Green Habits Agri Ventures
Hi ! I’m Nelben. I grew up in a farming community and shared the joys and pains faced by many smallholder farmers. Early on, I knew that improving their lives is something that I would do. Then I started my journey by obtaining a degree in agriculture and later on a master’s degree in agriculture value chain from a university in the Netherlands. In 2013, upon returning to the country, I joined Dana Foundation, a corporate foundation of a fruit exporting company, as their executive director. At that time, we were working with upland communities to improve their vegetable production. Little did I know that this was the start of a bigger journey ahead. Working with vegetable farmers, I noticed that a lot of support given them was centered on increasing productivity, very little on marketing. I decided to focus on that and convinced the directors to set up a marketing arm. This required re-orienting myself from managing a non-profit to a for-profit organization. It was a critical shift in my career. It also brought new headaches. We faced enormous problems such as inconsistent volume and quality in the products supplied by farmers. Conflict arose among them. I had to wrestle with the management for additional subsidy. I had to work with DA and DOLE to secure both technical and financial support for the farmers. In 2018, we partnered with Jollibee Group Foundation through the Farmers Entrepreneurship Program. It was one of the best decisions I had because I found the right solution in organizing the farmers and linking them to the right market. By 2020, we were on track to expanding the program but then COVID 19 pandemic hit. The management decided to discontinue the marketing operations. However, I remembered the commitment I made of helping the farmers. So I made a bold decision and resigned from the foundation. With my own savings, I founded my social enterprise, Green Habits to continue the mission we started.