FOOD FOR LIFE: The first year…and the year ahead
Food For Life is a cooperative that began in November 2017 through the partnership of Kabuganaan Philippines Ministries (KPM) and Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM). Farming is not easy work, and here in the Philippines, it is very difficult to earn a living. In fact, most small rural farmers are among the poorest members of society and even though they are the ones providing food for others, they often struggle to have enough food for themselves and their own families.
As a result of their poor economic status, many farmers seek assistance when their yields are lower than expected due to natural calamities such as typhoons that damage their crops or when not enough rain (or to much rain) hinders the growth of their crops. In the past, farms in Capiz province had few options when needing assistance. They would often turn to wealthy ‘traders’ in the city for assistance with seeds and farm inputs such as fertilizers and/or pesticides. These traders have their own interests in mind though so they charge exorbitant interest rates and fees in exchange for their assistance. As a result, farmers often get caught in a cycle of debt, which just adds to their difficulty in providing for their families.
Mechanical Rice Dryer
Food for Life was founded by KPM in collaboration with a small group of dedicate and experienced farmers, and in partnership with CBM, with the purposes of helping farmers in Capiz province as they strive to support their families and provide individuals & families with high quality healthy food. Due to an investment of a small sum of start-up capital by CBM, cooperative members no longer have to turn to wealthy traders for assistance. Food for Life is now providing farm inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) to cooperative members at a fair price, and with zero interest. In addition, Food for Life is also buying up to 70% of the farmer cooperators unmilled rice at one (1) peso above the price set daily by the National Food Authority (NFA). These two factors alone are making a big difference for the Food for Life farmer cooperators.
This past Friday I (Michael) had the opportunity to sit with the leadership board of Food for Life to review their financial statements for 2018. It is no secret that most new business ventures struggle in their opening years, and Food for Life is no exception. Food for Life has dealt with many challenges over the past year (such as lower than expected yields, and supply & demand issues). I am happy to report, however, that in its first year of operation the Food for Life Cooperative recorded a profit (not a very big profit, but a profit none the less). I was so happy when I read the reports, but I was also struck by the response of the Food for Life leadership who were encouraged by the results but not satisfied. They expressed their determination and commitment to see Food for Life expand to include more farmers so they can supply more individuals, families, and institutions (hospitals, schools, etc.) with high quality healthy rice. Their resolve is so inspiring and I am blessed to have the opportunity to journey with them.
Couple of boys finding a comfy place to relax on top of some sacks of rice
In addition to the above, however, Food for Life is also initiating a couple exciting new initiatives for 2019. First, we have been exploring the potential impact of implementing SRI technologies (system for rice intensification), which are proven world-wide to have a huge impact on the size of yields and the ability of the rice crop to withstand severe weather conditions. We are excited to say that beginning with the first planting cycle of 2019 we will be establishing three (3) demo farms (one per circuit), which will fully implement the SRI technologies and demonstrate the benefits for the other farmer cooperators in their circuit. It is our hope that each farmer cooperator will see for themselves the benefits and will want to implement SRI technologies on their own farms. We will also be organizing SRI training sessions for the farmer cooperators to assist them with their learning and the implementation of SRI.
Secondly, the leadership of Food for Life is beginning to explore and support the production of new food products with farmers in various communities throughout Capiz province. For example, in Hopevale Food for Life is supporting coffee farmers in an effort to develop a high quality and marketable coffee that can be sold and distributed throughout the Philippines (and maybe beyond). Food for Life is also exploring other food production such as banana chips, sweet potato chips, cassava flour, and peanut butter. All of these products will be developed and sold under the Food for Life label.
These are exciting initiatives, not only for Food for Life Cooperative, but also for the small rural farmers whose lives will be improved as a result. We invite you to join us in praying for the leadership of Food for Life, as well as all the farmer cooperators, as they continue in their endeavours to make a positive impact in the lives and communities of the most vulnerable.
If you are interested in becoming a Partner-in-Mission please contact Barb Keys (firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-905-821-3533) at Canadian Baptist Ministries. You can also visit their website at www.cbmin.org to give online or for more information. We are only able to follow God’s leading in our lives thanks to the monthly support of generous individuals and churches.
All donations of $10.00 or more will receive a charitable tax receipt at year end.
Michael & Melanie
Kyla, Sean, Carter & Allie