June 7, 2014

Philippines: visiting the Silicon Valley for social entrepreneurs

I flew into Manila (an easy puddle hop from Hong Kong in 1.5 hours) and slowly eased through traffic that pays no attention to lines on the roads nor lights or stop signs. It always amazes me that there aren’t dings and scrapes every five metres in cities as congested as this!

Manila, jeepneys

Squuezing out of Manila past all the jeepney’s – buses for small change!

I’m here to speak at the MICECON 2014 – a conference for the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions market. It’s held in Clark, about three hours away in the former city that was home to the US Air Force. In fact Clark Airport’s runway is 3.5 km long, built to accommodate the space shuttle should it suddenly need it. Sadly it didn’t today.

But on my way we detoured to GK Enchanted Farm. What an amazing, “enchanting” place.

Bus, Philippines

Another squeeze on the road to GK not ready for tour groups

GK driveway

I love this pic! These old guys are helping our driver who you can see in the mirror

It was started by Filipino businessman Tony Meloto in 2013 initially as a farm to employ locals and help alleviate poverty. But he had a much bigger vision than that and put the call out for “social entrepreneurs” to come and join him to change not just a community, but the whole nation.

GK Enchanted Farm universityToday they have the university where they take the brightest kids from local, poor communities who wouldn’t be able to go to college and put them through 2 years of junior college (after high school), teaching them how to become social entrepreneurs and create businesses that give back.

GK Philippines

This former farm hand is now in charge of composting buffalo poo. Here are his pride and joy!

GK farmers

Locals are employed as farmers and paid well for their time

They call it the Silicon Valley for Social Entrepreneurship and what I saw was inspiring.

GK Philippines, duck farming

Alvie shows us around and tells us about his passion: ducks!

Alvie Benitez was our guide. He’s a Filipino and is head of Social Enterprise here. He has been working here for 3.5 years on ducks. The Duck Man, as he called himself, is looking at not only best farming practices to breed and sell, but how he can raise a premium product that will elevate the duck production and reputation of the Philippines for export. Business students from around the world come and intern here as part of their studies.

GK buffalo cheese

Making organic cheese in 5 minutes.

We met the team making buffalo mozarella, cream cheese and milk from the water buffalo that wallow in giant puddles around the farm. Seven people are now employed on this team and they can’t keep up with demand, also buying in raw milk from local farmers who are paid well for their products.

GK water buffalo

Just your typical water buffalo cooling off

The morning I visited they’d had a meeting in Manila with a distributor and if that goes well the whole production will need to be ramped up. It’s all natural products, just milk and vinegar to make the mozarella. No preservatives and will sell for a premium in high end Manila restaurants.

GK citronella

Citronella. Who knew?

They grow all their own herbs – this is the citronella plant and I bought a bottle of their own made citronella bug spray, as well as organic coconut sugar.

There are loads of exciting projects on the go and volunteers/interns are welcome.

Jump here to the GK Enchanted Farm website. Maybe you can be part of alleviating poverty in the Philippines?

About Megan Singleton

Megan

Megan Singleton is a travel writer, blogger and radio correspondent. She's been gallivanting around the world telling stories for the last 16 years and has her suitcase always half packed (or half un-packed!) Follow along on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for monthly newsletters if you want to keep up with the journey!

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