To improve the farmers’ economic position, Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc – FFFCI was established in July, 1966.It was formed to engage in activities that contribute to the upliftment and development of the farmer and their families’ economic position.
The Federations of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc. (FFFCI) is the economic arm of its mother organization, the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF). Initially called the Free Farmers Cooperative, Inc. (FFCI), it was established in 1966 to develop and promote economic projects of the members of FFF, which has grown to 200,000 during the late 1960s. In 1972, during the start of Martial Law, FFCI underwent an intensive reorganization drive that focused on promoting self-reliance. A national policy was promulgated to temporarily stop receipt of external assistance, except those for education and training, to effect the shift to self-reliance.
When nationally-initiated projects started having difficulties in the early 1970s, some farmer-members in Mindanao took the initiative to set-up self-financed and self-managed cooperative projects in their barrios. This led to the establishment of consumer stores on their own. This development spread to other chapters in initially in Mindanao, and eventually in Visayas and Luzon.
The success of the consumer store encouraged chapters to venture into other areas, including grains marketing, cooperative farming, credit and other projects.
By 1976, 143 barrio-based projects had been organized and 5,000 members had accumulated nearly half a million pesos in capital for their activities. The initial success with barrio-based economic activities encouraged the members to develop their cooperatives further and initiate new projects in other levels of the organization.
By the early 1980s, the combined annual sales of over 300 barrio units and 20 provincial chapters had reached P30 million. At the end of the decade, the consolidated sales reached P140 million from assets of P60 million. Membership, in turn, had expanded to accommodate 400 barrio chapters in 35 primary cooperatives.
To enable local leaders to handle the increasing scale and complexity of business, technical courses on management and accounting were developed. Also, a decentralization program was gradually implemented as more chapters and projects were organized. barrio units within a defined geographical area, normally a province, were grouped together and registered as primary cooperatives.
Due to the steady growth, the National FFCI, in turn, was converted into a secondary organization and renamed the Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc. It is currently registered as a secondary cooperative with its membership consisting of 35 primary cooperatives.
Due to the sad experience with many nationally-initiated projects in the 1970s, the FFF and FFFCI went low in setting-up ambitious and large-scale projects on the national level. Until about the mid-1980s most of the resources of the national office were channeled into education programs and organizational activities. However, with the growing complexity and scope of barrio and provincial projects, several activities have been established primarily to support the lower-level chapters. One of these is the administration of a national revolving fund to help finance local-level projects. This fund was setup from internal savings, capital contributions from affiliated chapters, and from grants received from foreign assistance agency in 1984 to 1986.
The fund, which stood at about P10 million in 1985, has now grown to P18 million, mainly due to the institutionalized savings scheme. On the average, affiliates also get back 35% of the interest they pay on loans in the form of dividends and patronage refunds, which are usually converted into additional equity in the federation. At about 80% of the interest fee collections are plowed back into loans for new projects.
In addition to the financing program, the FFFCI national office subsidizes training and financial audit services and administers a life insurance program for individual members. It also assists chapters in following up proposals, complaints and request, with government and other agencies, and in securing supplies, equipment and services from Manila-based firms.