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If each of us takes part in caring and sharing, the overwhelming challenge of poverty can be addressed. Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much.

Fighting Poverty One Bottle at a Time

[Date Created: August 13, 2013]

by Gia Leanne Luga

In the fertile highlands of Mindanao, far from the hustle and bustle of the metro, you’ll find Bukidnon – a place where the soil is so much richer, the breeze a bit cooler, and life a lot simpler. Home to acres of fruit and vegetable plantations, Bukidnon is also home to thousands of hardworking farmers. But in the farming communities of Bukidnon, you’ll also find that those who produce the food that we eat are also some of the poorest in our country. And there’s something wrong with that picture.


To help uplift the lives and provide a better future for our Bukidnon farmers, Human Nature is launching the Farmer’s Fund Drive, a campaign that will help develop and empower three farming communities from Bukidnon, namely (1) QUARBA Farmers Cooperative (QFC) from Brgy. Impalutao, Impasug-ong, (2) Imbayao CBFM Farmers Association (ICFA) from Brgy. Imbayao, Malaybalay and (3) CFC-GK Workers Association (CGWA) from Brgy. San Jose, Malaybalay. The campaign aims to sell 50,000 bottles of Human Nature’s Citronella Bug Shield Oil and Bug Shield Lotion, and 100% of the profits will be used for the Citronella Agro-enterprise Development (CAD) Program.

Last May 28-29, 2013, representatives from these farming communities witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the CAD Program, which is a joint effort from Human Nature, Gawad Kalinga and Kaanib Foundation. Through this multi-sectoral approach, our three farming communities will have access to a three-fold training platform:

       (1) Essential oil production technology

       (2) Values formation and social preparation

       (3) Agro-enterprise clustering approach

The signing of the Memorandum of Agreement with (from left) Gawad Kalinga Area Coordinator Harvey Maraguinot,

Human Nature Social Enterprise Department Head Mike Go and Kaanib Foundation Inc. Executive Director Imelda Esteban

The CAD Program will be run by the three organizations, but anyone can be a part of the Farmer's Fund Drive and help uplift the lives of Bukidnon farmers. Every bottle purchased will bring development and sustainable livelihood to these farming communities.

>> Learn more about the Citronella Bug Shield Oil

Passing on the Expertise

Human Nature’s Essential Oil Production Technology

True to its commitment to be Pro-Philippines and Pro-Poor, Human Nature has always believed that Filipino farmers are capable of producing world-class raw materials that can be manufactured into world-class products. There are complex social issues that make the work challenging, but Human Nature together with its partners is committed to help these communities journey out of poverty – from Gawad Kalinga and Agrarian Reform Communities to Indigenous groups and Community-based Forest Management farmers. Going beyond the typical benefactor-beneficiary relationship, Human Nature helps develop their expertise and bring out their creativity, as well as giving them a ready market with just prices.

With the Farmer’s Fund Drive, Human Nature will use 100% of the profits from 50,000 bottles of Citronella Bug Shield Oil and Lotion to provide two farming communities with citronella oil processing facilities. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will fund the facilities of the third community (QFC in Brgy. Impalutao), but for all three communities, Human Nature will be there to pass on the expertise in planting citronella and producing the oil needed to make its Bug Shield Oil and Lotion.

Benjamin and Jean Maputi with citronella tillers from their farm in Brgy. Imbayao;

The happy and excited members of the Imbayao CBFM Farmers Association (ICFA)

Out of the three farming communities, the only one that’s currently planting citronella is the Imbayao CBFM Farmers Association (ICFA) composed of DENR-assisted Community-based Forest Management (CBFM) farmers in Brgy. Imbayao. The two other farming communities visited Benjamin and Jean Maputi’s farm in Brgy. Imbayao to see for themselves how it’s done. Manang Jean, the leader of ICFA, is excited to pass on her expertise of planting citronella to the others. In fact, the couple has already given away citronella tillers to some of their neighbors who have shown interest to start planting. Manang Jean says, “Gihatag na namo nga libre so gipasa lang sad nako. Wa ta kahibalo kung unsa’y matabang ana.” (This was given to us for free and I’m just paying it forward. We never know what help that could bring.) Manang Jean also shared how excited she was to learn how to use the new extractor and be a producer of world-class citronella oil.

Cluster leaders from Brgy. San Jose get to try harvesting citronella for the first time
when they visited the farm in Brgy. Imbayao

What Lies at the Core

Gawad Kalinga's Values Formation and Social Preparation

It is the generosity of farmers like Manang Jean and the way she treats the farmers she works with that lies at the core of the CAD Program. Through years of working with farming communities, Human Nature knows that for any community-based enterprise, issues and relationships always affect production. If there are differences in personalities and values and they don’t know how to care and share, then it hardly matters what facility or expertise you introduce.

Dennis Canete speaking about the importance of values formation and social preparation

Through the CAD Program, Gawad Kalinga (GK) will work with the three communities and give them what lies at the heart of GK’s work – values formation and social preparation. GK has always said that poverty is not an economic problem but a behavioral one, and before we even talk about citronella oil processing, we should take a step back and build them up into empowered communities that genuinely care for one another. Dennis Canete of GK Bukidnon underscores this by saying “Usa ta magsturya bahin sa kwarta, dapat magkasinabot ta nga dungan ta tanan sa paglambo ug wa ta’y ibilin.” (Before we even talk about money, we need to agree amongst ourselves that the success of one is the success of all and we will leave no one behind.)

Out of the three farming communities, the only one with a GK background is the CFC-GK Workers Association, Inc. (CGWAI) from Brgy. San Jose. They work with a GK community of flash flood victims in Sitio Panamucan, and they will be on hand to share to the other farming communities what they know and how they have been transformed.

Sustainable Wealth

Kaanib Foundation's Agro-enterprise Clustering Approach

Helping our Bukidnon farmers journey out of poverty begins with transforming them into caring and sharing communities, followed by equipping them with the right technology and connecting them to a stable market. But to truly make them self-sufficient, they need to know exactly how to create sustainable wealth out of what they produce.

Through the CAD Program, Kaanib Foundation, the local partner of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), will share the 8-step clustering approach that is valuable in creating a sustainable and efficient agro-enterprise model. Among the many challenges that farmers face are insufficient economies of scale, lack of access to financial capital, difficulties in meeting requirements of buyers and lack of business skills. Kaanib Foundation will train the three farming communities in agro-enterprise, collectivizing their efforts in the spirit of bayanihan and giving them the needed business knowhow.

Out of the three farming communities, the only one with agro-enterprise background is QFC, or QUARBA (Quisumbing United Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association) Farmers Cooperative composed of agrarian reform beneficiaries from Brgy. Impalutao. They are already employing the 8-step clustering approach, but they have only done so for vegetable crops. The farmers are excited about the CAD Program, especially because it resolves many of their current challenges.

Edgar Talazan, a farmer of 19 years, shows us around the farms run by
the agrarian reform beneficiaries of Brgy. Impalutao

Edgar Talazan, a DAR beneficiary who has made a living out of farming for the past 19 years, shared the challenges of becoming a farmer. He remembers a time when they relied on sweet corn but unpredictable weather conditions caused them to fail. Edgar also points to the market as a big cause of failure. They could plant all they want, but when the market price fluctuates, they lose out. Edgar shares, “Ang gulay maayo, pag insakto ang merkado. Wala ta’y choice kay mao man jud ang dagan sa atong pagpamaligya sa merkado. Kapila na sad ko nasakit tungod sa paggamit sa kemikal. Mao na jud siguro ni ang tubag para makaangat mi sa among kinabuhi. Dinhi na siguro nato makab-ot ang win-win solution nga atong gidahum.” (Planting vegetables is good if the market price is also right. But we don’t have a choice because that’s how the market operates. I have also gotten sick so many times because of using pesticides. So I think this is really the answer, a way for us to uplift our lives. I think this is how we can reach that win-win solution we have longed for all this time.)

Fighting Poverty One Bottle at a Time

We ask why with land as fertile as this country’s, the producers of the food we eat barely have enough to get by. We ask why small farmers are discriminated upon and excluded from markets, driving some to abandon farming altogether. We ask why many of our farmers remain poor. Perhaps instead of asking these questions, we should ask ourselves what steps we can take to change what’s wrong with the picture.

With the Citronella Agro-enterprise Development (CAD) Program, three social enterprises are joining hands to help develop, empower and uplift the lives of three farming communities in Bukidnon. But true to the spirit of bayanihan, the Farmer's Fund Drive allows every Human Nature dealer, consumer and advocate can also take part in helping fulfill these farmers’ dreams. For every bottle of Citronella Bug Shield Oil or Lotion that we purchase, we are one step closer to fighting poverty and providing a better future for our farmers.

Now will we keep asking why our farmers remain poor, or will we be part of the solution and start fighting poverty one bottle at a time?


Human Nature is the Philippines’ largest brand of genuinely natural personal care, cosmetics and home care products. Operating as a social enterprise, it is driven by the core philosophies of being PRO-PHILIPPINES, PRO-POOR and PRO-ENVIRONMENT. Founded by Anna Meloto-Wilk and Camille Meloto, daughters of Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, Human Nature’s products are 100% made in the Philippines and 100% free from harmful chemicals. Human Nature teams up with organizations like Gawad Kalinga and hopes that soon there will be hundreds of world-class community organic farms in the Philippines providing livelihood for thousands of our poorest people as we raise them up to be world-class Filipinos.

The Farmer's Fund Drive is not the first campaign Human Nature has run to support farming communities. In 2010, they launched the One Heart for One Community Program wherein 100% of the profits from the Citronella Bug Spray were used to repair the school, buy books, give health insurance and build an integrated processing facility for citronella oil production in Labo, Camarines Norte. In 2011, the CommPassion Campaign was launched to establish a passion fruit farming and oil extraction facility in its partner Gawad Kalinga Pueblo Antonio community in Catigan, Davao.

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