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Armed with Knowledge: A Journey of Agricultural Empowerment for an SM Foundation Farmer Graduate


Iloilo City farmer Rita Soltis proudly shows her vibrantly green vegetable garden.


Numerous passionate and dedicated farmers are continuously exploring solutions to the longstanding challenge of making agriculture a sustainable livelihood. They are constantly seeking methods to enhance productivity and yield, playing a pivotal role not just in the nation's economy but also in ensuring access to fresh, nutritious produce for all Filipinos.

With a focus on empowering farmers through education, SM Foundation, the social good arm of the SM Group, conducts its Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan program, reaching out to low-income farmers nationwide.

Since its establishment in 2007, the program has introduced modern farming techniques to approximately 30,000 farmers, including Rita Soltis from Iloilo City.


Eager to Learn and Thrive


SM farmer-beneficiary Rita Soltis reaps the fruits of the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan training program with a bountiful harvest.


Soltis, a seasoned crops farmer, has always strived to refine her agricultural skills. Over the years, she has grappled with the complexities of the agricultural industry, navigating challenges ranging from weather conditions to pest control. She diversified her crops by planting watermelon and vegetables during the off-season for their family’s sustenance.

"I initially planted only rice. I also tried planting corn and watermelon to offset expenses with minimal capital. We used to plant vegetables sparingly, just enough for our needs," she said.


Determined to embark on a new path, she completed the 14-week KSK training: "I wanted to have a new opportunity to learn about farming and especially marketing, which is why I became interested in joining SM Foundation's KSK program."


Through the program, she gained insights into keeping abreast of current trends, making prudent investments in mechanization, and adopting modern farming practices.


"These are essential in today's times to grow your farm and livelihood, and most importantly, not be left behind. We learned proper budgeting, saving income, planning where to allocate earnings, and reading market demand. We also learned strategies and techniques on how to allocate time and money between vegetables and rice," she said.


Armed with her new skills, she found inspiration in the business principles of Henry "Tatang" Sy Sr., which sustained her during challenging times: "We were also taught Tatang's life principles, which I apply in business. Especially in farming, there must be hard work and patience because the process from preparation, planting, to harvest is lengthy. Tatang said, 'Recognize the opportunity.' So, one must be smart and resourceful in seeking opportunities, especially in the market," she added.


Expanding her business further, she founded "Dorime Garden" cultivating various vegetables for sale, and creating a livelihood opportunity for a community member.


Expanding Her Business Horizon

Since completing KSK in 2023, her efforts have borne fruit. This year, Soltis successfully harvested 50 kilograms of eggplants, which she effectively marketed through local community markets and weekend markets at SM Supermalls. Building on this success, she established "Dorime Garden," where she cultivates various vegetables for sale. This initiative has not only expanded her business but has also provided livelihood opportunities for members of her community.

 

"Now, every decision we make is backed by knowledge. We know when to plant a vegetable or rice based on the season. We also have techniques to ensure that planting is not just by chance or haphazardly done, which can be high-maintenance. With the help of SM's Weekend Market, we can sell our harvest in a bigger market where there are more people," she proudly shared.

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