Photos by Michelle Johnsen of Lancaster Photography Collective

Resilience and Inclusion through Investment for Sustainable Agrikultura (RIISA)


MEDA, with funding from the Government of Canada, is implementing a five-year project in the cacao sector of the Philippines.



To strengthen the cacao sector through investment and create more sustainable livelihoods for Mindanao women and men farmers and businesspeople. 


The project will support 25,000 women and men smallholder farmers and their households, agribusinesses, cooperatives, and public institutions.


The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted poverty levels in the Philippines, as household incomes declined and the economy shrunk. For the Mindanao region, which has the highest poverty rate in the country, the impact of the pandemic has only made things worse. In the cacao sector, in which the Mindanao region produces 80% of the crop on small farms, a lack of investment and skills within the sector means production remains low, particularly among farms, SMEs, and co-operatives led by women. 

In response, the Government of the Philippines launched its “Plant Plant Plant Program” and the 2022 Cacao Challenge. These programs aim to support the recovery of farmers and agricultural enterprises from the impacts of the pandemic and develop the lucrative cacao crop. 


There are ample opportunities to build and strengthen the cacao sector. With rising global demand for cacao, the dominant role that SHFs, especially women farmers, play in producing cacao in the Philippines, and strong government support, investing in this sector can strengthen inclusive and sustainable cacao markets. As a result, women and men SHFs can increase and improve their incomes and livelihoods. 


The RIISA project is using the following strategies:

  • Market Systems Approach: MEDA is identifying the needs and limitations of cacao market-systems’ stakeholders, including SHFs, business service providers, and financial intermediaries. It also includes a gender equality/social inclusion (GESI) and environment and climate change (ECC) focus.
  • Strategic Learning Agenda (SLA): MEDA is bringing together diverse stakeholders including investment funds, SMEs, cacao sector associations and farmer cooperatives. The SLA serves as a platform for these diverse groups to meaningful engage with each other. 
  • Capacity Strengthening and Technical Assistance: MEDA is establishing successful partnerships with the selected organizations and providing technical support.
  • Gender Lens Investing: Leveraging MEDA’s Risk Capital Fund (MRCF), the project will focus on investees that increase inclusion of women and men smallholder farmers, integrate environmental sustainability, and encourage and enable the flow of new investment capital to develop the overall resilience of support systems for the cacao sector.


The estimated project reach includes:

  • 5,400 smallholder farmers (SHFs) (40% women) provided with market linkages and training to increase farming incomes.
  • 15 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and financial intermediaries provided with GEM technical assistance to become more investment-ready, and matching grants to implement gender equitable and environmentally sustainable business strategies.
  • Provide capital through the MEDA Risk Capital Fund to stimulate investment and growth in the cacao sector.
  • 15 cacao cooperatives provided technical assistance to develop gender equitable and environmentally sustainable business plans and matching grants to improve business practices.
  • 150 farming couples were provided with opportunities to work on gender equality within individual households.
  • Indirectly, benefit more than 25,000 members of SHF households, SME employees, and co-operative members will benefit from the project.


This program was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.

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