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All of us should give a hand to these Muslim leaders in addressing the challenge of educating the youth in Muslim Mindanao and helping to reduce the high rate of drop outs in the elementary and high schools. It is well known that these drop outs from the schooling system are the easy targets for recruiting by the fanatical groups, whether they be the ISIS, the Abu Sayyap and other Muslim and non-Muslim groups engaged in violent struggle and terrorism. Only education can liberate the minds of the youth from centuries-old animosity among the three tribes, the Maranaos, the Maguindanaos and the Tausugs. These tribal conflicts are at the root of the continuing turbulence in that southern island. To my mind, the Muslim regions in Mindanao are a microcosm of what is happening in the Middle East: Iran vs. Iraq vs Saudi Arabia vs Qatar vs. Syria, etc. etc., i.e. Muslims vs. Muslims, Sunnis vs. Shiites. Almost four centuries of Spanish rule could not eliminate these internecine fights. Neither were the Americans successful in bringing peace to Mindanao. Only a determined long-term effort to prepare a new generation of leaders can succeed in bringing peace to Mindanao.
Hand in hand with quality education at the basic level should be a thorough-going rural agricultural and industrialization program focused on the Muslim regions. Let me especially cite the Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program being promoted by Negosyo Angat Lahat and Kapatid Angat Lahat in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture. Through these programs, volunteers from the Philippine business sector and civil society are mentoring farmers and small-scale agri-entrepreneurs in regions like Sulu, Lanao, Cotabato and other areas with a significant Muslim population. Through the Mentor Me Program, very experienced and senior business people provide agri-micro, small, and medium enterprises with extensive knowledge of the agribusiness industry, especially focusing on high-value crops like fruits, vegetables and livestock that are in great demand in the urban markets like Davao, Cagayan de Oro and General Santos as well as for export to the other major islands. I know many of the mentors and I can really vouch for their very practical approach to mentoring the agri-entrepreneurs among the Muslim population. They also provide entrepreneurial knowledge needed for scaling up their respective small businesses. A very important part of the mentoring process is nurturing among the mentees the right mindset for sustaining their businesses.
The objectives of the Mentor Me program, which extends to the whole Philippine Archipelago and not limited to Muslim Mindanao, are:
--To equip the agri-preneurs with the proper production techniques. Especially involved here are seed companies like Harbest that is transferring very advanced Taiwanese technology in growing high-value crops to our small farmers.
--To align the agri-preneurs’ mindset and values that are essential to run a successful agri-enterprise.
--To equip the agri-preneurs with practical knowledge and strategies that will help in expanding their businesses through lecture sessions;
--To provide consultation services to agri-preneurs of the program during group mentoring sessions;
--To develop the agri-preneurs as future mentors of the program, thus guaranteeing its sustainability.
--To nurture a community of dynamic, competitive and sustainable agri-preneurs in line with the Philippine Government’s thrust of inclusive growth.
This Kapatid Angat Lahat Program is a good example of public-private partnership in attaining inclusive growth. The Department of Agriculture has been mandated to promote agricultural development by providing the policy framework, public investments, and support services needed by domestic and export-oriented enterprises. The private counterpart—PCE-Go Negosyo—has developed and implemented a coaching and mentoring program oriented towards the agriculture sector. It is called the Kapatid Agri Mentoring Program (KAMP) with the primary objective of complementing the initiatives of the Department of Agriculture and to scale up agribusiness in the Philippines. KAMP is a component of the KAPATID Project of the PCE-Go Negosyo, designed to optimize industry clustering and market linkages to achieve enterprise development. The Program also illustrates what can be achieved if two departments of the Government can work more closely with one another, i.e. the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry, instead of following the traditional “silo” mentality of our government bureaucracy.
The Mentor Me Program is well structured as a learning process and consists in training modules as follows: Module 1—Entrepreneurial Mind-setting and Values Formation; Module 2—Marketing principles and practices; Module 3—Accounting for non-accountants; Module 4—Management of Farm Operations; Module 5—Agricultural Supply and Value Chain (Logistics); Module 6—Basic Finance; Module 7—Obligations and Contracts; Module 8—Business Plan Development; after which each mentee makes a presentation to a panel of his business plan. Business executives—especially those who are already in some stage of retirement and would like to volunteer their services as mentors—may get in touch with Mr. Jaz Nito at firstname.lastname@example.org. The existing mentors whom I know are so selfless that they are even willing to travel to some risky areas in Mindanao (of course, with security escorts) because of their great desire to help in preparing the future generation of Muslims who will contribute to the economic development of their respective regions. With programs like Mentor Me, one can be optimistic that evil will not prevail among the Muslim population. As in other human activities, evil can always be drowned with an abundance of good. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.