HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 3,000 farmers in the Philippines are now using a mobile app for Android devices called RiceUp that's significantly increased their earnings.
“On average, our farmers would go from $71 a month to $500 a month, which in the Philippines is absolutely crazy,” BYU-Hawaii student Eli Clark said.
BYU-Hawaii student Elvin Laceda came up with the idea for an app to cut out the middleman who'd take the lion's share of a farmer's sales.
“It was a foreign idea to my people because they haven’t thought that they can use phones ― just like Uber ― to connect with the consumers directly,” he said.
A team of 40 students worked on the RiceUp program, which included planting farming schools in the Philippines to teach farmers business skills and financial literacy.
There are now 30 farm schools, many of them in rural areas that used to be rebel strongholds.
"The majority of farmers did not finish high school, so they're not really equipped to be agriculture entrepreneurs," RiceUp's Princess Donato-Astle said.
With more money in their pockets, many farmers no longer need to take out loans and they’re forming farming cooperatives.
"We're now empowering them to, in a sense, fight back and make decisions for themselves, which means the middlemen can't dictate their prices anymore," RiceUp's Joseph Duano said.
The method’s proven so successful in the Philippines that BYU-Hawaii is now working with farmers in Cambodia.
The mobile app was entered into a national competition called Enactus. BYU-Hawaii took first place.
"It's not about winning. It's about the farmers," Enactus adviser PJ Rogers said. "They just love these kids. It's not just, 'Oh, these are nice kids.' They're changing their lives!"
RiceUp is now a corporation and has gotten the support of the Philippine government.
“It’s amazing how agriculture can be a source of hope to our people,” Laceda said.