May 11, 2023 - Sodexo On-site Services Philippines Inc., a leading integrated facilities management and food services company, and AGREA Agriculture Systems, a women-owned social enterprise, have entered into a partnership to boost farmers' income and empower local communities by sourcing fresh produce from the farms.

Aptly titled ‘Nourishing the Workforce Sustainably by Sourcing from Well-Nourished Farmers (NWSWF)’, this initiative aims to use fresh produce sourced from the farms in kitchens operated by Sodexo to prepare over 60,000 healthy meals daily for employees across various industry segments.

During their visit to Majayjay, Laguna, Sodexo's Managing Director Paul Debaprateem and AGREA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Cherrie Atilano, along with their respective leadership teams, shared different sustainable and valuable business practices with farmers and business partners in the local community. The topics included zero waste management, financial literacy, market access, ways to grow their food and Sodexo's job opportunities.

Traditionally, farmers sell to traders at low prices; But Sodexo provides an ecosystem to support local farmers get better prices for their produce, thus supporting local economies," said Paul.

"Besides, we want to give more to them and their families by giving them job opportunities and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to enhance employability. This initiative will help increase farmers' income as producers and consumers simultaneously and provide opportunities for a better livelihood," he stated.

In addition, Paul emphasized that the approach aims to lessen the negative impacts of agricultural practices on the environment while promoting the health and well-being of farm workers and local communities. “By buying directly from them, our dependency on imported agricultural goods is reduced, with the result that the carbon footprint is lowered as well. This is a significant step to support Sodexo's goal to reduce carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2025” he added.

On the partnership between Sodexo and AGREA, Atilano said that it has created an ecosystem for sustainable farming and a holistic approach to agriculture that focuses on producing food through sustainable and environmentally friendly means.

"We are very grateful to have Sodexo Philippines as a valuable partner in our shared advocacy to create a sustainable, resilient, and accessible food system with a lesser adverse impact on the environment. I am confident that we will continue this alliance for a long time," she said.

As part of fair business practices, AGREA directly pays farmers based on the current prevailing farmgate price in the market as approved by the Department of Agriculture. AGREA has also provided capacity-building support to farmers since 2017 through financial and non-financial means. AGREA's Farm School, duly accredited by the Technical Educational Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), helps farmers through financial and non-financial means.

AGREA's Farm School provides farmers with training on values formation, sustainable agriculture, financial literacy, health and nutrition, and the basics of agribusiness, equipping them with the proper knowledge to make their business profitable and sustainable.

Recently, 200 urban women food producers in Payatas, Quezon City, received training at AGREA's Farm School on establishing urban farms as their source of food to survive the pandemic. Their crops also go towards sustaining the feeding program for malnourished children in the slum.

Creating an ecosystem for sustainable farming | Inquirer Business

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