The absence of a sustainable source of livelihood, complicated by uncertainties over ownership issues of their ancestral lands, is one of the leading causes of poverty among indigenous communities in the Philippines.
Earlier this year, the Embassy of Canada in the Philippines, with the support of the Canadian mining community, delivered its 6th annual Corporate Social Responsibility initiative to help empower Philippine Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to build on their business interests and create sustainable economic plans.
The Embassy of Canada and the University of Manitoba-Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship partnered together to launch “Philippine BizCamp.”
The first step in bringing BizCamp to the Philippines was a “Train the Trainers” workshop that created a pool of 21 certified BizCamp trainers. In turn, many of these newly trained instructors then conducted a pilot run of the Train the Indigenous Peoples BizCamp.
Thirty people from several IP tribes from the Mindanao region of the country participated in the pilot run and were then very anxious to try their hand at developing their own community businesses, given their newly acquired knowledge of business planning.
“The BIZCAMP made me a true entrepreneur. I am an elementary undergraduate but the modules were easy to understand. My husband who was with me during the graduation ceremony was encouraged to help me produce Christmas decorations. Today, we both produce water hyacinth handicrafts.”
-Susan Huros, member of Mamanwa IP from Coro, Colorado, Agusan del Norte
Participants challenged themselves, and each other, to put together compelling business plans that were then presented to a panel of judges in a competition to choose the best business plans. Three of the groups that won an award for having the best business plan, along with two others, have already implemented their business propositions.
Several of these newly formed businesses are developing retail products based on their traditional tribal beadworks, tilapia fish farming, ginger farming, and handicrafts, and making use of indigenous water lilies and romblom glass.
“I am so happy to see the results of BizCamp: a new level of confidence and hope amongst the Mamanwa participants is obvious. Now they are excited to start their own small businesses. BizCamp has widened their horizon; and learning the rudiments of bookkeeping, pricing, procurement, and marketing has given them a bigger picture of the realities of doing business.”
-Jane Urbanek, Community Relations Manager, Nickel Asia Corp.
The highlight and the reward for their hard work was the opportunity to graduate from the BizCamp program wearing togas and caps during a traditional graduation ceremony in the presence of family, friends and the business community.
This highly emotive event was the first time many of these Indigenous Peoples had the opportunity to participate in a graduation ceremony, since most of them have never completed formal schooling.