In the last six years the Australian Government’s Enterprise Challenge Fund has reached more than 400,000, and directly improved the lives of more than 78,000 people across the Asia Pacific through jobs, increased incomes and access to goods and services.
The recently completed six year pilot program was designed to trial a new approach for Australia to partner with the private sector for international development, by funding businesses in Asia and the Pacific.
Managed by Coffey on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the fund awarded grants to private sector companies who offered innovative solutions in a competitive environment to stimulate long-term economic growth.
Businesses contributed at least 50 per cent of the total project costs, with money distributed against agreed milestones.
Over the life of the project, more than AUD $11 million was provided to 21 projects operating in eight countries across the Asia Pacific, providing jobs, increased incomes and access to vital goods and services to over 78,000 people.
Cagayan de Oro Handmade Papercrafts used an Enterprise Challenge Fund (ECF) grant of AUD $407,139 to expand its handmade paper manufacturing and craft making facilities, and develop a supply chain sourcing raw abaca fibres to make paper products from the indigenous peoples of Claveria, Misamis Oriental.
Cagayan de Oro used to be a small company just starting to export into the US and European markets.
ECF invested in planting assistance for 300 hectares of abaca benefiting 300 tribal households by PHP 4500 per 150 kg harvest. The funds also provided plantation and nursery training. Additionally the funds were used to set up a buying station in the village area where farmers can sell their abaca locally rather than through middle men or having to pay for transport for the trip to Claveria, the closest town 30 minutes away. This reduced the cost of production and has led to increased prices in the area. Other farmers outside the first 300 are also starting to sell abaca at the buying station.
The abaca has been used to support the expanded paper making facilities with Cagayan de Oro exporting to US, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland and Australia. The business employs additional home-based paper makers, and contributes to suppliers of wild grass, reeds and coconut shell for product decorations.
The project has successfully raised incomes and improved growing and trading options for indigenous people in Mindanao and it shows what good can happen when a business and community work together.