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How a Philippine social enterprise brought help and hope to farmers when they needed it most

Without that demand, many farmers were forced to give their crops away or leave them rotting in their backyards.

They gathered the farmers’ produce and managed to sell three tons. Within a month, they rescued 20 tons of vegetables from distressed farmers in Benguet. What went unsold was donated to various community pantries around Metro Manila to help families affected by the pandemic.

The Estradas named their online community Rural Rising. They began conducting regular rescue buys from small-scale farmers at above-market gate prices and selling them to members of their online community at affordable rates, eliminating the middlemen that often caused retail prices to spike.

Today, their non-profit initiative aims to revitalise the country’s dismal agricultural sector through fair trade. The group responds to distress calls from farmers, hauling their produce in trucks to the organisation’s dispatch locations in Metro Manila.

Since the Estradas began their efforts in 2020, the group has now grown into a community of more than 200,000 that works directly with a network of 4,500 farmers from 39 provinces across the country.

Each day, the organisation receives about 10 calls from subsistence farming communities, who usually live below the poverty line, looking to dispose of their produce that has been refused by middlemen or haggled down to rates so low the farmers cannot recoup their expenses.

“Traders promised they would buy our crops for 25-30 pesos a kilo but would never return … These traders are taking advantage of us. They purposely wait for our harvest to deteriorate so they can lowball us and sell them at high prices in urban areas,” the farmer said.

Rural Rising’s rescue buy programme allowed the group to sell the