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The Outlook (3): Philippines ー PRRM and cooperation on regional reinvigoration

Publication date:2019-08-20
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami M.D., Ph.D. (President of AMDA)
 

Late PRRM President Mr. Gani

In May 2019, I visited Bataan in the Philippines to pay tribute to late Mr. Isagani “Gani” R. Serano who used to head the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM). PRRM is a national NGO dedicated to uplifting impoverished farming communities by providing agricultural assistance.

Our “reunion” took place in his birth place which was three hours’ drive from the city of Manila.

Our first encounter


Mr. Gani and I came to know each other through late Senator Juan M. Flavier who was heading PRRM in the 90s. The young Mr.Gani was a friendly man who would sing “Imagine” with a guitar in his hand whenever he was on a roll. Born the second-youngest of the eight in a lush farming village, he was an anti-Marcos activist who had been jailed twice in his youth.

In April 2013, PRRM took part in “Inaugural Conference of Asia Sogo-Fujo Network for Disaster Medicine” which AMDA organized in Okayama, Japan. At an excursion to the village of Shinjo located in the region’s northeast, Mr. Gani observed the remote community thriving on mutual assistance. 

Although Shinjo’s total population had only been 960 at the time, it was a well-functioning village where close cooperation between the local government, schools and fire brigade bolstered its solid administration. The excursion allowed the participants to learn from and exchange ideas with the villagers firsthand.

In the following year, this resulted in the form of agricultural technology transfer in 2014 in which two PRRM trainees were sent to AMDA Notoro Farm in Shinjo to study organic farming.

Mr. Gani at AMDA Notoro Farm

A PRRM trainee during his training

 

 


AMDA and PRRM from now on


At a house he grew up in Bataan (where his parents still reside), I had a meeting with Ms. Lisa (who was Mr. Gani’s partner) in regards to how AMDA could help PRRM from now onward. After hearing my suggestions, she showed a keen interest in introducing a portable food dryer to their agricultural programs which could be used to make dried fruits and vegetables.

Earlier on, I explained to Ms. Lisa that AMDA Bangladesh is currently considering the idea of incorporating this food drying machine into their micro-credit program. According to her, she used to think that introducing a food dryer to individual farmers would be almost impossible in the Philippines, because she had only seen it at large food companies.

However, she said it would provide a great solution for individual farmers to manage unsalable produce which amounts to about half of the total harvest. With a food dryer, she was hopeful that she might be able to process vegetables and fruits that are either scarred, deformed or no longer fresh, and have them turned into merchandise.
 

Ms. Lisa (middle)

Mr. Gani’s brother (left)


At AMDA Bangladesh, they are currently allocating part of profit gained from the micro-credit program to a Down-syndrome-related initiative: an effort to promote social participation of children with the disability. As stated in World Health Organization’s definition of health, social involvement is an important component of people’s well-being. In this regard, having such children to assist local farmers on the dried-food initiative will help engage themselves in society. Simply put, this flow embodies social participation in its truest form.

 

Children with Down syndrome in Bangladesh

With Bangladeshi villagers


In light of our possible collaboration, I asked Ms. Lisa to promise me one thing: I gave her a condition that if PRRM could provide support to children with Down syndrome in the Philippines in the similar way as AMDA Bangladesh, AMDA would be willing to assist the venture. Her answer to my request was “yes”. “In the future, we would like to manufacture a food dryer by ourselves and distribute it to countries in Southeast Asia,” she said.

I conveyed her burning wish to a company owner that makes this machine in Okayama. At this stage already, I cannot contain my excitement as his response was a forward-looking one.
 

    •  President's Message
    •  Philippines
    •  2019

 
 
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