Conversation with
Cherrie Atilano
Social Entrepreneur
President & Founding Farmer
AGREA Philippines

(Watch full interview here!) | Paraphrased excerpts below:

COVID-19 hit the Philippines during the peak harvesting period for the farmers in March. Farmers were unable to sell their produce because of the lock down. At the same time, consumers were stuck in their homes in Manila, not being able to get access to the fresh food and vegetables.

(As a result) many farmers started contacting us, as the lock down was implemented. We knew that we needed to help these people, even though we didn’t know what to do at the time, but we knew we had to do something.

So, the following day, we launched the “Move Food Initiative” taking orders from Google-Forms (order here!based on the produce that the farmers provided.


Cherrie Atilano, responding to the plea of Philippines’ Farmers to help them distribute their food during lock down
We didn’t realize what we were signing ourselves up into!
 
3 days later, we had 10 tons of orders of fruits and vegetables.
 
The amount of logistics, tracking of orders, deliveries during the lockdown were extremely challenging with many farmers situated 10 to 12 hours away from Manila with a number of check points guarded by the military. It was almost like running a national operation with your hands tied to a chair, and your only weapon is your phone, your network, your connections and your brain in trying to figure out how to navigate everything…
 
However, we also knew that if we want to create change, this is the best time to have the change, even if it is so difficult.

Watch interview clip here! 
Re-Imagining the Future
 
Farmers in the Philippines often fall victims to the unethical traders who prey on their lack of education and bookkeeping knowledge by short changing them on their produce. As a result, farmers continue to work very hard for very little, and continue to stay below the poverty line.
 
The access to the farmers through this operation has enabled us to educate them on how to count and price their produce appropriately. It has also provided the farmers a direct access to the consumers through our facilitation.
 
Our business model has, during this time pivoted to supporting the farmers, with plans to further develop this relationship into the future. What has emerged out of this crisis is that, the farmers are now receiving a fair income, the consumers are enjoying 30% to 40% savings to their purchases, while we are making it a viable business for our involvement, making it a win-win-win for all of us.

Watch interview clip here! 
 

About Cherrie Atilano

Cherrie is the President and Founding Farmer of AGREA Philippines. She is also a co-founder of HATIENDA Holdings Inc., an agri-tourism and agri-processing space to produce Filipino agricultural products for the local and export market. 

Cherrie was one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines in 2007 for her academic excellence, exemplary leadership and strong social responsibility. She is also recognized as a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum. Because of her track record and advocacy to promote global food security and sustainable agricultural programs and which has helped thousands of farming families in the Philippines for almost 17 years, she was awarded Young Global Laureate 2014 by the International Youth Organization – Youth Action Net. She had a chance to meet the Holy See Papa Francesco in Vatican, Rome, Italy on November 19-20, 2014 for the gathering called “Towards a New Global Mindset: Overcoming Social and Economic Exclusion”. She was recognized as the ASEAN Young Business Leader in 2014 by the New Zealand Foundation and named by Rappler Philippines as one of the Four Filipinas to Watch in 2014. She was also recognized as a Peace Awardee 2015 by the Muslim community through the SPMUDA International Organization during the International Day of Peace.