At the end of their one-year ARSF project, Dee’s team came up with policy recommendations to share with the local government, other relevant agencies, and the broader research community.
‘One of the points we put forward include having specific policies related to disruptions in food businesses and the whole food system during crises, as these were not clearly defined, if at all existing, pre-pandemic.
‘It is also now more important to have response plans that specifically address the needs of vulnerable groups such as women, PWDs, those with limited savings, sole proprietors, and labourers,’ said Dee.
‘Businesses had to adjust to a new normal setting, challenging their entrepreneurial and management skills to continue operations. The public and private sector should consider this in designing future capacity-building programs such as on financial literacy, marketing, and the use of digital platforms, including social media.’
Dee and her team also implemented the Strengthening Against Vulnerabilities and Externalities of Food Systems (SAVE Food Systems) project, which was funded by the Australian Government’s Australia Alumni COVID-19 Response Grant Scheme in the Philippines. The SAVE project, which complemented Dee’s ARSF initiative, provided smallholder farming communities in Davao with hygiene kits, vegetable seeds, food packs, and training on good manufacturing practices for MSMEs. The project was among the awardees of the University of the Philippines Gawad Pangulo (President’s Award) Excellence in Public Service for 2021.
Dee knew that there would be a lot of challenges in conducting their research projects, particularly in their team’s mobility and ability to meet and engage with their collaborators – the enterprise owners, manufacturers, farmers, traders, wholesalers, and retailers. Among their collaborators, Mr Joel Bisnar and Mrs Amarylis Bisnar, welcomed the team to their mango farm and production facility.
‘Fortunately, we were still able to conduct surveys and field visits, ensuring that we adhere to the strict health and travel protocols. I am grateful that my team at UP Mindanao, which includes Assistant Professor Jon Marx Sarmiento, Adonis Traje, Geraliza Wahing, and Francis Levi Durano, also share the same motivation. It was this great teamwork that made things happen, despite the pandemic,’ Dee said.