Bringing Financial Management to an Association of Farmers

Posted on 08/18/2022

A personal reflection on the subject engagement must begin with acknowledgement of PACOFA’s officer’s earnest approach to the subject material which was matched or exceeded by the excitement with which they welcomed the volunteer. Although the assignment involved in-person deployment lasting only 11 days in Pandan, the arc of the volunteer and the association’s familiarity, comfort, and candidness with each other would typically have developed over a much longer period.

During the initial meeting upon arriving in Catanuanes, PACOFA’s officers were somewhat defensive and quick to shift blame to others’ past mistakes while explaining the association’s current circumstances. However, upon conclusion of the assignment, the officers acted and discussed the association’s finances with much more ownership and foresight. This was deeply satisfying, and it’s my sincere hope that they maintain this confidence as they grow, transform, and serve as a pillar of their communities.

During my most recent volunteer assignment with the Farmer-to-Farmer program, I provided a financial management training to the Pandan Association of Coconut Farmers (PACOFA). Attendees of the assignment’s workshops included the association’s Board of Directors as well as a selection of cooperative members. Beneficiaries included the association’s 159 current members as well as future additions to the organization. The training took place at the residence of the association’s President.

During my career in banking, I took a hiatus to teach math and science in Southeast Asia. My two years teaching taught me that I thrive with a defined plan for each lesson. However, it’s also critical that an instructor be able to pivot based on the progression and reception of a particular class. I found that my pace of instruction – as well as the content conveyed – required periodic adjustment and flexibility as the in-person assignment went on.

Flexibility and attentiveness to the association’s needs were probably the two most critical elements needed while carrying out the trainings. The curriculum I’d settled upon before departing for the Philippines was adjusted and reimagined several times over the course of the assignment. Without this flexibility, it would have been challenging to fit my instruction into the unique context of PACOFA and its officers.

I would implore those volunteering in a similar capacity to embrace change and adopt flexibility while carrying out their assignments. Recipients of any capacity building training – while requiring careful instruction – will also inevitably have their own policies and strategies that have historically worked to various effect. Therefore, training provided may ideally be scaffolded within the context of this existing knowledge; and very often, the volunteer will be mostly unaware of this history before arriving and beginning their initial interactions.

I was extremely fortunate to have the invaluable support of Grameen staff as well as facilitators from Catanduanes State University (CATSU). This partnership flourished over the course of the assignment – so much so that I had the pleasure of participating in a radio segment broadcast nationally by CATSU. I also had the distinct honor of meeting the Governor of Catanduanes for a discussion of the assignment activities and the Farmer-to-Farmer program. The impact left upon me by the friends and professional I met in Catanduanes has left me tremendously excited to return.

Empower smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty.
Give Now