Theodoro Bello Lactao Jr., or Junjun, has always wanted to be a pilot. For him, nothing could beat the adrenaline rush that comes with flying over towns and provinces to bring people to where they want to be. But this dream never flew, and instead, he decided to stay in Isabela when his father suffered a stroke. Together with his wife and their two kids, Junjun went home to tend to his ailing father and take care of their farm. Life was difficult then, he says, as the family fell deep into debt and the farm was unable to yield profitable crops due to typhoons and damaged soil.

It might have been through sheer luck that his mother attended a workshop on organic farming in that same period. From here, the mother-son tandem started exploring organic and sustainable practices in farming.

“In the past, I wanted to fly a passenger plane to get to different places. Now, my dream is to fly an agricultural aircraft to spray not chemical – but organic – fertiliser on my farm and on different farms all over the Philippines.”

Fast forward to 2016, the farm has grown considerably in terms of production. It uses organic fertiliser to cultivate napier plants and fruit trees, and Junjun has branched out to cattle-raising. Then there’s the milk that his cows produce—processed by the Isabela-based Malaya Development Cooperative (MDC) that consolidates and processes cow’s milk into flavoured milk and yogurt as the core of its dairy businessHe believes that selling products to MDC was the turning point of his farming business. His debts have gradually cleared, and the sales of napier and cow’s milk grew steadily, and these developments led him to advocate for organic farming, with plans to expand to aquaculture.

His dream of flying has also evolved. “In the past, I wanted to fly a passenger plane to get to different places. Now, my dream is to fly an agricultural aircraft to spray not chemical – but organic – fertiliser on my farm and on different farms all over the Philippines.”

 

Strength in Numbers: The Isabela Network Story

Junjun is just one of the many farmers who have benefited from the dairy business of MDC since its inception in 2005. As of today, MDC has over 1,000 farmer members and seven different dairy products are distributed in the Northern part of the Philippines.

MDC was one of the three cooperatives in Isabela that Rohan Martyres, Head of Impact and Strategy of the Community Action Network (CAN) UK together with Bernadee Uy of the British Council in the Philippines and representatives from the Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI) The visit took place from 14th to 16th of March, as part of the second leg of the Collaboration Visit for British Council’s Business and Investment Readiness Programme (BIR). The team drove 10-hours from Metro Manila to conduct the visit, with the end goal of helping FSSI articulate its social impact for beneficiaries in Isabela.

A few hours’ drive away from MDC stands a restaurant that serves sumptuous organic buffets, one among the many that exists as part of the cooperative compound as sources of income for the Kapatagan/Poyoga Multi-Purpose Cooperative. An organisation initially funded by Belgian missionaries, it has since evolved into a self-sustaining cooperative that has over 2,500 members and earns profit through selling organic fertilizer, dispersal of cattle and selling organic crops among other activities.

MDC has since evolved into a self-sustaining cooperative that has over 2,500 members and earns profit through selling organic fertilizer, dispersal of cattle and selling organic crops among other activities.

To cap off the field visits on the 15th of March, the team headed to Wesley Savings and Credit Cooperative, a microfinance institution that grew from an initial capital of approximately Php50,000 to over Php30 million in assets. Chief Executive Officer Rev. Ferdinand Valdez presented the history and other facts about the organisation to FSSI, CAN and British Council. Cooperative members were also interviewed for FSSI and CAN to understand how Wesley has benefitted the members and helped improve their quality of life.

The three cooperatives are beneficiaries of FSSI through grant or loan funding. Apart from financing, they are recipients of advice and mentoring from the FSSI team and consultants. The cooperatives are also part of the Isabela Social Enterprise-Local Economy Development Network (ISE-LEDN), a network that lobbies for support from local government to further economic development through organic farming.

How Do You Illustrate Impact?

Prior to visiting Isabela, FSSI area coordinators were already given the opportunity to articulate their social impact through the Theory of Change (ToC) framework shared by CAN. Theory of Change is a diagram that allows an organisation to identify the type of change it wants to effect on its stakeholders. It enables the user to identify complex relationships among its activities and outcomes, taking into account the different political, economic and social factors that come into play.

But FSSI does not want this exercise to be limited to their Isabela network. The organisation, operating on a nationwide scale, decided to organise a workshop on 29 February to 3 March for their partner organisations, with Executive Director Jay Lacsamana and Rohan Martyres as main facilitators.

Over 30 active and outspoken leaders of social enterprise groups, cutting across various sectors such as agriculture, microfinance and the arts, attended the Funding Models and Social Replication workshop facilitated by the jetlagged but nonetheless well-prepared Rohan in Dolce Latte, Quezon City.

In the morning session, Rohan presented different funding models for social enterprises that are available in the UK. Both countries had insights to share, with the Philippines having a mature blended capital funding model and the UK having an advanced Social Impact Bonds funding model.

SIBs and DIBs are incentives provided to social enterprises that can prevent a certain destructive behaviour through their interventions. 

The Philippines has an evolved model of blended capital funding, which combines grant and loan or equity and loan for social enterprises who are seeking funding without the intent of relinquishing control of their business. The UK, in turn, has successful case studies of government or multi-lateral organisations providing Social Impact Bonds (SIBs) or Development Impact Bonds (DIBs) to social enterprises. SIBs and DIBs are incentives provided to social enterprises that can prevent a certain destructive behaviour through their interventions. For instance, a health centre may get paid for each woman that is prevented from acquiring cervical cancer through vaccination, instead of getting paid for treating the disease.

The first two days of March were intensive days of training for social enterprise leaders. The social enterprise leaders were introduced to the ToC in Sequioa Hotel. After a theoretical lecture, each organisation was asked to come up with their own ToC frameworks, detailing their goals, activities, stakeholders and outcomes. Through group activities, participants were invited to critique and suggest improvements for each other’s diagram.

Supporting the Sector through Legislation

The last part of the collaboration visit was a dialogue between UK partner CAN and members of the Poverty Reduction through Social Entrepreneurship (PRESENT) Coalition. The whole day session paved way for knowledge sharing of best practices and the history of social enterprise legislation in the UK.

Some useful insights were drawn from the discussion, one of which is the lack of a legal entity for social enterprises in the UK. SEs in the UK can take the form of a charity, for-profit business, Community Interest Companies (CICS) and others – for so long as it remains true to its social mission. Participants found the dialogue informative and intend to apply relevant learnings in enhancing the current PRESENT bill.

Discussions on the second phase of the BIR Programme in the Philippines, between British Council partners FSSI and CAN, are ongoing.