IISLA’s commitment to empower smallholder farmers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is stronger than ever. The Independent Dialogue for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit that we conducted last month has validated our advocacy and strategy, underscoring the need for capacity building and access to capital among small-scale food producers in order to protect and advance livelihoods across the entire value chain.  This newsletter presents the highlights of the result of our consultations with food system actors, especially those working on the ground.  As we prepare a position paper that will help to shape the UN Summit agenda, we are looking forward to your continued support in co-creating systemic interventions towards regenerative production, inclusive food security, and equitable wealth distribution in the food system, hopefully with the support of the UN.

~ Jennifer & IISLA Team ~

IISLA’s Independent Dialogue for the UN Food System Summit unveiled a plethora of issues faced by smallholder farmers and MSMEs in the Philippine food system, highlighting many constraints and challenges in achieving sustainable food security in the country and in ensuring equitable livelihood for those working on the ground. 

One of the key challenges in production is the high risks or costs incurred in transitioning towards organic methods which are absorbed by the farmers with little or no support during the transition process. This is exacerbated by expensive and inaccessible organic inputs. Thus motivating farmers to adopt organic farming in lieu of conventional techniques is difficult without enabling mechanisms such as affordable and accessible funds to cover both household needs and farm inputs, as well as relevant education to optimise yield and lower input costs.

From the food processors perspective, sustained supply of diverse, organic produce for processing at stable prices is limited. Small organic food processors are subjected to highly volatile prices and unstable supply volume preventing them from building up sustainable inventory and scale up their operations.   

These challenges overflow into consumption patterns for organic products. Limited supply often at high prices make it difficult for consumers to boycott cheaper conventionally grown produce.  The entrenched culture of monocropping has also resulted in limited crop diversification with locally-grown endemic crops not known to consumers. The result is a vicious cycle where  sustainably-grown, healthier and more diverse crops are not produced by farmers. 

Inadequate communications channels and logistics infrastructure in food distribution leave farmers and consumers at the mercy of the ‘market-makers’, or traders/consolidators, who often dictate farmgate prices and what produce should be planted by farmers. This is aggravated by farmers’ lack of knowledge of their ’real’ cost of production, resulting in their inability to set prices of their produce that reflect real costs. This, coupled with other systemic challenges such as lack of land rights, render many smallholder farmers not credit-worthy by many formal financing institutions, leaving them with unscrupulous informal lenders.  Extremely intricate and tedious loan application processes with formal lenders, along with limited financial literacy of many farmers, also hinder access to capital. Lending is often available for associations or cooperatives but not for individual farmers/MSMEs without collateral. If available, loans often demand high interest rates beyond the affordability of small food processors and smallholder farmers.

Listening to smallholder farmers and MSMEs working on the ground has given us first-hand information on the real issues and potential solutions to ensure food security. Our team at IISLA remains committed to co-creating and redesigning a food system that protects people and the planet whilst achieving prosperity for all.

On May 25th, IISLA came together to host its very first Independent Dialogue for the UN Food Systems Summit joined by an array of experts, academes, advocates, civil society and policymakers. 

Overall, it was a fruitful dialogue with a lot of action points for all stakeholders involved. IISLA now hopes that as we convey the result of this important dialogue to the UN, that they will be considered and finally put the smallholder farmers and MSMEs at the heart of all initiatives. 

To read the full summary of this event, click here.

‘How do I want to live my life?’ is a philosophical question many of us ask ourselves as we become more conscious of our habits and how they impact our surroundings. For years now, there has been growing awareness that our planet can no longer support the current rates of production and consumption. The tide of individuals who are balancing buying decisions with social, environmental, and political convictions has been steadily rising.

However, greenwashing has become a common marketing strategy among big brands. This suggests that some consumers are buying products under the false pretence that they are intrinsically good for the planet.

To read further, you can click here. 

IISLA is a social enterprise that embodies holistic values and the belief that we can create an equitable world, where people from diverse backgrounds and locations have equal opportunities. Our mission is to improve the lives of people in rural communities to mitigate migration, whilst simultaneously protecting the environment and preserving local culture. We believe that if people in remote places can achieve economic and social prosperity without leaving their homes and families, many of the social and environmental challenges we face today could be eradicated.
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