BRIEF DESCRIPTION AND BACKGROUND OF THE PROJECT
Agribusiness SME’s are important in sustaining rural economies as they constitute a large portion of overall rural industries. However, in most cases, the productivity and hence the profitability of such SME’s remain low. Often their businesses are saddled with various management problems ranging from financing & investment issues, poor quality of products, unstable production, and labor and staffing concerns, to environmental waste management issues. Thus, in order to address these problems, there is a need to improve the managerial and technical skills of those running agribusiness SMEs. This will contribute to the improvement in overall management, leading to higher productivity, profitability, and sustainability of business operations, which can further translate into creation of more employment opportunities, especially in the countryside.
The activity hopes to enhance the knowledge and skills of participants in the management and operations of Agribusiness SMEs; and to provide learning tools for consultants and extension officers to be used in their work related to the promotion and provision of training and technical advisory services to agribusiness SMEs.
OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION
The project is very significant and timely with my present position being the coordinator of the Agribusiness program of the college. I would be able to benefit from the inputs of the workshop and learn from other participants through sharing of their experiences in dealing with their local SMEs. I would be able to impart these learnings to our Agribusiness students and better provide more practical inputs to these young people who are the future leaders in the Agribusiness sector. Through this workshop, I would be able to learn more techniques and tools in providing relevant training programs for our local SMEs. Hopefully, being in the academe, the activity will provide more inputs on how best we can assist the SMEs in sustaining their own business operations, as part of our extension activities.
PROFILE OF PARTICIPANTS
A total of 20 participants attended the workshop. The participants represented the seven (7) Asian countries of Cambodia (4), Indonesia (5), Islamic Republic of Iran (2), Malaysia (2), Thailand (4), Vietnam (2) and one (1) participant from the Philippines. The Filipino participant is currently the Assistant Dean of the College of Agriculture, Xavier University at the same time the coordinator of the Agribusiness program of the college.
The workshop covered the following major topics: Agribusiness Marketing & Financial Analysis; Quality Control & Food Safety Management. Specific topics related to Marketing Strategies and Financial Analysis was given by Mr. Reuel Virtucio. The topics on Quality Control were discussed by Dr. Koichi Hiratsuka and Mr. Yong delivered the related topics on Food Safety Management like Pre requisite Programs (PRP’s), HACCP & ISO 22000.
The resource persons employed different methods of delivery such as lectures, group activities, individual assignments, plenary group presentation, case studies hands on exercises. Field visit to selected SMEs was done for the participants to observe the actual activities related to the inputs given by the resource persons.
Two speakers from Indonesia, one from the academe and the other from the packaging business, shared their experiences and their contributions in helping their local Agribusiness SMES. It was noted that SMEs in Asian countries have similar experience and problems in relation to marketing and improving quality of products. One of the strategies presented and highlighted in the presentation was the strong collaboration among the different stakeholders in improving agribusiness SMEs. Collaboration among the government, private sector, academe and agribusiness SMEs should be strengthened to improve productivity performance in order to compete with the “giants” in the Agribusiness sector.
OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION
In general, the workshop objectives were met. Personally, I was able to meet my objectives in attending the workshop. I gained a lot from the inputs which increased my understanding on the different tools to improve the performance of Agribusiness SMES. At the same time, it gave me insights on how I could better assist our SMEs. Aside from the inputs, I also learned from the different experiences shared by my co participants. I realized that we all share the same concerns/ problems in dealing with the SMEs in our home country. The visit to SMEs is an effective learning methodology in which we were able to see and observe the actual business operations and gave us participants some ideas on how we could apply those techniques to improve our local SMEs when we go back to our home country.
Our resource persons are really experts and are articulate in their individual fields. They were very effective in sharing their knowledge to us by utilizing different methods of presentation. They were also very effective in letting the participants work and produce an output. Some workshop participants are becoming very conscious with their food intake for example, as they are now more aware especially on food safety.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION STEPS
I would like to express my gratitude to the APO, the host country (Indonesia) and the Philippine NPO (DAP) for giving me the chance to participate in this workshop. I strongly recommend that the APO should continue with this kind of project. A follow up training or workshop related to the topics could be implemented but will give emphasis on improving the capacities of participants through actual practicum activities.
In our organization, specifically in the Agribusiness unit, an immediate action plan is to incorporate the related topics in the course content of some courses in the Agribusiness curriculum. Also, incorporate the topics learned from the workshop in the training program which we will be conducting to the Agribusiness SMEs as part of our extension program.
Assistant Dean/Agribusiness Coordinator
College of Agriculture
Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan