their community as trusted producers of planting materials.
Soon enough, the small seed of their family’s dream started to grow. Their 600 sq m plant nursery grew into a 1.2-hectare farm, and Ato Belen’s Farm was born.
The Belens also acquired an additional 10-hectare property that they developed into an integrated farm engaged in crop, livestock and farming inputs production, fishery, and the provision of tourism and agriculture-related services.
The couple’s relationship with LandBank started in 2000, when they were sourcing for additional working capital. They learned from a friend that LandBank offers small enterprises access to credit, with affordable interest rates and manageable payment terms.
Having found a dependable partner to grow their business with, the Belens decided to avail an initial loan of P1.2 million from LANDBANK. The relationship was strengthened throughout the years, especially in 2006 when Ato Belen’s Farm was devastated by the violent Typhoon Milenyo.
To help the couple get back on their feet, LANDBANK increased their credit line the following year to help them recover.
“Anytime we need LANDBANK, they’re always there to support us,” said Ato Belen.
As they reaped the fruits of their hard work, Ato and Eleanor gave back to the agriculture sector in their own ways – by promoting organic farming, welcoming farming enthusiasts to their property, and providing agricultural training to various sectors of society.
For the third time in 2018, LANDBANK was there to support the Belens by approving and releasing a loan to help finance a dormitory and training hall.
The Belens promote organic farming through several means, such as facilitating short courses on sustainable farming and livelihood and supplying organic produce in and around San Pablo.
Ato Belen even developed his own brand of organic fertilizer, for which he was appointed Magsasaka Siyentista by the Agricultural Training Institute under the Department of Agriculture.
With their children, the couple ran trainings as a DA-accredited Extension Service Provider and as one of Laguna’s Farm Schools accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
“While running trainings remain to be an economic activity for our business, what really drives us to continue is our goal to help other farmers,” said Ato.
The success story of the Belens represents LANDBANK’s continuous efforts in fulfilling its mandate to serve its priority sectors, including small and medium enterprises.
By supporting and promoting local businesses, LANDBANK helps generate more employment which is essential in driving local economic growth.
As of April 2019, LANDBANK’s outstanding loans to SMEs amounted to P103.1 billion. For this year alone, the Bank released P77.1 billion in loans to the sector from January to April, helping 31, 868 SMEs grow their businesses.
SMEs can also avail of LANDBANK’s Access of Small Enterprises to Sound Lending Opportunities Program or ASENSO Program. It is a program jointly implemented by government financial institutions, which adopts simplified and standardized lending procedures for SMEs to provide them with greater access to credit in support of the National MSME development plan.
Under this program, LANDBANK offers a loanable amount of up to 80% of the total project cost, for the purposes of agricultural production, working capital, permanent working capital, and fixed asset investment (except land acquisition).
ASENSO Program is open to single proprietors, partnerships, or corporations engaged in agri-business, manufacturing, trading, or services.
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