Low to middle-income Filipino expatriates can invest Dh2,400 in an adopt-a-farm scheme in the Philippines to help farmers without capital. Image Credit: Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative

Dubai: If you’re planning to upgrade your smartphone, postpone it for now at least and invest in a worthwhile cause that can give decent returns and help poor farmers in a year, a Filipino official said.

Low to middle-income Filipino expatriates in the UAE can now invest in the Philippines through the Dubai EntrePinoy Reintegration Programme. This social enterprise helps Filipino expats invest their money in small-scale investments back home in preparation for when they go home for good.

For the price of a new smartphone, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can finance poor compatriot farmers who use biodynamic farming to produce organic rice in an Adopt-a-Farm set-up in the Philippines.

The first batch of rice is expected to arrive in the UAE this month. The programme, launched in October, is spearheaded by the Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Dubai in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate-General in Dubai, Manila’s Departments of Agriculture and Trade and Industry, the local government unit of M’lang North Cotabato, and the Don Bosco Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DBMC).

“If you have savings of Dh2,400 (30,000 pesos), you can invest and it can earn up to 25 to 30 per cent in one year, which is 9,000 pesos which you will not earn if you deposited the same amount in a bank,” Labour Attache Ofelia Domingo told Gulf News.

Domingo said the programme specifically targets low to middle-income Filipinos, even housemaids and domestic workers, to give them a platform where they can invest even in small amounts. Domingo said the cooperative is registered and regulated by the government.

“We would like to cater to OFWs who still do not know how to open a business. They can start there,” Domingo said. “It’s better that they start investing as early as now because they’re still working and earning money and have more disposable income.”

Through the scheme, one investor can adopt one to five hectares of land under the cooperative. Some 159 hectares of halal-certified land in M’lang, North Cotabato, a province in the southern Philippines, are available for the programme. Another 200 hectares more are awaiting certification.

Farmers, who often do not have financial capital, can then use the investment to plant and produce organic black, brown, and red rice that will then be shipped and sold in the UAE. They already export to Hong Kong, Germany, the Netherlands and the US.

“We really need to help the farmers so that when they harvest, they’ll have their own money and not be in a vicious cycle of debt. Through OFWs, we can help our farmers back home,” Domingo said.

Hyden Restificar, one of the 60 investors, said she chose to invest in the programme because of its social responsibility component.

“I have other investments back home but this is different from the usual real estate or stocks investments because your money has a direct impact to the local community, in this instance, the farmers and their family and the whole community,” Restificar, 36, an HR executive, said.

“Everyone in my opinion should invest and prepare for what the future might bring, especially Filipinos. Life is full of uncertainties, and all we can do is be ready and face the future head on and with an optimistic mindset,” she added.

The first batch of investors will get their return on investment in December 2017 after a lock-in period of one year. The cooperative will deposit the earnings directly to investor’s bank accounts.

Jenny Gonzales, part of the programme’s organising committee, said: “It’s better that we invest in something that will grow in value in the long-term. Smartphones depreciate but your hard-earned money when invested here will grow. Barring any natural calamities, these investments will definitely grow.”