by Lalaine Ignao, ABS-CBN News
HONOLULU, HI — Student organization RiceUp, from Brigham Young University, recently won as the top social enterprise out of 450 enterprises at the Enactus United States National Competition.
It all began in 2016 when student Elvin Jerome Laceda came to Hawaii to attend BYU. When the school began a business competition about social enterprises, he immediately thought about doing something inspired by his grandfather, a farmer from Pampanga.
He says that about 45% of farmers in the Philippines are in the poverty threshold — and he wanted to change that by creating a market innovation, starting with farmers.
“I submitted my business plan in that competition and we won and a prize money was given. So we used that prize money to start the project in the Philippines. We started with 50 farmers and now we’ll be working this year with 2,800 farmers in the whole Philippines in our second year of operations.”
Winning the school competition at BYU allowed RiceUp to create their first project, a mobile app that helped farmers in the Philippines work directly with consumers.
Laceda says that currently 83 percent of profits go to the middleman and only 17 percent goes back to the farmers. With the RiceUp app, they hope to get rid of the middleman so that farmers can receive more of the profit and eventually rise up from poverty.
“For us RiceUP members, ang pinaka gusto namin ang maka tulong lang, gusto namin ma-alleviate yung burdens nang maga kapwa ng Filipino.”
Along with the app, RiceUp developed a digital literacy education program for farmers to take so that they can learn to use a smartphone and the mobile app, and become better entrepreneurs. RiceUp began their first two farm schools in Pampanga, where over one hundred farmers have graduated.
The members of RiceUp will be launching their farm school programs in Davao next with about 2500 farmers to enroll into the program. By 2022, they hope to have RiceUp centers in all 80 provinces of the Philippines.