For the Love of Country and Chocolates:

OFWs Launch Partnership with Mindanao Cacao Farmers

A group of Filipino expats based in Dubai, have launched a pioneering project that aims to encourage investment in agriculture back home by partnering with Cacao Farmers of Agusan del Sur in Mindanao.

Led by award-winning Filipina entrepreneur Iman Suguitan and her sister Luchie, OPM which stands for OFW Para saMagsasaka is an organization that aims to encourage overseas Filipino workers to invest back in the Philippines by way of social enterprise which would allow them to support local farmers mainly in the production of Cacao.

Formally introduced to interested parties at a gathering of enterprising Pinoys, Iman who currently runs a hotel supplies trading company, shared her vision for establishing OPM.

“This is an invitation for our modern day heroes, our OFWs to make use of their blessings and actively get involve with our local communities back home. With OPM we present them a unique Win-win opportunity to pursue inclusive growth in our countryside by partnering with our Farmers in Mindanao.”

Meanwhile, co-founder and Iman’s sister, Luchie Suguitan, who works as a fund administration manager for a financial consultancy firm in Dubai is also a part-time student of EcoleChocolat. Luchie has enrolled herself in the program to gain a better understanding of chocolate production.

She expounds on the global potential of Cacao exports and why they have chosen to support the Cacao farmers in Mindanao.

“We have decided to focus on CACAO mainly because of its tremendous demand in the world market. Only countries within 15 degrees upand below the equator belt encourage the growth of this crop”, says Luchie.

The Philippines is perfectly situated, and Mindanao has been blessed to haveexperienced minimal typhoons in the last decade making the temperate 20 to 32 degree very ideal for cacao production. A shortfall of up to one million metric tons of cacao is forecasted by theyear 2020. These factors plus the relative price stability of cacao encourage investment to both crop and said location, adds Luchie.

Alongside the goal of earning profits is an earnest desire to alleviate poverty experienced by Mindanao farmers via equitable means of doing business.

“We have heard of one toomany stories of unfair contract farming, loan-sharks and other unfair business practices, andwe oppose this. However, we are also NOT a charity institution. It has to be rememberedthat the money we propose to invest was actually earned by leaving our country andfamily. Our proposed system is fairly simple: let’s work on the farm together – PARTNERS,” Iman emphasized.

OPM would be managing investments to fund the farmer’s fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, foliar, equipment, seedlings and infrastructure.

The organization also aim to encourage the support of Cacao field educators and secure a network where the beans can besold at the maximum price possible, while the farmer tills the field. Upon harvest and sale of the beans, theincome of the farm will be shared equitably with both farmers & their OFW partners.

OPM (OFW para saMagsasaka)closed on May 15, 2016 commitments for the first seed cycle after exceeding the target no. of hectares. It will be managing twenty hectares of intercropped cacao farm in Bayugan, Agusandel Sur, and will begin sowing this July when the rainy season begins. Individuals from the private sector, particularly Overseas Filipinos working in the UAE, Singapore and United States,together with one American, one French-Brazilian and one Spanish make up the charter investors for this grassroots social enterprise initiative.

The next seed cycle re-opens for commitments on February 2017.

Plans are in place before the year ends to hold cacao production training for OFWs who would like to start their own cacao farms back in the Philippines.

For more information or follow them

For press-related inquiries contact Kristine Abante / +971 56 1703874

For management inquiries contact Luchie Suguitan / +971 50 4598790