A multi-sector movement has been helping the country’s poorest of the poor to uplift themselves from extreme poverty. Called Zero Extreme Poverty (ZEP) 2030, the group envisions to wipe out extreme poverty by the year 2030.
Since it was launched in 2015, the coalition of non-government entities has touched the lives of 10,000 extremely poor families nationwide, including informal settlers, farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous peoples who are considered the most marginalized sectors in the Philippines.
The assistance involves seven clusters of services that could make life more comfortable and meaningful. These include Health, Eucation, Livelihood, Environment, Housing and Shelter, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples.
In the field of agriculture and fisheries, interventions include strategies that could ensure not only sufficient food for the family but also for additional income. One participating private company, for instance, is the East-West Seed. One of its projects is teaching Mangyans in Mindoro how to grow improved varieties of vegetables that could include tomato, eggplant, ampalaya, okra, peppers and so many other veggies.
In Dumingag, Zanboanga del Sur, the target beneficiaries are being taught how to process various crops with known health-enhancing properties into products with added value. These include granules of mangosteen, malunggay, lemon grass, guyabano, ginger, banaba and turmeric. They are also producing corn coffee.
In other areas, farmers are also being assisted in growing and processing coffee and cacao. There are premium Arabica coffee blends from the Cordillera region as well as from the Visayas and Mindanao. Chocolate products are being produced by college students belonging to the indigenous tribes.
ZEP 2030 also links the producers to buyers without passing through layers of middlemen. One of the companies that buys products of families assisted by ZEP 2030 is Advocafe with branches in Davao City, Manila and Baguio City. The products are packaged attractively, making them up to export staqndards.
According to Princess Lyn Fabillar who runs the Advocafe operations, many of the products of the micro entrepreneurs are selling well. In one branch in Manila, sales reach at least P50,000 a month.
Benjamin Abadiano who heads the ZEP Secretariat says: “All interventions we bring to the communities that we partner with are based from their articulated needs and what they hope to achieve for their families. The issue on poverty is multi-dimensional. This is the rationale behind the collaborative aspect of our work – bringing together the expertise and resources of different organizations to convey transformational change to these families and break the cycle of poverty.”
Meanwhile, ZEP is calling for non-governmental entities, corporate fundations and corporations, and other poverty alleviation advocates to join the different thematic clusters and enroll their programs to be part of the movement, or to bring ZEP to more cities and municipalities as local conveners. Individuals can also help by linking ZEP to potential partners through pledges and donations.
“Whether big or small, everyone can help. We can sucessfully achieve zero poverty through the spirit of collaboration and collective impact. At ZEP, we believe that as Filipinos we can build on our diversity to be more inclusive and ensure that no family is left behind,” Abadiano stressed.
Among the organizations behind ZEP and Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples (PIP) are Assisi Development Foundation, Anthropology Watch, Cartwheel Foundation, Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples – National Secretariat, Indigenous People’s International Center for Policy Research and Education, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Non-Timber Forest Products, Philippine Association for International Development, People Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights, Samdhana Institute, Tanggapang Panligal ng Katutubong Pilipino and Timuay Justice and Governance.