Strengthening and Mentoring Agriculture

Photo Caption: The forum on Shaping the Future of Food Security and Agriculture featured the ASEAN Business Advisory Council Chairs and members Dr. Robert Yap (Singapore), Sok Piseth (Cambodia), Anangga Roosdiono (Indonisia), Oudet Souvannavong (Lao PDR), George Barcelon (Philippines), Arin Jira (Thailand), and Dr. Doan Duy Khuong (Vietnam). 

Agri is indeed a game changer! This was proven true during our recently concluded ASEAN Agriculture Summit held last Monday, Oct. 1 at the SMX Convention Center Manila. The potential of agriculture, not just in our country but across ASEAN, has been highlighted with great prominence and we have seen and heard it through the different points raised by our speakers and panelists.

More than 1,500 participants learned from our whole day summit which featured areas of concern in agriculture. More than half of our speakers were from the different countries in ASEAN and beyond.

We were glad to have our Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol who specifically flew in from abroad and landed just hours before his talk. In his talk, Piñol answered concerns on rice importation and other issues. He said, “there is no problem with the supply, but our problem in this country is the fact that we are an archipelagic country wherein our problem is not the lack of food, but the very poor food positioning and this is where would like to institute fundamental and institutional reforms.”

We also had my  ASEAN Business Advisory Council co-chairs and members, and other agriculture champions as our guests.

I have recognized the importance of agriculture and our farmers in fostering the Philippine economy. Through our ASEAN chairmanship last year, it gave us myriads of opportunities to launch several programs and events with the vision of all Filipinos as well as the ASEAN member states, to achieve inclusive prosperity.

Through the five fora, we showed how we can all benefit from a stronger agriculture sector as the sector can provide employment for others. Additionally, with the presence of our international speakers, including those from countries which already have a developed agriculture sector, we were able to see how they did it and how we can adopt the best practices.

See it as comparing notes. We were able to learn how Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam improved their rice industry through technology and innovation. We also learned how other countries supported their agriculture sector by implementing various programs on money and market.

With our current issues and concerns on agriculture, the summit has provided us with solutions that hopefully can solve the situation.

We also commended 15 outstanding agribusinesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators who have shown exceptional feats in the agriculture industry during the first AGROW awards. Our goal is to recognize their sterling achievements and become an inspiration to other individuals and stakeholders in order to enable innovations in agricultural advancement in the region.

Right after the successful ASEAN Agriculture Summit 2018, we had the ninth roll out of our Mentor Me On Wheels in Taguig City. It was attended by hundreds of mentees who were mentored by our entrep-mentors. What made it more special was the presence of the ASEAN BAC chairs and members. In fact, Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Munir (ASEAN BAC Malaysia), Arin Jira (ASEAN BAC Thailand), Anangga Roosdiono (ASEAN BAC Indonesia), and Robert Yap (ASEAN BAC Singapore) even participated in the mentoring session. They met with micro and small entrepreneurs from the Philippines and gave advice on how to improve their businesses. As I was talking to the mentees, they were surprised to have an international mentor. From there, they were able to open their minds to the idea of expansion across the region eventually in their entrepreneurial journey.

I specifically wanted ASEAN BAC to witness how we do our mentoring sessions here in the Philippines. Since we launched the ASEAN Mentorship for Entrepreneurs Network (AMEN) last year, it is our mission to bring mentorship to a regional scale. Hopefully in the future, we can have a regional mentoring session with mentors from all over ASEAN and extend it to other partner countries – South Korea, Australia, Israel, among others.

It has been a fruitful two days for us. If we all work together, we can create programs that would address the needs of our micro, small and medium entrepreneurs from all sectors including agriculture.