Monday, February 29, 2016

Branding Caraga

by Dan Gudahl

 Caraga Lobster

I remember when Heifer International, where I worked (1987-2000), was undergoing a participatory campaign to develop a new brand.   Consultants were hired, focus groups met, designs were discussed.  It seemed like a process that took too long and cost too much money.  I really did not understand what a brand could do to make the whole complicated and convoluted process of brand development worthwhile.  A brand itself does not do anything, or so it seemed to me.  Development of a brand seemed to be something that would not have a big return on investment and meant little in the day to day work of helping hungry people earn more money.  Obviously I never studied advertising and I am not an expert on the topic but experts tell me that branding serves to help attract people to products, services, events, etc. through a recognition process that relates to favorable feelings generated and a positive reaction to the known versus unknown.  The “bug” or symbol or brand that Heifer International finally settled on was a line drawing of a cow jumping over the moon.  Now for sure Heifer is not in the business of promotion of moon jumping by cows, but the symbol is representative. Dan West founded Heifer International in 1946.  In the early 90’s, I remember listening to his widowed wife, Lucy West Rupel, describing the early days of Heifer and then reflecting on how far it had come over the years.  Lucy said “you know, this organization really has been the cow that jumped over the moon!”  This statement really struck a cord with those in charge of creating a new brand image for Heifer and lead to adoption of the logo used to this day.   It is an interesting image to that speaks to reaching for things that may seem beyond the realm of possibility or doing things that seem impossible.  It is a recognizable image that brings to mind a nursery rhyme but also other important positive reactions by those that see it.

One thing I used to do while working as Director of Africa Programs at Heifer International was to look for possibilities of projects utilizing new ideas and new animal species.  New programs with new animals got attention of media people and donors alike.  In Ghana we were able to develop projects where forest snails could be raised, fattened and marketed.  In west Africa we developed projects to raise agouti, and while this animal looked like a big rodent, it was the most expensive meat in the market place. We shipped giant guinea pigs from Ecuador to Cameroon to be used for crossbreeding and raising under rabbit pens.  Rabbits were sold for cash and guinea pigs raised as a family meat source.   For a time I even considered ways to commercialize edible grasshopper production.  Grasshoppers are a popular seasonal food in Uganda and Tanzania.  During my days with Heifer, I was even able to enjoy eating lobsters while visiting Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that promotion of and raising lobsters for commercial sale would be part of my portfolio.

Today, one of the objectives of the Philippine Cold Chain Project in the Caraga Region of the Philippines is to help establish a recognizable, memorable and representative brand for the Caraga Region.  A brand should be some symbol, image or representation that helps people to recognize, popularize and advertise a product, a place and an idea.  The Caraga Region is behind other areas of the Philippines when it comes to branding. 


One well branded Philippine example often cited is Guimaras Island.  Everyone here in the Philippines knows this place is popular for its mango production.  When you get off the boat at Guimaras, it is easy to identify that this is a place that is mango branded.  Another easy example is Boracay Island. The brand there is white sand beach and blue water.  Sometimes Boracay and tropical paradise are words used in the same breath.  But when you say “Caraga” to someone in Manila, the main reaction might be “where is that?” or “what is there?”   So as part of our PCCP objective to help create better markets for perishable products produced in the Caraga Region, we included brand development and creation as part of our objective under PCCP.  We want to select a brand that represents the uniqueness of the region, tells a story, represents a quality image and helps to promote the idea that Caraga is a great place to live, work and invest in.

As PCCP work developed on the ground, it soon became apparent that one popular activity at the barangay level in key areas was raising lobsters in cages.  Lobsters need high saline water that is clean and has good tidal movement.  People living next to the ocean see lobster raising as a viable way to create more income for their families, even if they might never eat a lobster themselves.  Lobsters, especially live lobsters, have a ready market in Manila and throughout Asia and farm gate prices can go as high as Php2800 (60.8USD) per kilo.  Lobster farmers take out more loans under PCCP than any other commodity group.  While we also have identified the shortcomings and areas within the lobster value chain that need to be fixed, a visit to lobster raiser homes, usually located right above the lobster cages and a lunch with a group of lobster farmers on Dinagat Island or near Surigao City can be a real “National Geographic” experience.  These tiger lobsters (Panulirus ornatus) are fascinating and beautiful creatures, made more so by the clear waters where they live and the ease at which their activities can be viewed.  They also need to be well protected from thieves due to their high price so owners generally choose to live very close to the pens, if not directly above them in the mangrove or open-ocean.

So when PCCP was reaching out to all the Chambers of Commerce in the Caraga Region to assist with promotion of products and a brand for the region, an enthusiastic discussion commenced.  What would be the best brand to select that represents the uniqueness and attractiveness of the Region?  What product is out there that also demonstrates quality, pride, and uniqueness of this area?  After some time, the group settled on the tiger lobster as the symbol of choice that meets all the necessary criteria for branding and image.  There were some negative comments regarding lobster…too expensive, not available locally, never tasted it, not representative of the whole region etc.  But the positive representational characteristics of having a lobster as a brand for the region have won out to date.

Going forward PCCP will work with the local Chambers of Commerce to develop what we are calling the Caraga Agricultural Trade and Marketing Expo or Carat Expo.  This first expo of its kind will be held in Butuan during the first week of November 2016.  A follow on expo to promote the region will be held in Manila in 2017 where we hope to feature lobster as a brand and on the dinner plates of people interested in investing and learning more about opportunities here in Caraga and all of the wonderful products available in the Region XIII.  Maybe sometime soon, this lobster will jump over the moon too!
Photo lifted from 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Clean Food Facility in Butuan City a Result of Meaningful Partnership with the Private Sector

The newly opened 4,000 sq. meter storage facility in Bancasi, Butuan City

Those of us engaged in development and diplomacy often talk of the need to link the public and private sectors.  We talk of public, private partnerships or PPP and the need for a strong and dynamic private sector as a way forward to achieve meaningful development.  To be truly engaged in sustainable development in a country like the Philippines, we have to do a better job of working with private firms to support their efforts to create jobs and provide necessary services.

In a rapidly growing country like the Philippines, one concern is the ability of the country’s public and private suppliers to provide infrastructure and logistics that will assure food requirements are met.  The Caraga region or Region XIII is a growing region that needs to catch up to the levels of development seen in other parts of the Philippines.  The Caraga region has the potential to greatly increase the amount of food it produces and ships out of the region as well. 

The United States Department of Agriculture ( is proud to be part of the effort to create more efficient food logistics networks in the Caraga region. 

Through USDA funding for the Philippine Cold Chain Project (, a partnership between Happy Enterprise Inc. and PCCP implementer, Winrock International  was created to develop a model for dry warehousing and food storage that will support the trade of agricultural products in Caraga regionUnder the partnership, the warehouse operated by Happy Enterprise was expanded into a 4,000 square meter facility with a stocking space of 38,000 cubic meters that meets national and international standards for clean food storage.  

As the Caraga region grows, so too does the requirement for safe and sanitary storage of perishable and non-perishable food products.  And it is not only food for humans that requires such storage capacity but also livestock feeds.  One deciding factor for Happy Enterprise to build these new facilities was the expanding requirement for increased storage for livestock feeds by Pilmico Foods Corporation.

Pilmico, the food arm of Aboitiz group (, has increased its feed sales in the region in part because of the successes encountered by working with PCCP to improve swine genetics and swine fattening in the region.  As a result, more warehouse storage space is needed.  In fact, I am told that all the space in this new facility is already rented out or designated for specific existing food storage needs and that even more warehouse space is needed. 

Warehouses are not architecturally diverse.  Most often they do not have windows and are protected by large doors and security systems.  It is difficult for any passersby to know what is going on inside.  But warehouses are the first place that relief agencies go to when a disaster strikes as a secure and weather proof warehouse contains the buffers of food supply that are needed to help people survive after disaster strikes.

Warehouses form an integral part of clean food delivery in the farm-to-plate chain.  Warehouses are also the place where cold storage capacity is developed for products like vegetables, fruits, meat and fish.  

Right now the Caraga region has very limited cold store warehouse capacity.  It is my hope that in the near future, that public, private partnership in the Caraga region can also help to bring expanded capacity to cold store warehousing in the region and that imports and exports of perishable and non-perishable food products can increase. 

The opening of the 4,000 square meter storage facility in Butuan City was a result of meaningful partnership with the private sector.  US Deputy Chief of Mission Michael Klechesky and USDA Counsellor Raph Bean led the inauguration of the facility on February 18. (Witnessing the ceremony were Agusan del Norte Governor Angel Amante-Matba (2nd from right), Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante (Far right), and guests from Aboitiz and Pilmico.

With a stocking capacity of 38,000 cubic meters, clean storage for perishable and non-perishable food items will no longer be a problem for traders in Agusan del Norte and Butuan City.