Chocolatey love: OFW group seeks support for PH cacao farmers
MANILA, Philippines – Chocolates are among the most common gifts to express romantic love. But a group of Filipino expats from Dubai is using chocolates to express a different kind of affection: their love for the Philippines.
OFW para sa Magsasaka (OPM) has launched a project that encourages overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to invest in agriculture and partner with cacao farmers of Agusan del Sur in Mindanao.
The project is simple: OFWs are urged to invest through OPM, which will manage the investments to fund the farmers' fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, foliar equipment, seedlings, and infrastructure.
OPM also conducts training programs for the farmers to make sure that their cacao beans can be sold at the best price possible. The income of the farm will be shared equitably by the farmers and their OFW partners.
"This is an invitation for our modern-day heroes, our OFWs, to make use of their blessings and actively get involved with our local communities back home. With OPM, we present them a unique win-win opportunity to pursue inclusive growth in our countryside by partnering with our farmers in Mindanao," says Iman Suguitan, a Filipina entrepreneur who leads the group with her sister Luchie Suguitan.
The first seed cycle was closed last May 25 after they exceeded their target number of hectares. They will be managing 20 hectares of intercropped cacao farmlands in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur, and will begin sowing this July.
Private individuals, particularly OFWs working in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and the United States, together with one American, one French-Brazilian, and one Spanish make up the charter investors for the first initiative.
According to Luchie, Mindanao is an ideal location for cacao farming because of its temperature (20 to 32 degrees celsius is the ideal temperature for cacao production) and also because it experienced fewer typhoons in the last decade. These factors plus the relative price stability of cacao encourage investments.
"We have decided to focus on cacao mainly because of its tremendous demand in the world market. Only countries within 15 degrees up and below the equator belt encourage the growth of this crop," she said in a statement.
But while helping out Filipino farmers is a good thing, Iman clarified that they are "not a charity institution."
"It has to be remembered that the money we propose to invest was actually earned by leaving our country and family. Our proposed system is fairly simple: let's work on the farm together – partners," she emphasized.
The next seed cycle will reopen for new investments in February 2017. For more information, you may email email@example.com. – Rappler.com