Paving the path to recovery for corn farmers in typhoon-hit Cagayan
Atremio Orpilla is among the many farmers struggling to come to terms with the devastation brought by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses in Cagayan, Philippines. Farmer communities here have undergone multiple catastrophes and are now trying to lift themselves by bolstering their household income by farming corn. As they look to get back on their feet, they have received support from the Yellow Corn Project that Cargill and Save the Children Philippines launched in October 2021. Over the past few months, the project has already benefited over 430 farmer families.
As a smallholder corn farmer, I always encounter problems during planting season because I don’t have enough money to buy raw materials. With farm inputs like high-quality seeds and fertilizer that I received through the Yellow Corn Project, I was able to reduce my upfront cost and increase my yields. This has lessened my worries considerably.
We spoke to Jerome Balinton, Humanitarian Manager, Save the Children, Philippines, who leads the project implementation, to learn how this project is transforming lives, one farmer at a time.
Q: What is the goal of the Yellow Corn Project?
The project has four key components:
- Providing free inputs has not only helped corn farmers prepare better for the planting season but also prevented them from taking loans they cannot repay
- Providing capacity-building training and knowledge on good agricultural practices, sustainable corn practices and financial management
- Ensuring high seed quality by providing farmers with post-harvest support, such as drying facilities and moisture meters
- The most critical aspect: linking farmers to markets, including corporate buyers like Cargill, to help provide competitive produce pricing. The farmers acknowledge the market linkage will benefit them, more than, than the free inputs and trainings, in the long run.
Q: The project is implemented in an area that has experienced two typhoons, which led to flooding and damage to the agriculture sector, and then the COVID-19 pandemic. What were the challenges in implementing this project in a community so hard hit by disasters?
One of the biggest challenges was identifying who needs the most support, considering the available resources. This led us to apply our vulnerability selection criteria to identify the most vulnerable cohort - yellow corn farmers. In addition, Covid-19 hindered our access to communities. Here, we were supported by the locals, who helped distribute farm inputs to the farmers most impacted.
Q: How receptive were the farmers to the capacity-building training? What has been the social and economic impact of the project?
The farmers have been highly receptive to these trainings, which have increased their income on account of reduced production costs, giving their households greater financial resilience.
The project will eventually help the economy of the municipality, the province, and the whole country.
The initiative is reviving the local economy, and its success has given Cargill hope that it can replicate it with more corn cooperatives.
“Every planting season, I had financial difficulties in buying farm input materials. It’s through the farm inputs that I received from the project, including seeds and fertilizer, that I was able to plant in a ¾ hectares and yield 80 sacks of yellow corn,” says Arcely Valle from Baggao.
Randy Enderes, Merchant, Cargill Animal Nutrition, explains Cargill’s role in the project, “We are helping the smallholder farmers by working closely with the Santo Domingo Multipurpose Cooperative, now our accredited supplier of yellow corn. Cargill’s entry into the area as a buyer has helped the cooperative by standardizing the rate of corn. This is helping create financial resilience for the local smallholder farmers, by protecting them from steep falling of the price of corn.”
Christopher Matthew Ilagan, Government Relations Director, Cargill Philippines adds “In the process of thinking about ‘recovery’, we adopted a broader view to include the establishment of a long-term path towards sustainable, livable incomes for beneficiaries. We set out to support the selected households with a mix of interventions we felt were necessary to establish the bases for sustainable farmer livelihoods.”.