Jollibee Group Foundation aids smallholder farmers with agri-tech

Smallholder farmers continue to get help from the Jollibee Group Foundation (JGF), which gives them access to more environmentally friendly farming practices that are made possible by technologically sophisticated farming methods.

According to Gisela Tiongson, the Executive Director of the JGF, "Improving the knowledge and capacity of smallholder farmers for increased production and profit would redound to the sustained expansion of our agricultural sector."

The JGF's Farmers Entrepreneurship Program (FEP), which began in 2008, is designed to help smallholder farmers improve their technical and business acumen, as well as their ability to form partnerships. This program also aims to empower these farmers. These farmers now provide the necessary vegetables for restaurants such as Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, and Mang Inasal, which are among the most popular in the Philippines.

Since 2019, the PUM Netherlands Senior Experts have guided farmers in soil testing and given them advice on soil health. They have also been assisting in varietal trials to test for better crop varieties, and introduce mechanization to improve productivity.

"Small producers get assured of a regular market, resulting in their increased and stable income," Tiongson explained further, adding that "by becoming more competent and qualified to engage directly in the value chains of food corporations, small producers gain this assurance." JGF has implemented public-private partnerships in an effort to bolster its support for smallholder farmers. These partnerships are designed to assist farmers in gaining access to agricultural technologies that will increase their yield, lower the costs of farming, and make them more competitive in the market.

Weather data, farmer efficiency

Since 2020, the Foundation has collaborated with IBM's The Weather Company to provide more accurate 7-day weather forecasts for communities. JGF also collaborated with the Central Luzon State University to decipher the weather data and transform it into the daily recommended agricultural practice. The information is then disseminated among farmers more quickly via a private messaging group. This system's SMS functionality is currently being enhanced for improved accessibility.

Together with local and international experts, Jollibee Group Foundation has been introducing technologically advanced farming techniques and systems to smallholder farmers to empower them to improve their productivity and gain more income.

Farmers from Barangay Tabulac in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, who are members of the Onion and Vegetable Producers Cooperative (OVEPCO), were among the first to receive benefits from this system. The farmers are able to adjust and make more informed decisions about when to plant, fertilize, and harvest their crops with the help of the barangay-level forecasts that are provided.

"This has been useful. Now, we can prepare for tomorrow's events. It has become a roadmap for our everyday farming," stated OVEPCO Chairman Eddie Soriano.

At the moment, 116 farmers in 12 barangays located in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, and Alcala, Pangasinan are receiving assistance from this project.

Healthy soil, healthy production

JGF embarked on this project in collaboration with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management of the Department of Agriculture, with the goal of analyzing soil samples and delivering actionable recommendations to improve the soil's overall health and viability in order to increase crop yields.

JGF collaborated with the PUM Netherlands Senior Experts, a number of seed companies, and Jollibee Group's very own Research and Development team in order to find appropriate onion and bell pepper varieties that will meet the requirements of the company and which can be more easily produced by the farmers. This was done in an effort to assist the farmers in improving the quality of their crops.

JGF is also collaborating with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture to increase the production of onion fields. The project, titled "Project SAYA" or Strengthening Agricultural Yield of Allium Cepa L. (Onion) in the Philippines, intends to boost onion production by resolving inefficiencies, gaps, and variables impacting the amount of output; and by identifying prospective and suitable growth sites.

"These initiatives in agri-technology are generating a ripple effect of empowerment and opportunity among our partner farming communities and institutions. They have expressed a higher understanding of farming techniques, an improvement in productivity and income, and the confidence to conduct business with market participants, said Tiongson. "JGF will continue these initiatives so that farmer entrepreneurs can continue to take pride in their vocation and appreciate the benefits of sustainable agriculture."