Farming, they say, is a huge gamble. With farmers saddled with debt even before they till the soil, they can only hope to literally reap everything they’ve sown. Crop damage is not an option.
But this is exactly what befell 40-year-old vegetable grower Celeste Naguiat of Floridablanca, Pampanga. Using the loan received from Smart Communication, Inc.’s (Smart) Buy Local Sustainability Fund, she spent part of it on seedlings, fertilizers and pesticides.
Smart’s ‘Buy Local’ program is part of the telco’s framework of Technology for Development that aims to narrow down the digital divide.
“I choose eggplants because they’re easy to sell. Once they mature, you can pick the fruits every two to three days for the next seven months providing a steady source of income,” explained Naguiat.
The ‘Buy Local’ program resides under Smart’s framework of Technology for Development that aims to narrow down the digital divide.
While she was able to harvest a sizable bounty in the first four months, everything fell apart when her crops were infected with a type of fungus that decimated the entire plantation.
“I was devastated. But since I’m also a vegetable dealer, I poured the rest of the capital into buying and selling other types of vegetables and shifted to planting corn,” she said.
Naguiat credits the low-interest loan received from the Sustainability Fund for her recovery. She’s also grateful for the evenly spaced payment schedules. With enough wiggle room, what could have been a misfortune was averted. Naguiat was able to recoup her expenses and pay her dues without missing a schedule.
“In traditional ‘5-6’ lending scheme, you’re slapped with a 20-percent interest rate. Plus, you are required to pay every day. You can hardly save up,” she shared.
The Sustainability Fund is tied to Smart’s ‘Buy Local’ campaign where PLDT and Smart employees, as well as employees of other Manuel V. Pangilinan-led companies, can buy directly from the farmers providing them a sure market for their crops. Part of the proceeds go to a sustainability fund that is lent to adopted farmers as low-interest loans for farm inputs through its social agri-enterprise partner Cropital. The initiative aims to promote corporate RICEponsibility among the private sector to help increase the income of smallholder farmers.
The program is also aligned with the commitment of PLDT and Smart to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly No Poverty (SDG 1), and Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8).