An Agricultural Take on MSME Development with Dr. William Dar

Photo Caption: InangLupa Movement President & Former Department of Agriculture Secretary Dr. William Dar.

The ASEAN region’s dynamic landscape and climate has led it to become an agricultural haven. In fact, the ASEAN is considered as one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. We are the leading exporters of rice, fruit, vegetable and coffee and majority of ASEAN countries depend heavily on the agricultural sector.

To shed light on the agricultural sector and its impact on MSME development, Dr. William D. Dar shares his insights on agripreneurship (agriculture + entrepreneurship) in the context of ASEAN. Dr. Dar is a champion of the poor, especially small farmers and fisherfolks. Recently, he was awarded The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award in cognizance of his servant-leadership, as he transformed the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) from a struggling institute to one of the top performing centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

He also founded the InangLupa Movement—an advocacy group that calls for agricultural modernization and rural industrialization anchored on four pillars: inclusiveness, science-based, resilient, and market-oriented development. As a champion of agripreneurship, he actively encourages the youth to become farmer entrepreneurs (agripreneurs).

“Realizing the need to engage youth in agribusiness, InangLupa partnered with a group of visionaries and launched the YEF Phils [Young Entrepreneur-Farmers Philippines] late last year. YEF Phils is a private sector initiative working in partnership with GoNegosyo. YEF Phils envisions ‘A food secure, resilient, and prosperous Philippines propelled by empowered young farmers-entrepreneurs,’ and whose mission is ‘To mentor and empower young farmers to become successful entrepreneurs in high value agriculture,’” Dr. Dar shares.

Another noteworthy initiative in light of agripreneruship is the AgriBusiness Incubation (ABI) Program. Dr. Dar expounds that the “ABI is a program undertaken by ICRISAT which I headed in India. It is a unique and highly flexible combination of business development processes, infrastructure, and people – designed to nurture MSMEs by helping them to survive and grow through the difficult and vulnerable early stages of development. ABI also provides considerable management support for many MSMEs and investments in technology transfer and marketing. Based on the success of the ABI program undertaken by ICRISAT, the following components should be put into place: (1) technology consulting; (2) capacity building and training; (3) access to funding; (4) business facilitation; and (5) infrastructure and facilities.”

Agripreneurship can bolster rural development and create sustainable economies in many rural areas. For micro, small and medium enterprises, agripreneurship and its game-changing potential can create a culture of economic self-sufficiency for the many ASEAN citizens that rely on this sector.

Dr. Dar stresses that an “Inclusive Market-Oriented Development or IMOD strategy should guide MSMEs in agriculture. IMOD is a development pathway in which value-adding innovations (technical, policy, institutional and others) enable the poor to capture larger rewards from markets, while managing their risks. IMOD builds on four powerful principles: (1) resiliency; (2) markets motivate growth; (3) innovation accelerates growth; and (4) inclusiveness ensures that the poor participate and benefit.”

A challenge however to the progress of MSMEs and agripreneurship is how to make them more competitive. “There are only 8,195 MSMEs in agriculture, forestry, and fishing or approximately 1% of the total 896,839 MSMEs,” Dr. Dar says. Furthermore, not many farmers are aware and interested in transitioning into agriprneurship. “Farmers must be given access to credit, capacity training, links to manufacture and trade, etc.”

Lastly, Dr. Dar imparts that the ASEAN can focus on certain regulations to further the agripreneurship agenda. These include improving and streamlining Biosafety, GAP (Good Agricultural Practices), SPS (Sanitary and Photosanitary Measures), and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) compliance, creating institutional mechanisms to support exporters through public-private investments, and reducing discrepancies of national food control systems among individual ASEAN Member States.

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The Prosperity for All Summit is organized by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, headed by its current Chair and the Philippine Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion. The summit is a a one-day event focused on “Driving growth through micro and small entrepreneurs in Trade, Services and Agriculture”, and will be held in the City of Dreams, Manila, Philippines on April 28, 2017.