May 17, 2013

Commentary - The Nexus between Science, Business & Collaboration

This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 21st. For more information on the symposium, click here. Follow @GlobalAgDev and use #globalag on twitter to join the conversation on May 21.

By Dr. Margaret Zeigler

Margaret Zeigler is the executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative

On May 21, leaders from numerous sectors will participate in the Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium to identify opportunities to alleviate hunger and poverty through agricultural development. In February of 2013, I visited the Philippines to conduct an in-depth look at how that nation’s government and civil society organizations are implementing new approaches to improve food and nutrition security. During meetings with policymakers, farmers, research institutions and the private sector, I witnessed a growing nexus among science, government and business as each sector begins to collaborate to advance the Philippine agricultural system, educate the next generation, and improve livelihoods of those in rural farming communities.

On the trip, I saw this nexus come to life through the CoCoPal Program. CoCoPal, named after the cocoa, coconut and Palayamanan concept of rice-based diversified farming, is implemented by ACDI/VOCA, one of GHI’s consultative partner organizations. In 2009, ACDI/VOCA was awarded a $6.6 million USDA Food for Progress grant. CoCoPal is improving the incomes and food security of 25,000 smallholder farmers and 125,000 indirect beneficiaries through value-chain growth and integration of diversified farming systems. The program also improves post-harvest processing facilities, and practices and standards for cultivation of cocoa, coconut and rice.

Let’s take a closer look at how the program is fostering science, business and collaboration.

A trainer at the Village Technology and Extension Farm provides helpful skills and knowledge for the CoCoPal Program

The program extends good science-based knowledge, building sustainable agricultural systems through the teaching of Palayamanan integrated farming systems. Developed by PhilRice, this concept combines rice with other high-value crops through the efficient use of farm resources, allowing farmers to produce more using sustainable agricultural methods.The core function is rooted in supporting the adoption of new technologies and improved farming and processing practices. The program established village technology and extension farms (VTEFs), which serve as demonstration hubs for introducing new practices, new plant materials, new technologies such has harvesting and drying, and innovations in pest and disease management.

This program develops and supports farmers as they grow their business operations. It improves farm-level productivity growth and teaches farmers good skills; it invests in post-harvest infrastructure facilities, and it

Recently constructed drying tables for cacao in Mindanao

connects farmers to local markets creating a sustainable supply chain. 

A major key to success is collaboration among CoCoPal beneficiaries, Philippine national partners, private-sector, the U.S. government and local governments.

The CoCoPal program is producing results.

  • Increasing number of farmers planting two or more CoCoPal crops on their farm;
  • Foreign investors as well as local businessmen are interested in cocoa investment in the Mindanao region;
  • Cacao is now part of the high-value commercial crops promoted by local government units; and
  • More cacao nurseries are being established by cooperatives and individual farmers to supply the growing market demand.

Recent evaluations are showing this program has improved farm-level productivity and advanced farmer skills and knowledge, generated new local business, developed a more sustainable supply chain, and improved the livelihood of smallholder farmers.

At Global Harvest Initiative, we believe that the right policies and investments can improve productivity throughout the value chain. The CoCoPal program, made possible through innovative development assistance programs, is an important part of helping farmers in the southern region of the Philippines increase their income and job stability and provide new opportunities for local economic development. It advances the use of appropriate technologies, strengthens government extension services, engages the private sector in the program model, and facilitates a productive value chain. I was heartened to see the difference this program makes for so many farmers in Mindanao. It was truly a great example of power of science, business and collaboration at work!

Dr. Margaret Zeigler has dedicated her career to addressing global hunger and food security, currently serving as the executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative, a private-sector voice for productivity growth throughout the agricultural value chain to sustainably meet the demands of a growing world. The Global Harvest’s growing membership includes Accenture, DuPont, Elanco, IBM, John Deere, and Monsanto.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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