MABS and 1st Valley Bank visit GEM-Assisted small vegetable farmers in Malaybalay, Bukidnon

On December 16-17, a team composed of the RBAP-MABS Technical Specialist and 1st Valley Bank microfinance officers conducted an exposure visit to the Imbayao Community Participatory Action Research Association (ICPARA), an organized group of small vegetable farmers situated along the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad ranges in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
The ICPARA farming community is a good 30-minute ride to the business district of Malaybalay City, where the group is maintaining a savings deposit with a Local Cooperative Bank. Composed of 30 small landowners growing high value vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbages, the ICPARA group was organized and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2005 with the assistance of the LGU-DA Malaybalay and the USAID-supported Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) progam. Most of its members earn extra income by doing part time jobs as laborers in poultry farms, or as harvesters in large sugarcane and corn plantations in nearby barangays. This makes them eligible as prospective borrowers for micro-agri loans in rural banks.
Managing small farms of ½ hectare per member, these farmers have received training on the technical aspects of vegetable production, organizational capability building, commodity clustering and marketing. The Northern Mindanao Vegetable Producers Association, Inc. (NorMinVeggies), which received support from the USAID-supported GEM project, allows small vegetable producers to consolidate, distribute and sell their produce to institutional buyers, supermarkets and hotels in Metro Manila, the Visayas and parts of Mindanao. NorMinVeggies has 178 registered members composed of small farmers, independent growers, corporate farms and input/service providers.

ICPARA community MAP visit

On December 16-17, a team composed of the RBAP-MABS Technical Specialist and 1st Valley Bank microfinance officers conducted an exposure visit to the Imbayao Community Participatory Action Research Association (ICPARA), an organized group of small vegetable farmers situated along the foothills of Mt. Kitanglad ranges in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

The ICPARA farming community is a good 30-minute ride to the business district of Malaybalay City, where the group is maintaining a savings deposit with a Local Cooperative Bank. Composed of 30 small landowners growing high value vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbages, the ICPARA group was organized and registered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2005 with the assistance of the LGU-DA Malaybalay and the USAID-supported Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) progam. Most of its members earn extra income by doing part time jobs as laborers in poultry farms, or as harvesters in large sugarcane and corn plantations in nearby barangays. This makes them eligible as prospective borrowers for micro-agri loans in rural banks.

Managing small farms of ½ hectare per member, these farmers have received training on the technical aspects of vegetable production, organizational capability building, commodity clustering and marketing. The Northern Mindanao Vegetable Producers Association, Inc. (NorMinVeggies), which received support from the USAID-supported GEM program, allows small vegetable producers to consolidate, distribute and sell their produce to institutional buyers, supermarkets and hotels in Metro Manila, the Visayas and parts of Mindanao. NorMinVeggies has 178 registered members composed of small farmers, independent growers, corporate farms and input/service providers.

ICPARA community MAP visit 2The 1st Valley Bank and RBAP-MABS  field exposure group was also joined by Margie Baldezamo, Specialist of GEM; Leo Eduria, Marketing Manager of NorMinVeggies; and Rajane Romo-Paurom, Agriculturist from the LGU-DA of Malaybalay City.  The group gathered and validated inputs relevant to the proposed partnership and cooperation between the bank and NorMinVeggies.

This collaboration between the two USAID-supported programs (GEM and RBAP-MABS) aims to tap new market segments to increase client outreach of rural banks offering Micro Agri loans by identifying viable agricultural crops, suitable farming locations and analyzing the value chain to identify gaps and opportunities for financing small farmers, input suppliers and other actors along the value chain.

1st Valley Bank is also pushing for NorMinVeggies to utilize the bank’s Text-A-Payment service via GCash when paying farmers for their produce. When implemented, the mobile phone banking services of 1st Valley Bank will help address some of the problems faced by the farmer-members of NorMinVeggies such as: 1) unnecessary travel from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro to collect payments and leaving their vegetable farms unattended; 2) transportation cost; and 3) farmers’ tendency to indulge in unnecessary spending while receiving cash in urban centers.

During the 1st quarter of 2011, a signing of the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between NorMinVeggies-GEM, DA, ICPARA and 1st Valley Bank will take place.  This will be followed by a joint farmer orientation by 1st Valley Bank and NorMinVeggies on micro-agri lending parameters and members’ responsibility.

RBAP-MABS will continue to assist 1st Valley Bank to analyze the value chain and look at new opportunities to provide financing.  RBAP-MABS and GEM will also work with other banks and farmers associations in Mindanao to explore other similar opportunities to expand Micro Agri lending via improved collaboration with farmers associations and an improved understanding of local value chains.

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