The case of the extremely poor and how we can help them


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Some people may claim to be poor because they cannot always treat themselves to a night out with friends, sample the latest food craze, or shop for clothes every so often. But do they or do we really know what it is like to be poor in the Philippines? Many of us can only imagine what it is like to experience extreme poverty, an everyday reality for over 1.3 million Filipino families.

Zero Extreme Poverty 2030 (ZEP 2030), a group working to eradicate extreme poverty in the country by 2030, describes extremely impoverished families as those who only have Php305 or less to feed a family of five per day, do not have access to education, miss dinner at least twice a week, have no access to safe potable water, and have no sanitary toilet.

Since the formation of ZEP 2030, the coalition has helped over 10,000 extremely poor families in 109 municipalities and cities from 33 provinces covering 15 regions nationwide.

Multidimensional issue, multidimensional response

Back in 2015, leaders of organizations working on poverty alleviation met at a summit where they realized that zero extreme poverty can be achieved through solidarity and the convergence of organized efforts.

To address the multidimensional nature of poverty, ZEP 2030 formed seven clusters to address the issue. The following are the seven clusters of ZEP—Agriculture and Fisheries, Health, Education, Environment, Livelihood, Housing and Shelter, and Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples. Each cluster, in turn, comprises public and private sector organizations.

Through the efforts of the various clusters, ZEP 2030 carries out interventions guided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to help extremely impoverished families become self-sufficient. Through the clusters, the coalition believes they create a collective impact that accelerates bringing inclusive prosperity and development to more communities nationwide.

“In the Livelihood cluster in particular, ZEP 2030 seeks to empower extremely poor families by providing them training and facilitating access to resources needed to participate in economic value chains. In particular, PEF supports social enterprises that provide livelihood opportunities to their beneficiary communities,” explained by Roberto Calingo, Executive Director of Peace and Equity Foundation and ZEP 2030’s Livelihood cluster lead.

Collaboration key to making a viable difference

Setting about this mission is not an easy task. However, ZEP’s limited funds and resources have not stopped them from trying to transform the extremely poor to become active players in the market.

In Benguet, Ifugao, Bukidnon and South Cotabato, PEF provided Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) training and technical support on in sustainable coffee production to IP farmers, with over 900 of them currently participating in six ongoing projects. This program has allowed the communities to start trading their coffee products to small and large coffee buyers. Little by little, hope and pride are being restored among the IP as they see their products being patronized by the general public.

Meanwhile, in the municipalities of Roxas and Taytay in Palawan, communities have found a livelihood in producing and trading dried herbs. To keep people away from engaging in illegal activities and unsustainable forest practices, ZEP 2030’s Environment and Livelihood clusters collaborated to provide the capital and technology the communities needed to propagate and process the herbs, acquire the necessary equipment, and grow their enterprise. Moreover, the coalition empowered the communities by giving them access to training that are aimed at teaching them technical skills to produce market-competitive products.

“ZEP 2030’s approach on poverty alleviation is multidimensional. We work with coalition members and partner communities to bring in long-term solutions to the communities we support. Our organization’s expertise is in scaling up social enterprises, and we seek complementary support from other members of the coalition to teach them environment-friendly practices, marketing, and climate change adaptive measures, to name a few. This is where you can truly appreciate ZEP 2030’s convergence and spirit of collaboration,” said Calingo.

ZEP 2030 believes that given the right tools and opportunities, more communities will be able to transcend the limitations extreme poverty has imposed on them.

Call to alleviate extreme poverty

ZEP 2030 knows that expanding their ambition would require support from more organizations who share their passion. Thus, it encourages groups to join the mission of uplifting more Filipinos, one community at a time.

“We cannot do this alone. We understand that ending poverty by 2030 is an ambitious goal, some would even say it’s impossible,” said Calingo.

“However, by coming together, we can make a difference and support extremely poor families in their journey to become self-sufficient.”

Zero Extreme Poverty 2030 is encouraging everyone to support social enterprises by buying their products at a fair price and signing up to be a member. Interested members may visit to know more.