Organized on July 15, 2015, Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative was not adept in business planning at first.
“Before hindi kami masyadong detailed magplano (We’re not used to detailed planning before),” said Cooperative Chairman Nolan G. Belaro.
Now, Belaro is more confident in decision-making through the trainings provided by Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) Enterprise Development (I-REAP) on business planning.
“Ngayon, alam na namin kung paano gumawa ng tamang estimate at ang maganda nitong result ay magagamit na namin sa decision-making with regard to the enterprise (Now, we have learned how to develop the right estimate which we can use in efficient decision-making in managing the enterprise),” he said.
Äccording to Belaro, through PRDP, he didn’t only gain insights on right food pricing and needed capital but he also developed concern for the environment. Through the Project’s Social and Environmental Safeguards (SES) integrated in enterprise development, Belaro learned that use of natural resources can come with environment conservation—that a business’ impact on the environment has to be taken into account.
Through the proposed sub-project “Camote Creations Sweet Potato-Based Products Processing,” Belaro aims to develop a model enterprise using sweet potato as the basic material.
“We want every actor in the chain to be considered and to benefit from the enterprise,” he said.
Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative has 23 sweet potato farmer-members from Daraga, Albay and Banquerohan, Legazpi City. The rest of its members are entrepreneurs and producers who shared their technology to Camote Creations. The cooperative prioritizes development of processing and establishing the market for its line products which include sweet potato fries, muffins, cake and noodles.
Belaro’s vision to develop sweet potato in Albay into an enterprise was stirred when as a processor, he was invited to attend the PRDP-Bicol’s Value Chain Analysis Stakeholders’ Consultation for Sweet Potato in Albay in 2015. Belaro started baking sweet potato muffins as a hobby after attending a training sponsored by the provincial local government unit’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARD) project—Production and Utilization of Sweet Potato in Disaster-Prone Areas from 2010-2013.
With the PRDP I-REAP, he saw an opportunity to help the rural women in his community who engage in sweet potato farming and production while their husbands work in the construction sites.
A recipient of the Cooperative Development Authority’s (CDA) Most Outstanding Cooperative Leader Award in 2016 and Chairman of the Entrepreneurs Alumni Development Cooperative (EADCOOP), he noticed that sweet potato farmer-members needed special assistance. The challenge, according to Belaro, is on how to contribute to the farmers’ progress.
“I would like to make a way kung papaano ba ako makakatulong sa farmers, kung hindi ko i-segregate, hindi ko sila matutulungan. Pag hindi tayo maka-develop ng model enterprise for the farmers, mahihirapan tayong magkumbinsi ng iba pang mga farmers. Napakaganda ng project na ito kasi matututukan ko talaga kung paano i-develop ang farmer because farmers don’t believe. Yung mga anak ng farmers ayaw magtanim kasi hindi man yumaman ang mga parents nila na farmers (I would like to make a way on how to help the farmers. I had to segregate them to better help them. Without a model enterprise, it will be very difficult for us to convince the farmers. This Project is very significant for it focuses on farmers’ development because farmers don’t believe. Their offspring are not interested in farming simply because their parents remained poor as farmers),” he added.
He believes that an industrialized region must have agriculture as its base in order to succeed. He also related that through PRDP-Bicol I-REAP’s technical assistance in business planning, the cooperative is on the right track.
“Nakaka-relate ako kung tinatanong nila (I-REAP team), ‘Saan kukuha ng supply? Because that is very true in establishing an industrial plant (I can relate whenever they (I-REAP team) ask, ‘Where are you going to source your supply? Because that is very true in establishing an industrial plant),” he said.
Since it was established, Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative has been focused on product development, product promotion and marketing. The cooperative also invests in skills and technology transfer particularly on baking and pastry-making.
The cooperative continues product development through the Sweet Potato Value Chain Development for Food in Albay under PCAARD in collaboration with Visayas State University, Bicol University, PLGU-Albay, Tarlac State University and Department of Agriculture Region 3.
With funding assistance from PRDP to establish a processing plant as well as purchase additional equipment and vehicles for product hauling and delivery, Belaro envisions Camote Creations Farmers and Entrepreneurs Producers Cooperative to grow into a leading sweet potato-based production processing center in Bicol region.
“This can be achieved through increasing the farmers’ income by expanding the production area. Farmers are capable of planting more, the problem is they don’t have market and technology intervention on how to increase the yield of the farmers per hectare. Ang farmers pag walang mabentahan, discouraged na pero higos na magtanom, igwa sinda kailangan lang nila i-redirect. Linking government and farmers’ resources together in the enterprise is a better chance. (This can be achieved by increasing the farmers’ income by expanding the production area. Farmers are capable of planting more, the problem is they don’t have market and technology intervention on how to increase the yield of the farmers per hectare. Without a market for their products, farmers get discouraged but they are very hardworking. They only need redirection. Linking government and farmers’ resources together in the enterprise is a better chance),” he added.
The proposed “Camote Creations Sweet Potato-Based Products Processing” enterprise is among PRDP-Bicol’s 11 pipelined I-REAP sub-project proposals with a total cost of P57.91 million targeted for approval by April 2017. Other commodities ongoing business plan preparation are Sorsogon’s pili and Masbate’s goat. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-PRDP RPCO V InfoACE Unit)