04 February 2021, Quezon City, Philippines. The Department of Agriculture through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), BDO Foundation and the Fish Right Program of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have launched a partnership for the financial education of fishers across the country. The collaboration will offer training to fishers on topics such as saving and budgeting, supplementary income sources, and the proper use of micro-loans and micro-insurance to help break the vicious cycle of poverty and natural resource depletion.
“We believe that our collaboration will contribute to attaining the twin goals of the Department of Agriculture towards MASAGANANG ANI at MATAAS NA KITA, and complementing other programs aimed at improving yields and doubling the income of small fisherfolk and their families in five years,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar.
The BSP and BDO Foundation are building on their experience from their previous partnerships with government agencies to promote financial education and consumer protection, as part of the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion. According to BDO Foundation president Mario Deriquito, “Financial education interventions for underserved sectors of society are critical especially now that we are coping with the effects of a pandemic. We hope to be able to use the learning resources we have developed with BSP and other partners to further push financial inclusion, contribute to the government’s capacity building efforts, and make a difference in the lives of fishers and their families.”
BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said, “The agri-fisheries sector has untapped potential to be the engine of inclusive growth and development. The BSP hopes to unleash this potential by empowering the sector’s poor and low-income households through financial inclusion and financial education. We aim to equip fishers and their families with prudent financial management skills and right attitudes toward money to help them cope with irregular incomes and other economic shocks that they typically encounter in their livelihoods.”
The Fish Right Program will support the design of the financial education module and its roll-out with fishing communities, drawing from more than two decades of USAID experience in marine biodiversity conservation and fisheries management in the Philippines. “USAID is grateful to partner with BSP, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and BDO Foundation in extending the FinLit program to the fisherfolk. Their unstable and low income combined with low financial literacy to manage finances perpetuate a vicious cycle of poverty and fisheries resources depletion. Anchored on DA’s flagship program on accelerating harvest and incomes, the FitLit program will be customized to the fishing sector and incorporate the value of taking care of the sea, saving for the future, and growing income through entrepreneurship,” said Patrick Wesner, Deputy Mission Director of USAID/Philippines. “Through USAID Fish Right program, we hope to build the capacity of more than 25,000 fishers with the intent to reach even more with the help of our partner NGOs and universities in Calamianes Island Group, South Negros and Visayan Sea.”
The Fish Right Program is implemented by the University of Rhode Island and a consortium of organizations including PATH Foundation Philippines Inc. (PFPI) and Silliman University. “Providing our underserved fishers, especially the women, with knowledge and skills to manage their finances well is so much aligned with our mission of promoting community empowerment and alleviating poverty. We at PFPI believe that no matter how meager fishers’ incomes are, prudent spending and saving decisions could help them achieve financial health, participate more in efforts to conserve our marine resources – their source of livelihood – and be better partners towards attaining sustainable and resilient fisheries,” stated Dr. Angel Alcala, PFPI President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
“This financial education program is part of an array of knowledge tools for fishers to help extricate themselves from the clutches of poverty and release the instinctive pressure to overfish our fragile marine ecosystems,” said Dr. Betty Cernol-McCann, President of Silliman University. “Striking a balance of alleviating the plight of our fishing communities and restoring the health of our environment aligns with the University’s vision of a leading Christian institution committed to total human development for the well-being of society and environment.”
The partners’ joint implementation of the project has started with the development of a customized financial education training module based on 5Ms: Maging mapagkalinga sa karagatan; Mag-impok ngayon para sa kinabukasan; Magpalago ng kita sa pamamagitan ng pagne-negosyo; Mag-seguro para protektado; at Maging matalino sa pag-utang. A system to measure the effect of the training on fishers’ financial behavior and continuously improve it will also be established. BFAR and civil society organizations will then undertake a training of trainers to properly cascade the module to fishers. BFAR will embed the module into its technical training programs nationwide.
[Article submitted by Lawrence Kasman, BDO Foundation, Inc.]