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Case Studies featured on the “A Pathway to Sustainability in Agricultural Value Chains: BTP WEE in AVCs”

Women produce over 50 percent of the world’s food (Akter et. al., 2017 citing FAO, 2011) and comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force, both globally and in developing countries (Akter et. al., 2017 citing Doss, 2014). Yet, official statistics often underestimate the value of women’s work and their overall contribution to national wealth (FAO, 2006). 

This study covers 8 case studies of social enterprises and inclusive businesses engaging women small-scale producers in agricultural value chains (AVCs) across Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. They are cases of transformational partnerships in AVCs that have had a significant impact on small-scale producers, especially women. 

The 8 case studies provided a rich source of stories of transformation among women small scale producers. These stories are living proof that women’s economic empowerment is possible among women in agriculture and the informal economy with transformational partnerships in AVC interventions. 

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#1Case on Alter trade Foundation and Negros Organic Fair Trade Association (NOFTA)

ISEA PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Quezon City, Philippines.


“Noong hindi pa natayo ang MIARBA sa bahay lang ako nag-uuma ng lupa. Parang hindi mo naman makikita yung income kasi yung mga product naming from palay kino-consume (din namin). Siguro di makakapag-aral mga anak ko” (When MIARBA wasn’t formed yet, I farm at home. You really wouldn’t see the income since our palay products are for consumption. Probably, my children would have not been able to go to school.”

– Imelda Cervantes, MIARBA Secretary

When asked where she’ll be if not with MIARBA, Imelda Cervantes, one of the women leaders of the Minoro Isabel Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (MIARA) and NOFTA said she may still be just working in the field, unable to earn enough to provide for her children’s education. Indeed, Imelda has come a long way from the past where she earned 70 pesos or less a day working as a sugar cane farm worker in a hacienda owned by wealthy sugar barons typical of Negros Island, hopeless and with no future in sight.

Imelda is just among the many women and men small agricultural producers and agrarian reform beneficiaries of the Negros Organic and Fair Trade Association (NOFTA) whose lives have radically changed through decades of development intervention of Alter Trade Foundation Inc. Her story is among the many stories of transformation of small producers who worked and organized themselves to collectively get out of the cycle of poverty. Their struggle on issues such as land ownership, food security, self-governance and empowerment as members of people’s organizations represents the struggle of agrarian reform beneficiaries in Negros Island in particular, and in the Philippines in general.

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#2Case on Bote Central/Philippine Coffee Alliance

ISEA PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Quezon City, Philippines.


Coffee offers the opportunity of women farmers to lead the good life. There is a huge market for coffee being the second most popular drink in the world, next to water and tea. The Philippine market alone is plagued by a net demand deficit of 45,000 tons a year.1 To become self-sufficient in coffee, local coffee production must grow by more than 50% of current capacity.2

Coffee grows well even in harsh weather conditions at higher elevation of 600 meters to more than 2,000 meters above sea level. It can make upland areas productive in a sustainable way. Shade –grown coffee, in particular, is considered to be ‘the next best thing to natural forest’ as it accommodates trees that provide an array of ecological services such as bird habitat and soil protection/erosion control.3

This preference for the cool mountain temperatures however equate to remote location of coffee farms and makes for difficult access to markets. In the Philippines, this is aggravated by poor condition of farm to market road network which hinders active trading of goods and services and contributes to the poverty situation of coffee farmers.

The promise of a good life remains elusive for many Philippine coffee farmers. For some, hope and better quality life is within reach.

1 Towards a Roadmap for the Philippine Coffee Industry, DA HVCDP, presented by DA-RFO‐CAR, May 2015; 2 The Philippine Bureau of Agricultural Statistics estimated a total of 88,500 metric tons of green coffee beans produced in 2011; 3 Robert Rice, The Ecological Benefits of Shade‐Grown Coffee, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, 2010‐benefits‐of‐shade‐grown‐coffee.cfm

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#3 – Case on Green Net Cooperative and Earth Net Foundation’s Organic Fishery Project

Change Fusion PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Bangkok, Thailand.

Brief History and Profile of Green Net Cooperative and Earth Net Foundation and its Primary Stakeholders

Thailand’s population of over 70 million people is highly dependent on the food security from the country’s fishery sector. The daily catch of the country’s fisheries sector provides for both Thai and global demand. The pressure to satisfy the demand prompted the extensive practice of large-scale fishing that caused the exploitation and stark decline in its marine resources.

The evident imbalance between the increasing population and volume of available food presents a serious issue on the fishery and forestry resources. For years, environmentalists have openly criticized seafood businesses for their fishing practices that exploit the marine resources. In the past, about half of the families in Thailand were largely engaged in fishing and agriculture. There was a decline in the number of households engaged in agriculture and fishing due to the high costs and low returns.

Thailand’s coastal communities are comprised mostly of small-scale fishers of around 500,000 individuals or 60,000 households from around 3,500 villages. The local fisher folks make use of traditional fishing gears, practice traditional rituals, and utilize various indigenous wisdom inherited from their ancestors. Some of these fishing gears are push nets for shrimps, hooks, surrounding nets, and handmade gears for crabs. A big fraction of their catch is intended for domestic consumption, with only the surplus put up for sale.

A disparity is evident among the small-scale fishers and the large-scale commercial fishing operations, where the former is more conscious of the need to conserve marine resources and the latter accountable for the rapid depletion of the resources to satisfy the high demand for seafood products.

Compared to the fishing gears of the local fisher folks, large-scale fishing industries utilize equipment that deplete the resources and are also destructive to the whole marine ecological system. These are gill nets, surrounding nets, long lines for rays, and sand whiting gill nets. In addition, the boats used for fishing have also been transformed to big outboard-powered boats that can travel farther miles away from the shore. “The destruction have been caused mostly by boats using push nets that destroy coastal sea grass and other resources on the seabed,” one of the fishers in Prachuab Khirikhan Province expressed. He narrated that this destructive practice of large-scale fishing industries is different from traditional fisherfolk practices. Fisherfolk practices prohibit the catching of certain fish species during their spawning period.

The demand for seafood products from Thailand was triggered by the expansion of capitalists systems and globalization. The centralized management processes dominated by state agencies made it difficult for the small-scale fisherfolk communities to maintain their traditional livelihoods. Government policies and bigscale projects on the sectors of energy, tourism, and infrastructure along coastal areas have contributed adversely to the small-scale fisheries sector.

Most of the problems and issues are due to the lack of participation and consultation from the community members in the process of proposing development directions that are appropriate and sensitive to the needs of the communities.

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#4Case on Lemon Farm and Association of Thai Fisherfolk Federation’s Fisherfolk Enterprise

Change Fusion PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Bangkok, Thailand.

Brief History and Profile of the Social Enterprise System Created by Fisherfolk Enterprise and Lemon Farm

Thailand thrived as one of the major global fish exporters. The small-scale fishers dominated this sector until the introduction of fishing trawlers in the 1960s that shifted fishing practices to destructive and illegal fishing methods (Jone, 2010; FAO, 2005). The bottom trawlers, often utilized by large-scale and commercial operations, are large nets dragged across the seafloor to catch everything in its path. This resulted to a significant decline in the average seafood catch of the Thai fishing boats. In 1961, Thai fishing boats’ average catch is 300 kg of seafood per hour that drastically declined to 19 kg per hour in 2010 (Salforest, 2013). Further, around 63% of the total catch makes up what they call as “trash fish” or the undesirable and unpalatable fish. It also includes fish and other sea life creatures that are too small and are often being used as fish feeds.

The remaining percentage (37%) only accounts to seafood produce that is suitable for commercial purposes. The damage of overfishing practices, especially along the coastal waters of Thailand, has become a critical issue and has lead to the depletion of the fisheries resources and damage of the marine ecosystem (WWF, 2016).

In addition, large-scale fishery operations often use toxic chemicals to extend the shelf life of sea products. Results of the regular monitoring of the Ministry of Public Health show that market samples of seafood products contain formaldehyde, a carcinogenic substance usually used to preserve corpses. This and other harmful chemicals are used and are often sold in processed forms (Ronnarongpaire, 2016).

Moreover, the marginalized fishing communities have long been held in a system locally termed as “kieo”. It is a system where small-scale fishers rely heavily on a small group of businessmen who have full control of the fishing boats, loan systems, and trade. This system enabled the middlemen to monopolize the market pricing, leaving the small-scale fishers with no or little bargaining power (Karnjanatawe, 2016).

Historically, the small-scale fishers suffered intensively from the impacts of overfishing and unequal market systems monopolized by middlemen and large corporations. The small-scale fishing communities in the southern part of Thailand are one of the most marginalized communities. Various factors contribute to the uncertainty in their household income and daily sustenance such as constraints in fishing capacity, manpower, and equipment.

Findings of a study of the small-scale fishers at the Prachuab Khiri Khan community show that the “kieo” system is magnified by the destruction of the marine ecosystem. Even actors who were not previously involved in the “kieo” system are struggling to make ends meet. As expressed by one of the local fishers,

“Since the depletion of the fish, we lost a significant amount in our income. We are working harder and earning less. My husband stopped hiring helpers on the boat that I have to accompany and help him in fishing. We would spend 6-7 hours out in the sea because we have to sail further, compared to the just 3 hours before the destruction of the marine system. I am still responsible in selling the fish which means I was working twice as hard. Our income continued to drop because the fishes continued to disappear.”

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#5 – Case on DRAGON’s Intervention with Indigenous People in the Ginger and Gac Value Chain

CSIP PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Hanoi, Vietnam.

Brief History and Profile of the Company and the Primary Stakeholders

Dragon Vietnam Investment Limited Company (DRAGON) was established in 2012 by the two co-founders Ms. Nguyen Thu Ha and Mr. Do Van Hiep. It is one of the first companies in Vietnam that invested in the ingredient area following GLOBAL GAP standard for gingers and gac. DRAGON supports poor small scale production farmers in the mountainous areas in the North of Vietnam to build sustainable agriculture value chain, with priority for poor households, ethnic groups in the remote area, and the disadvantage groups in the society. DRAGON support input cost, technical training and guarantee to purchase product consumption and process these products to export to international market.

Founders of DRAGON have years of experience working in non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam, Save the Children, etc.; especially in model with people’s livelihood development. They have great experiences and reputations in designing programs and working with local authority; advocating and collaborating with small scale production farmers to enhance capability for business development. The community based business model in which enterprise cooperate with local people have been tested since 2005. Ms. Nguyen Thu Ha (Director) is responsible for strategy direction with many years experience in management, especially project management, financial and human resource management. Mr. Do Van Hiep (Vice Director) is responsible for market development, product development with many years experience in development and fair trade.

DRAGON started their business activities by linking between poor small scale productions farmers in Hoa Binh in 2012 and Nam Dinh in 2013. DRAGON and the small scale production farmers participated in the contract/agreement, in which company support seedling cost, provide technical training in planting ginger/gac according to technical guidance and ensure buying 100% farming volume. The success of this business model allow the company to enlarge the ingredient area in Hoa Binh, Nam Dinh province, as well as open new area in Yen Bai, Cao Bang, Son La… Moreover, DRAGON also invests in the cultivation of ginger in Indonesia.

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#6 – Case on HITEACO and their Partnership with Tea Growers

CSIP PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Hanoi, Vietnam.

Hiep Khanh Tea Joint-Stock Company (HITEACO) is established in 2007 in Trung Son Commune, Luong Son District, Hoa Bink Province. HITEACO is formerly called The Manufacturing Engineer and Construction Company Ltd and specializes in manufacturing, trading, and mechanical engineering.

In 2009, the company identified the potentials agriculture production, specifically in tea cultivation and processing. They purchased and invested in processing factories with a maximum processing capacity of 2,000 tons per year, equipment, agricultural products, and the latest modern technology.

HITEACO has been established through the traditional experience of a family in processing and trading tea products. Established by founders Mr. Pham Vu Khanh, Chairman of the Management Board; Ms. Nguyen Thi Tham, Executive Director; and Mr. Pham Vu Tuan, a member of the Management Board, HITEACO operates in the cultivating, processing, and exporting of tea products. Mr. Khanh and Ms. Tham hold a combined 18.29 % total share of the company. The remaining capital is divided among family members (33.71%) and other shareholders (48%). The total share of family members accounts to 51% of the total share of the company.

Among the three founders of HITEACO, Mr. Khanh has more experience in the field of mechanical engineering as he was once a manager in an automobile mechanics company. Ms. Tham, as the CEO of the company, has more than 16 years of experience in the field of business and trading tea products. Meanwhile, Mr. Phan Vu Tuan has 20 years of experience in tea trading.

The company started its operations in So La province in 2008 by initially developing a strategic partnership with two processing factories owned by family members of the Tham family in the province. These are Dai Thanh Tea Processing Factory in Chieng Khoa Commune, Moc Chau District and Tay Bac Tea Processing Factory in Ta Xua Commune, Bac Yen District, in Son La Province.

The two primary processing factories are built in a situation where the two districts of the Son La Province are facing difficulties in terms of a low buying price of tea and access to stable market due to unstable export market. This prompted most farming households to replace tea with other agricultural products.

HITEACO saw a potential in the cultivation areas that can provide for the sustainable raw materials for processing activities. The establishment and maintenance of these strategic partnerships is beneficial for HITEACO to have enough input materials for processing, and help the small-scale producers in Son La Province to deal with issues on access to available market.

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#7 – Case on KMM’s Green Mussel Intervention

Dompet Dhuafa PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Jakarta, Indonesia.

Profile of the M3 Green Mussel Cultivation Program and the Community

The Ministry of Maritime and Fisheries Affairs of Indonesia has set Banten Province, particularly Kasemen Sub district as the center for mussels cultivation in Indonesia. Of the ten (10) villages that make up Kasemen Sub district, Margaluyu has the least number of population at 6.6% (6,211), 3,263 of which are men and 2,948 are women. Most of the Margaluyu Village residents depend primarily on fishing and cultivation of green mussels. However, only a few dominate this sector due to the needed capital investment. The low supply and the high consumption of households for green mussels make the demand for green mussels quite high.

The current demand for green mussel reaches 17 tons / day. Present production capacity is only 2-3 tons /day. The production –consumption gap in this sector started the Dompet Dhuafa initiative of an empowerment program for the fisher households in this region. Dompet Dhuafa is a zakat1 institution in Indonesia. Established by Dompet Dhuafa as a community-based social enterprise, PT Karya Masyarakat Mandiri (KMM) implements various community programs in collaboration with local partners that also function as cooperative legal entities.

Mustahik Move to Muzakki (M3) Program is under the micro, medium, small enterprises and coastal sector empowerment programs of KMM. It engages poor communities in Margaluyu Village in the cultivation of green mussels. The program aims to improve the socio-economic welfare of the fisher families in Margaluyu Village, specifically to increase their income up to 1.5 times the city’s minimum wage. The minimum wage is set at Rp 2,375,000/ month in 2015.

The M3 program empowers dozens of women in the region working as green mussel strippers to become entrepreneurs. As a pilot project, it has been selected as a best practice because of its exhibited significant economic impact on women. In this model, women are engaged in the whole value chain from the production, processing, and management of the cooperative.

1 Zakat is the practice of giving alms to the poor and the needy. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, of which the four others are faith, prayer, fasting in Ramadan and Hajj. It is obligatory on Muslim adult. Mustahik is the person who receives zakat due to poor socio-economic background. Muzakki, on the other hand, is the one who gives zakat.

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#8 – Case on KSU Jatirogo

Bina Swadaya PROSE Research Team. December 2016. Jakarta, Indonesia.

Brief History and Profile of KSU Jatirogo and its Primary Stakeholders

Non-government organizations Lestari Mandiri and Hivos Netherlands have been engaging the communities in Kulong Progo District, Special Region of Yogyakarta since 2001 in the development of a sustainable organic cultivation program on rice commodity. The implemented program aims to alleviate the condition of the farmers. However, the program’s evaluation did not show significant impact in increasing the economic condition of the targeted community members in the five-year run of the program. This prompted Lestari Mandiri to evaluate the potentials of other existing agricultural businesses within the community and saw the potentials of developing the value chain of organic crystal brown sugar. Since coconut trees are abundant in the assisted communities and most of them know how to make batok sugar1, Lestari Mandiri assessed that the implementation of the new intervention will not be that difficult.

The NGO initially encouraged community members to shift their products from batok sugar to organic brown sugar. Since the process of making the two coconut byproducts are almost the same, with a slight difference in the crystallization process, most of the community members were easily convinced to implement the suggested shift and further development of their product.

Lestari Mandiri, Hivos Netherlands, and Swisscontact forged a partnership to further conduct a business development study on the product through a social enterprise.

On November 26, 2008, KSU Jatirogo Multi-purpose Cooperative was established with the primary objective to become a provider of organic certification and to serve as the marketing arm of the farmers’ coconut products. The cooperative also manages the organic palm plantation within the Kulon Progo Subdistrict, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The cooperative envisions the promotion of unity in the aspects of economic, social, cultural, and organic farming for the welfare of the farmers, the cooperative, and the whole community. KSU Jatirogo’s day-to-day operations are guided by its missions to facilitate and bridge the needs of the farmers through fair trade; provide assistance to improve the community’s quality of life; strengthen the economic aspect of the cooperative through professional cooperative management; and strengthen the quality of the organic products produced by the KSU Jatirogo farmer-members.

1 ‘Batok’ is a form of solid brown sugar, a usual product made from coconut sap and sold to local markets in the rural areas.

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