Welcome Flores de Mayo! The month of newly-elected leaders of the Philippines, the month of flowers, of continuous warmth of summer, and here in OPM, the month of continuous growth. May springs.
April was unforgettable here at OPM because of the success of the first Bayanihan in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur in Barangay Magkiangkang. Even as we write this, we are still amazed at how everything happened so fast, yet so cohesively. Together with Iman, seven cacao doctors (classmates from cacao doctors training just last February) shone so brightly with knowledge, experience and energy as they interacted both on class and in the farms of our would-be partners. Friends like these are the wind beneath OPM’s wings.
This cacao training was vital as a jump-point of OPM; we had to make our would-be partners understand the intricacies that determine a bountiful cacao harvest, while we needed to understand more the needs of our farmers in order to clearly match it with our commercial goals. We encountered many questions from them and we too posed many questions through face to face interviews and questionnaires.
Farm visits revealed to us ages, health and grafting status of cacao trees, for those with any. Soil fertility, existing intercrop, farmers’ expectations, financial literacy, housing and family status, were among the things we learned. And as with any excellent enterprise, market research is worthless if not integrated into the whole business strategy. Certain aspects already jump at us, for example, financial literacy of the farmers – the lack of understanding the difference between subsistence planting and commercial planting.
Allegorical as it may sound, plants are not the only ones that need addressing from the roots. We find that behaviors stem from particular attitudes and these are borne from experience and more often than not ignorance; experience such as desperation and a certain hopelessness among our farmers. If we can change attitudes, then we can create positive behaviors which will then become positive-reinforcing habits. These issues must be at the beginning and continuously at the heart of the OPM strategy.
This and other methodologies will be shared exclusively with our investors as they unfold.
Part also of this April trip in Mindanao was to fortify existing relationships and create new ones with government and non-government agencies who are part of the cacao value chain.
Our mentor, Mr. Val Turtur of Cacao Industry Development Authority of Mindanao Inc. (CIDAMi), introduced us to the people who are pushing the growth of Mindanao, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and they were surprised that far away from the Philippines, an organization such as OPM exists. They also affirmed support.
Presentation of OPM to Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA)officials in Davao City with Mr. Val Turtur (CIDAMi)
Farmer and cooperative representatives of Magkiangkang + OPM team went to Butuan City to meet with Department of Agriculture (DA) officials in Butuan City.
DA Caraga Regional Director Edna Mabeza confirmed DA support once the program is rolled out by:
Ensuring farm to market roads are built and/or continued soonest. We were advised that barangay captain must send a follow up letter for Barangay Magkiangkang.
Supplying planting materials (high quality seedlings only)
Supplying processing equipment (Post harvest)
Provide training for GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) to farmers.
Davao del Norte was also a stop for Iman when she visited Chokolate de San Isidro, another social enterprise for cacao.
Talks went around CSI’s Criollo crossbreed, the quality and flavor of cacao beans from this region, and challenges we must anticipate. Kuya Caloy who is the general manager of this social enterprise avidly shares with us tips how to avoid pitfalls of operations. While Noel, another stakeholder of CSI, who owns a 250-hectare banana plantation talked to us about the benefits of being involved in a social enterprise.
We also attended Cacao Doctors’ Congress 2016 and here we met even more people who could assist us in growing our business: foliar company Stoller, bean-to-bar chocolate maker Kablon Farms with Annie Duque of London who is in the business of fine chocolate tasting (our own chocolate brand looms very close in the horizon!), United States non-governmental organization ACDI-VOCA represented by Thelonius Trimmel, and many more people who were involved in the cacao chain. It was a day filled with fun, learning and positive energy.
We also met our classmates from Batch CD216 who were running their own farms and implementing their own projects. From Bukidnon, Bislig, Agusan del Norte and the beautiful Dinagat islands, we joined forces as we tackled the “Cacao Amazing Race” and “Cacao Henyo”.
OPM Charter Investors – 4 days to go!
On May 15, 2016, Sunday, we officially close taking in investors for the first seed, and we are very, very excited! We look forward to focusing on awarding and sowing in June-July. As we always stated when we rolled out this social venture, we look deeply at the source of investments and if the people who will join us in this venture are people we can grow the business with for many years; people we can invite happily to OPM farms, understand our core values and mission, and together really create something we will all be proud of from both commercial and social perspectives! In light of this, we have been critical about taking in commitments, which explains why we do not chase some leads as conventional crowd-funding does. After May 15, we will only begin taking in investments again on January 2017. From May 16 onwards, focus will be the farms, education of farmers and monitoring of our crops.
The next three months will see us roll out offer letters to our admin and farm management team. Your investments will determine the scope of what we can do and the strength of the foundations we can build. Investors from 2016 will officially be our CHARTER INVESTORS and together, we have no way to go but up, and WE THANK YOU.
If you still have not deposited your payments, kindly see attached bank details.
If you have any more last questions, we are free to meet one last time in Dubai on Saturday March 14, 2016 at Le Pain Quotidien, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.
Luchie & Iman