In the agricultural community of Brgy. Bautista, San Pablo, Laguna stands a house filled with sacks of fruits and vegetables.  The place is owned by Asencia de Castro, a local and a seasoned ‘biahera’ who buys these goods from local farmers and sells them in Manila for the past 20 years.

According to Asencia, what got her into the buy-and-sell business is its quick returns in profit. On the average, she sells a total of 25,000 pesos from a week-long trip. However, merchants like her in Brgy. Bautista are still burdened financially as they lack capital. Each trip, they need to borrow money to buy their products and rent a vehicle prior to each trip, and repay the loaner with interest.

In 2018 however, things began to change. Asencia and her fellow merchants in Bautista became beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Sustainable Livelihood Program. They were organized as the Kaunlaran SLP Association with a total 12 members and received a seed capital fund of Php180,000, or Php15,000 per member, to help start their livelihood project. They began operations on June 2019.

In just a month of operation, the Association is not only able to provide additional earnings for its members, but also is able to begin replenishing their capital fund and build a new sense of group work within them.

“Malaking tulong po ang SLP kasi po dati, hindi sapat ang kinikita namin dahil po ibinabayad po namin ang aming kita sa mga inutangan namin ng kapital. Ngayon po, bukod sa nabubuo muli namin and pera ng grupo, mayroon pa ang bawat isa sa amin ng halos Php7,000 kada biahe na panggastos ng pamilya, at nakakapag-savings na rin po ako,” Asencia proudly shared.

During the one-month operations, the Association, as a whole, earned Php13,000 excluding the individual earnings of the members. According to Asencia, if everything goes well and their association’s earnings becomes steady, they plan on buying their own jeepney to reduce their expenses.

Confident and optimistic, these words are most likely the best words to describe the members of the Kaunlaran SLP Association. These descriptions came as a result of their collective efforts and determination to succeed and provide better life for their family—their genuine drive in each of their trip.

The Sustainable Livelihood Program aims to improve the socio-economic condition of its beneficiaries through capacity building or skills training activities, engagement of private and public sectors and provision of seed capital fund for livelihood projects.