PLDT and Smart are reinforcing their support for the rice farming sector, as farmers continue to face challenges in a long drawn-out COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the Buy Local Sustainability Fund, PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc., recently turned over P100,000 to 20 farmers supported by FarmVocacy in Barangay Kurtinganan, in Santa Cruz, Mindoro Occidental.
The funding aid aims to help support rice farmers in the next cropping season.
“Farmers are among the most financially challenged in the country.
They’re often saddled with high-interest loans. We want to give them access to capital funding to help them jump start the planting season,” said Stephanie Orlino, Smart Assistant Vice President for Community Relations.
Life is even harder for farmers who till the land on their own. Aida Papa has been exclusively carrying the load of managing her four-hectare rice field since her husband died seven years ago. The fifty-three-year-old farmer is also raising their only son on her own.
“It’s very challenging to grow rice by yourself. I have to hire workers every step of the way and that adds up to my expenses,” Papa narrated. To recoup some of the overhead, she rents out her tractor to other farmers in the community.
She’s thankful that she was chosen as a beneficiary of the Buy Local Sustainability Fund saying, “It gives me peace of mind knowing that I have the capital needed for the next cropping season.”
PLDT and Smart, together with social enterprise and e-commerce platform Cropital, have teamed up with FarmVocacy to help rice growers in Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro. FarmVocacy, which was part of IdeaSpace’s acceleration program in 2020, aims to empower Filipino smallholder farmers like Papa by training them to employ sustainable farming methods. The startup also works with Cropital to extend loans or credits for farm inputs like seeds.
“Even before they have planted a single seed, they often find themselves already deep in debt. Coupled with outdated farming practices and no direct access to the market, the odds are stacked against farmers,” explained Vincent Roy Mendoza, FarmVocacy Founder and CEO.
The group trains farmers to use climate-smart and environment-friendly way of farming. The startup also connects farmers with consumers, especially those looking for sustainably grown rice.
“Through our program, we target to raise the harvest of Santa Cruz farmers from 73 cavans per hectare to 130 cavans,” added Mendoza.
Santa Cruz Municipal Agriculturist Josefina Villa recognizes the efforts of private organizations in easing the burden of farmers, “We welcome all the assistance that we can get. Private organizations help us provide more to farmers by supplementing the programmed aid that we normally give.
Villa also stressed why we need to empower farmers. “They are the backbone of our society. Farmers grow the food that we eat, that’s why we need to help them,” she said.
Smart, together with its parent firm PLDT, has partnered with Cropital for the Group’s #BuyLocal campaign. Under the program, PLDT and Smart employees in Metro Manila can buy rice directly from small-scale farmers through the Cropital platform.
So far, #BuyLocal has raised P200,000 for the Buy Local sustainability fund intended to provide capital to small-scale farmers. Six other companies led by PLDT Chairman, President and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan have also adopted the campaign.
To support the BuyLocal program, simply visit store.cropital.com and use the code “pldtbuylocal” or “smartbuylocal” upon checkout to get a discount of up to Php 100 per order and free delivery anywhere in Metro Manila. A portion of the purchase will go to the BuyLocal sustainability fund.
All these advocacies are under Smart’s framework of Technology for Development that aims to narrow down the digital divide. These programs are also aligned with the commitment of PLDT and Smart to support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, particularly Zero Hunger (SDG 2), and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8).