The spirit of entrepreneurship has been part of Filipino culture from its very beginnings. This is evident in the trade and commerce that flourished between these islands we now call the Philippines and our neighboring states even in the pre-Hispanic times. The craftsmanship, resourcefulness and business acumen of our forebears are seen up to now in the countless enterprises we find in every village and city. Even the sprawling malls that have sprung up in all major urban centers are, to a large extent, populated by hundreds more of suppliers and service providers that support their operations.
This vigorous entrepreneurial spirit present in micro-enterprises, and in small and medium-size businesses has elicited strong interest in the past several years from economists, business leaders, multinational agencies, and government policymakers. This unprecedented focus of attention has been prompted by their search for solutions to persistent and widespread poverty brought about by a series of global and regional financial crises, inequitable distribution of wealth, rapid population growth, and other inter-related factors.
Among many other national agencies and entities mandated to address the myriad problems of poverty, the National Livelihood Development Corporation has zeroed in on the task of generating sustainable community-based enterprises primarily in agri-business, particularly in the Agrarian Reform Communities. Our corporate vision calls for "transforming the poor into empowered and self-sufficient communities." Certainly not an easy task, but a kind of challenge that call for a combination of time-tested and innovative approaches to a problem that confronts many other economies all over the world.
The Sustainable Income for People in the Agrarian Grassroots (SIPAG) Awards is one approach that has yielded a bounty of fruits for NLDC and its Program Partners, as well as the Micro-entrepreneur Level recipients of the Awards themselves. For the latter, they say that receiving the SIPAG Awards have been a huge encouragement, something they value for themselves, their families and their communities. We share their sense of achievement when the individual winners, tell us, for instance, that once they lived in bamboo huts but with their micro-enterprise, they now live in a concrete house.
With the SIPAG Awards, this sense of having done well from modest beginnings is reinforced by a visible recognition from their fellow entrepreneurs and the partner agencies supporting the awardees. But in fact these entrepreneurs have become Award-winners because they have shown not only steadfastness and prudence in their businesses, but have shown innovativeness, new product offerings, and openness to continuous learning.
For the Program Partners, their sense of satisfaction springs not only from the bottomline and operational improvements that have been encouraged by the SIPAG Awards, but also their sense of having been instrumental in helping many micro-entrepreneur clients succeed. As of last count, the number of end-borrowers reached by NLDC through its Program Partners have grown over the last three years despite the dampening effect of the global financial crisis and the perennial series of typhoons and natural calamities.
But what NLDC is proudest of all has been the institutional improvement and widening clientele reach and diversity served by the Program Partners. These rural and thrift banks and cooperatives as well as non-government organizations have grown in their capacities to become more holistic in their services, more efficient and trustworthy conduits of credit to the countryside enterprises. Their employees have been trained to work better, their systems have been infused with improved technologies and processes, and their products offerings have been more attuned to their clients' needs.
NLDC has chosen this year's SIPAG Awards ceremonies to highlight the need not only to strengthen our partners' entrepreneurial spirit but also to take Filipino entrepreneurship to the next level of success and service relevance to the diversifying needs of their end-consumers. Among consumers and clients driven by the current financial and economic crisis to stretch the buying power of every peso, Filipino micro-finance institutions and micro-entrepreneurs must double their efforts to improve, value-add and innovate on the products and services they offer to their communities. This is the way we can all make a difference in our struggle to cut down poverty in the communities where we live.