MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Over 120 stakeholders from all sectors, joined the first General Meeting of the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA). The meeting was hosted by the Department of Agriculture and attended by Secretary Alcala, Under-Secretary Palad and Assistant Secretary Gazmin. The aim of the meeting was to formalise the PPSA Working Groups, agree partners and projects, and to progress the formation of a steering committee and secretariat for PPSA. Thanks to high levels of participation, the meeting achieved this aim and in addition many stakeholders were able to share their proposals and recommendations for the PPSA next steps.
Secretary Alcala, who has agreed to be co-chair of the steering committee, called for “action, energy and commitment”. In his opening remarks he emphasized the strong alignment between the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) and the PPSA. The PPSA will begin by focusing on five crops – cassava, coconut, coffee, corn and fisheries – and cross-cutting issues, all of which are included in the PRDP. Secretary Alcala acknowledged that to improve the farmer profitability, farm productivity and environmental sustainability, the Government wants to work together with partners from the private sector, civil society and academia.
Mr Rohit Jawa, Chairman and CEO of Unilever Philippines, who was nominated as the other co-chair of the PPSA steering committee, also spoke of the need for energy and commitment. He described how, even though partnerships can be difficult, they deliver better results for everyone; this approach is aligned to Unilever’s business model and close to Mr Jawa’s personal beliefs.
Following the encouraging remarks from the PPSA’s co-chairs, the delegates separated into breakout groups to discuss their crops, or cross-cutting issues, of interest. PPSA’s consulting partners, Development Finance International, presented research on each value chain. These discussions were in essence the first ‘meetings’ of the PPSA’s Working Groups. After an intense period of structured discussion, the Groups presented back to the plenary, on existing projects (to be included in PPSA or enhanced by it), potential new projects (to address specific challenges in the value chain) and on partners for the Working Groups and a date for the next Working Group meeting.
Overall, the participants demonstrated the commitment and energy called for by the co-chairs: in their respective Working Groups they identified many great ideas for further discussion and action; agreed to work together; and, set dates to meet again.
Regarding the steering committee and secretariat discussion, it was agreed that the leaders of the Working Groups would become members of the committee along with the two co-chairs, Secretary Alcala and Rohit Jawa. The committee would also look to include wider representation from the farmers’ associations and civil society. The Grow Asia team continues to explore models for the secretariat.
The first General Meeting of the PPSA was a huge success and a significant step forward, thanks to high-level leadership and great participation from all delegates. It will be exciting to see how the Working Groups decide to operate and implement projects on the ground.
Director, Country Partnerships, Grow Asia