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Seeds group restoring Leyte, Samar livelihoods

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Thailand-based vegetable seeds producer East-West Seed Philippines (EWPH) is scaling up its sustainable livelihood recovery program in Samar and Leyte to help more farming communities that were affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda. EWPH general manager Mary Ann Sayoc said they are now looking to increase the number of farmer-beneficiaries of the program to about 10,000 from the current 1,000 farming families. “We are now scaling up the initiative with the help of private sector donors, as well as internal funding from the company, to help a family to feed and earn a living through a package of farm inputs,” Sayoc said in an exclusive interview with The Manila Times. The farm package—which includes assorted vegetable seeds, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals, and farming tools—is part of EWPH’s innovative approach to provide an immediate source of food within 30 days and restore the livelihood of smallholder farmers within 100 days. EWPH was among the first private sector companies and organizations to conduct massive rehabilitation work particularly among farming communities in the typhoon-stricken areas. The company donated some 22,650 seed pouches and 520 seed cans worth P200,000 from its seed fund to the local government units of Leyte, Samar, Bohol, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, Antique and Cebu within the first 100 days after Yolanda. EWPH also managed to raise P1.4 million in donations from its employees and satellite offices and used the money to mobilize its Technology Transfer Department, the unit in charge of the post-Yolanda livelihood program.“Instead of using the pooled money for relief activities, East West Seed’s donation was translated by the Technology Transfer Department into the more sustainable livelihood recovery initiative in heavily ravaged communities in Leyte and Samar Islands,” Sayoc said. To get the project running, EWPH identified an initial target of 1,000 farming households directly assisted through public-private partnership projects. Some 731 farmers in Leyte and Samar initially received a package of vegetable seeds with training brochures in December 2013. A second wave of seed distribution will be done during late February—early March 2014 to complete the target of reaching 1,000 farming households. Sayoc said that normally, reconstruction and rehabilitation take at least six months to a year before any results are seen. But with the use of EWPH kits, she said it would take only about 30 to 35 days from the time the seeds are sown to harvesting the crop. In fact, the first batch of farmers covered by the program have already harvested their first batch of vegetables, reaping good farm gate prices for pechay at P80 per kilo as against P15 to P20 per kilo pre-Yolanda, Sayoc said. “Based on our projections, a single farming family can earn more than P25,000 per harvest, which is already net of post-harvest losses, new farming inputs and even excess produce given to other families,” she added. East-West Seed is a leading seed company in the Philippines that specializes in the development, production and commercialization of tropical vegetables, or the so-called Pinakbet veggies. The company is also active in technology transfer and extension services through public-private partnership projects with government, non-governmental organizations, other private companies, micro-finance organizations, and local and international funding agencies. At present, EWPH is working on other partnerships and networking activities related to its post-Yolanda livelihood recovery and rehabilitation initiative. Since December 2013, EWPH has been an active member of the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC)-Philippines, a group of international and local development organizations led by the UN World Food Program working together to make sure that all activities, projects and programs related to agricultural livelihood recovery in the Yolanda-affected areas are properly coordinated. The company also actively participates in consultative meetings and workshops organized by the UN-FAO and the Philippine Coconut Authority for coconut farmers’ livelihood recovery in Region 8. The East West Seed Co. and its CSR-arm, the East West Seed Foundation, are active members of the coconut- intercropping committee. As an offshoot of the company’s program, Sayoc said a partnership with German international agency GIZ is being finalized to expand the initiative in other barangays and municipalities not covered by the program. An initial P1.0 million from GIZ funds is being finalized. In partnership with CRS Philippines and the Department of Agrarian Reform Regional Office 8 (DAR-RO 8), a program to recover the lost businesses of farm input supply dealers/sub-dealers in the region is being finalized to reenergize the vegetables value chain, Sayoc said. Agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and non-ARB smallholder farmers within the typhoon-affected Agrarian Reform Communities (ARC) in Eastern Visayas will be provided with cash vouchers worth P1,500 per farmer which they may only use to buy vegetable seeds from East West Seed dealers and sub-dealers.“With the seed sales, the farm input supply storeowners can restart their businesses while the farmers can plant vegetables again,” Sayoc said. ref. The Manila Times, by James Konstantin Galvez Reporter

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