Atlas Fertilizer Corporation, the Philippines’ largest and oldest fertilizer manufacturer in the country is a pioneer in advocating for science-based farming. AFC is also known as the country’s leader in crop specific – soil specific fertilization technology. Foreseeing challenges in the agriculture industry, AFC set out to craft its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program during the 60th year anniversary celebration: Adopt A School Farm.
The Philippines, being an agricultural country is unfortunately seeing its labor force slowly shift away from agriculture. In 2017, this has resulted in critical labor shortages around the country, considerable drops in farm productivity, and increased costs of production. All these factors, make it seem that agriculture is no longer a viable business given the challenges.
In government statistics, a decade ago, agriculture was boasting employment of 33% of the total Philippine population. Annually, this has decreased to its current level of 27%. This contraction has not abated, with more farmers shifting to other industries where they feel the steady monthly income of a paycheck is “safer” than farming.
AFC decided to utilize its expertise, and chose schools to help. The objectives of the program sought to:
- Support the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” (Vegetable Farm in Schools) program of the Department of Education and Department of Agriculture that promotes in-school grown vegetables to feed to students to help mitigate malnutrition.
- Expose children to the joys and feeling of success brought about by farming and a bountiful harvest.
- Teach children the importance of science-based farming
- Technical training for the faculty; introducing proper farming techniques to ensure sustainability of the program.
Through the program, recipient schools received rehabilitated school farms, hybrid seeds, seed trays, basic farming equipment, and most important of all, high quality Atlas fertilizers. The program enabled more than 60 Toledo City schools, and hundreds of students to participate.
Before schools planted, AFC’s Product Development Group gathered and educated principals, faculty and coordinators about the proper techniques of farming and best practices. The sessions are instrumental in ensuring the success of the program, and enabled the teachers and coordinators to transform the PDG technical knowledge into lessons students will easily appreciate and remember.
In the past months, AFC has been monitoring and helping the school farms. The practices learnt during the sessions were further improved to include everyday practical knowledge and techniques that suit or are specific to the conditions of the school farms.
According to schools and their principals and coordinators, the rehabilitated farms have been able to grow vegetables. Though still a long way to go from harvesting on a commercial scale, the farms have been successful and now provide vegetables for the children’s lunch. Everyday, both students and faculty tend to the farms, monitor, and inspect the crops that they will soon be harvesting and eating.
AFC advocates for the success of farming, and even though the farmers and farms here are small, we do believe that all things good can start from such small seeds.