Aha! It’s one municipal project, three weeks, four students, and ten micro-enterprises

By Charles Tang

 

On the island province Bohol, there is a third-income-class municipality Jagna, which is currently housing just more than thirty thousand people. In this not-so-populous municipality, it is legitimate to say that we the twenty-two people from the University of Hong Kong are able to make some significant changes to their business world – and apparently we are determined to do so.

Class Average annual income ()
First 55,000,000 or more
Second 45,000,000 – 54,999,999
Third 35,000,000 – 44,999,999
Fourth 25,000,000 – 34,999,999
Fifth 15,000,000 – 24,999,999
Sixth less than 15,000,000

(Municipalities in the Philippines are divided into six income classes according to their average annual income in the previous four calendar years. Jagna falls into the third income class.)

 

I, partnered with Willie, Charlie, and Cindy, are assigned to ten micro-enterprises, which has been operating under the Great Women Project by the Municipal Government of Jagna for some notable time. The goals of this project include empowering women, promoting sustainable micro-entrepreneurs, enhancing employment rate, and in turn alleviating poverty in Jagna. As an Economics student, I have been focusing on the topics of global poverty apart from global financial crisis. I am therefore very glad that I can be involved in a municipality-wide project, which tackles poverty.

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(The factory for producing candles and Longaniza locates in a distant village. Workers are all from the Jagna’s Women Association. We needed to go to the Jagna market, and take the Jeepney.)

As many of them are producers and wholesalers, the ten micro-enterprises are scattered throughout the distant districts in Jagna (far away from Jagna Market where the customers are). Their factories or offices are hardly accessible by tricycle, which is a (at least) eight-passenger vehicle powered by one motorcycle. Finding different addresses, and vehicles, it indeed took us a whole week to visit all of them, leaving just two weeks ahead to for us improve their accounting system and marketing strategies, and ultimately to achieve their goals. Greatly subject to the time limit (we had just more than one day for each business thereafter), we decided to devise a common accounting system and strategy building methods for marketing for all the micro-enterprises we are charged with.

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ – Well, we agree. 

We had so far introduced two systems – one accounting and one marketing – which could be employed for every new business development project without one’s instructions. Although the majority of the ten micro-enterprises were lacking proper or complete accounting records, thankfully they all recognised and understood the value of accounting, and were therefore open-minded to new accounting ideas. It appeared that they welcomed the more sophisticated (yet understandable to accounting novices like me) accounting system that we introduced on the first Friday (yes, the same day when we just finished visiting the tenth micro-enterprise). The SWOT analysis and the corresponding strategy building methods were also introduced on the second Friday. All of the micro-enterprises who attended the lecture were able to realise the strengths and weaknesses of their own businesses, and to a lesser extent able to realise the opportunities and threats from the markets. We believe these two systems, if wisely used and fully understood, are the sustainable value-adding systems to their businesses. We want to teach them how to fish.

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(The SWOT analysis done by the micro-enterprises. First step to teach them how to fish.)

Ah, there is merely more than one week until we leave the Philippines, and the deadline of the final report was preponed to 18th this month. It would not be surprising to tell the overwhelming workload and the pressure therefrom. Yet, as we have realised that we are not only the ‘student consultants’ for their businesses, but also the ‘student consultants’ for the Great Women Project. This meaningful fact just gives us extra energy for the extra work, and we do believe that we can add value to their business, and to the municipality-wide project.

 

Erm… since the Opportunity, suggested by most of the micro-enterprises, is the growing number of health-conscious customers, I want to introduce three natural and healthy products to the visitors of this blog!

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(One of the member from my village just collected some coconuts, and was going to sell them to the Jagna market.)

Virgin coconut oil: BEAWARE OF FALLING COCONUTS! Yes, coconut trees are everywhere, and you need to pay attention to it. Because of the plenteous supply of coconuts locally, the virgin coconut oils from Jagna are mostly made of natural ingredients. And I will definitely recommend the made-in-Jagna coconut oils to my health-conscious friends.

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(The corn coffee beans. They would grind it twice before the packaging. It tastes good, but would be better without sugar.)

Corn coffee: it is one of the coffee substitutes from the market, which is advertised as a healthier product, saving us from the harms of caffeine. I agree. I am going to introduce another product, after this sip of brewed coffee.

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(daisuki!) 

Powdered ginger beverage: I love it so much that I purchased some for my host family, and my biological family in Hong Kong. It is a bit spicy, but really good for one’s throat, and helps one digest.

 

It’s another sip of the coffe. Time to go home. Bye!

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