Today’s young generation has the choice to help solve hunger in the Philippines through agriculture.
During the Department of Agriculture (DA) National Young Farmers Summit (YFC) and Young Farmers Challenge: Kabataang Agribiz Awarding Ceremony held on December 17, 2021, in Calasio, Pangasinan, Secretary William Dar recognized the youth for their leadership in developing the country’s agriculture.
The Kabataang Agribiz Grant Assistance Program aims to encourage the younger generation to put up ventures in line with agricultural development and food production. The program provides the young agripreneurs financial aid to support them in starting or continuing agriculture enterprises such as crop and livestock production, fisheries, trading, processing, integrated farming, and agricultural technology. Since its launch in April, DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) has awarded P50,000 start-up capital to each of the 1,179 provincial-level awardees. From these, 48 were qualified for the regional level and received an additional P150,000 cash grant.
On December 17, DA-AMAS recognized the six (6) “Outstanding Youth Agribusiness Models” during the said National Young Farmers Challenge. The 6 finalists were awarded an additional P300,000 grant each. Harry Osboken, a Cordilleran youth entrepreneur and the owner of Dalikan’s House of Sauces, was among the 6 that won in the national competition. In total, the national finalists were able to receive half a million grants from the provincial to the national level of the competition.
Osboken is grateful for the opportunity DA has opened for them to be able to create and implement their agribusiness.
“I’d like to thank DA for this wonderful opportunity. From the highlands, we [the youth] seek opportunities in agriculture. We are very grateful for the chance given to us to develop our business and to be able to express our ideas,” Osboken said.
In Sec. Dar’s speech, he also said that the young agripreneurs or yaggies are the new heroes of Philippine agriculture.
A young brave soul, at the age of 21, Osboken put up his first-ever physical store in the last quarter of 2017, just after he graduated from college and still building up his career in the food industry sector. His lack of trainings and exposure to the industry made him feel incompetent. Putting up his store with various and established existing competitors and more upcoming competitions created a difficult time to do his business. Having no connections and support system, and lack of capital, Osboken felt the struggle was real.
Being a young entrepreneur, he failed four (4) times. In 2018, he put up PanLok Sweets, a dessert shop that catered to cakes for events but due to his lack of experience, it was not sustained. Then, in the same year, he opened the Dalikan Food Terminal, a Cordilleran-inspired restaurant but due to insufficient knowledge of the government’s business requirements and processes, support system, and capital, again it was closed. In early 2020, with high hopes, Osboken opened the Dalikan Restaurant. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of operations, COVID-19 came and negatively impacted the world and the economy. Osboken was left unprepared for such unforeseen events and once more, he failed. In June 2021, he opened again the Dalikan Food Terminal but due to lack of manpower and other aspects of the business, he failed for the fourth time.
Starting a business at a young age, Osboken faced numerous challenges in terms of business technicalities and outsourcing of capital. At the age of 21, no one would dare to lend him money nor invest in him, or just believe in his dreams.
Based on his own experiences, he realized that having a promising business venture with or without the pandemic is not enough for it to prosper since people don’t see the potential growth of the business being managed by youth.
Back in 2018, when Osboken opened the Dalikan Restaurant, chili was something that cannot be removed from a Cordilleran meal. The cost of chili is not that stable—sometimes, it goes as low as P25 per kilo and in 2019, it skyrocketed to P2,000 per kilo.
He then thought of ways how to convert the chili problem into an opportunity. He was reminded that like Cordillerans, people from Thailand, Singapore, and other Asian countries love chili. So, he started to make chili sauces that resembled the sauces he was making when he was working in Thailand.
He started the “Baak” sauce or the combination of the 18 herbs and spices, an oil-based chili paste. Then Osboken innovated and created a chili sauce that does not need anything to add on and can be used directly to your dishes, an all-in-one dressing that anyone can just bring anywhere: “Nalasang,” the green chili vinaigrette for the ladies who does not want too spicy dressing; “Balasang” for the guys who want spicier sauce; “Balasitang” or the yellow habanero for those who want extra hot sauce; and “Baro,” the Carolina reaper for those who wanted super hot sauce.
Despite his failures, by the middle of 2021, another chance was given to Osboken. He was able to open the Tam Tam Café wherein he applied his learnings from his previous ventures. It continues to thrive in the face of the pandemic. The chili sauces are being displayed and sold in the café and also being marketed via online selling platforms and being delivered to the different places in and out the Cordillera, even reaching other various countries.
DA urges the youth to help solve the hunger dilemma in the country and encourages them to venture into agriculture.
Osboken was invited to several trainings together with other young farmers and yaggies from Cordillera which had allowed him to learn and be empowered in the field of business and management. Also, he was able to build networks for his business.
He was able to join the DA Kadiwa stores and activities wherein Osboken was able to showcase and sell his products.
Osboken is also grateful to DA-Cordillera (DA-CAR) staff for the support they provided during the provincial, regional, and national preparations and competition proper of the Kabataang Agribiz.
Operating a business during this pandemic is a real test of patience, perseverance and a lot of courage is needed to combat all of the challenges such as financial, physical, emotional, and social challenges. For Osboken, the hardest to combat is the mental state like how to still be able to manage, continue, and pursue his dreams despite what is happening around him.
When the Kabataang Agribiz Competition has launched months ago, it gave him the chance to revive his energy and courage to work on his dream business and joining the competition boosted his confidence to continue the career he started.
“When I won the provincial, regional, national levels of the competition, it fueled me to keep going and be able to sustain my business. The competition opened me to various connections that will lead to better market opportunity,” he added.
Dalikan’s House of Sauces’ goal is to be able to touch more lives not limited to the agriculture sector but to all the involved stakeholders of Dalikan Foods Company which includes the farmers, distributors, logistics, and manpower. Further, the business aims to increase the number of people it is helping.
By that, he eyes for a bigger market for his chili sauces and other processed food products to be able to grow his stakeholders.
Osboken encourages young people to dive into agriculture.
“We have the best climate, we have the best land, and I am sure we are the best stewards of the land. If we continue to till the land that Lord had given us, it will give us prosperity and stability. To the youth, join any of the agriculture and entrepreneur activities. Do not be discouraged despite failing. Along the way, you will find success and reap the fruits of your labor. The only way to food security is agriculture, one way to have a greater chance to financial stability is business. Thus, agribusiness is the key to success,” stated Osboken. //
Photo Credits: DA Central, RAFIS Ilocos Region, DA-CAR AMAD, Harry Osboken