The economy of the Philippines is dynamic, rapidly growing, and before 2020, was making progress at becoming an upper middle-income country. Yet, it also faces a range of economic challenges. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s resulting lockdown, the Philippines economy shrank because of a reduction in its exports, tourism, and remittances.
Despite this downturn, many agricultural sectors continue to present economic opportunities, such as cacao in the country’s southern Mindanao region. This thriving sector produces 80% of the country’s cacao which is primarily processed and consumed nationally. However, with limited investment and specialized skills within the cacao sector, this means production remains low, particularly among small- scale farmers, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), women-led co-operatives and associations. Mindanao also has one of the highest poverty rates in the Philippines, and like the rest of the country, has suffered from the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MEDA, with support from the Government of Canada, is implementing its first project in the Philippines. The project is called Resilience and Inclusion through Investment for Sustainable Agrikultura (RIISA), a 6-year project in the cacao sector of the Philippines. This project seeks to build more sustainable livelihoods and profitable agri-businesses by supporting 25,000 women and men small-scale farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives, and public institutions in the cacao sector of Mindanao.
RIISA will engage, establish partnerships, and provide technical support for diverse actors in the agri-food market system. The project will also develop an “Agri-Food Integrated Market Assessment Process” that will examine the needs and limitations of the members of the cacao market, such as small-scale farmers, business, and financial service providers. This assessment process will further include a gender equality and social inclusion (GESI), and environment and climate change (ECC) focus which will create valuable insights to support RIISA clients.