Focus Area: SME Development

Development of E-Learning Courses for the Community Agent Network (CAN) Program

In a bid to extend financial inclusion to remote areas in the Philippines, the CAN program of the Grameen Foundation aims to build a network of financial agents in rural villages of Panay Island. The project enabled sari-sari store owners, mostly stay-at-home mothers, to offer a range of financial services to their villages.


ASSIST developed two interactive, web-based e-learning courses to equip sari-sari store owners to become a financial agent which can be accessed through Android-based tablets.  Course One teaches the owners to use the digital payment center device called Ka-Pos!ble!; and Course Two is an engaging, easy-to-understand module on encouraging financial literacy among micro-vendors who used digital payment devices called Digi-tindahan. ASSIST designed and developed the storyboard, script, graphics, animations, and videos for both the following courses.

SAFE – Structured Program to Achieve Food Safety Excellence in Vietnam

Over the past 20 years, Vietnam has developed into one of the major food processors and exporters in the global market. However, product safety and quality control has become a major concern to the Vietnamese authorities. With increasing awareness and consumers’ expectations of health and food hygiene issues, the low performance in meeting the requirements of food safety principles and standards are seen as major obstacles for further growth of the food industry, especially when it comes to exporting agricultural products.


This distinct private sector partnership (PSP) project organized by DEG, TÜV Rheinland and ASSIST, aimed to create a broad impact on Agro and Dairy food safety and hygiene awareness throughout Vietnam’s entire supply chain. Awareness campaigns, forums, trainings and certification programs were designed to build local capability. Dialogue sessions were conducted with the aim of reviewing the gaps and making changes to support small and medium enterprises in agro – dairy producing industries in adopting best international practices for safety and quality. e-learning kits and self-audit guides were also built to help the target industries strengthen their quality control activities and to sustain the project in the long term.


Targeting Vietnam’s agricultural and dairy supply chain, this DEG-supported project features awareness campaigns as well as training and certification programs – all of which were designed to build local capability and create a multiplier effect. Dialogue sessions with policymakers and representatives of different stakeholder groups were conducted to assess the gaps and propose changes to support the agro-dairy SMEs in adopting international safety and quality standards.

Raising Food Safety Awareness in the Fruit Industrial Processing Sector

Myanmar’s recent political shift has given rise to a market-oriented economy and the performance of the import and export sector is underpinned by increasing production and industrial development. The food sector is the one at the forefront, representing 63.51% of the overall industrial sector in Myanmar. Hand-in-hand with this development comes the call of international and local organizations for better conditions in the food industry and adoption of international food safety standards.


Bureau Veritas together with ASSIST, is working to raise awareness about food safety through introducing food safety requirements based GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and HACCP scope to the fruits processing industry in Myanmar; to minimize risks to business and consumers and ensure that products uphold international quality standards. This would also benefit factories, enabling them to produce better products, increase production and enjoy increased sales and exports.


This project will engage industry owners and fruit companies to engage with each other and generate commitment to implement and promote food safety standards and resource-efficient practices in the industry. Training programs will capacitate food safety experts and create local consultants on GMP and HACCP to provide guidance for 20 fruit processing factories in compliance with standard requirements. These factories will also receive training on compliance, assessment visits, and certification.

Pro-FIT – Promoting Food Industry Competitiveness Training Program

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for a large majority of establishments in the Philippines, employing 70% of the total labor force. Undeniably, MSMEs constitute the backbone of the economy, playing a key role in the country’s growth and development. Nevertheless, local MSMEs in food production and processing have a small presence in the Philippine market. Most food products available in local retail chains are produced in neighboring Asian countries. The problem is that development of the sector is hindered by uncoordinated and outdated professional and technical qualifications for MSMEs as well as a lack of adequate public action against noncompliance with food regulations and standards.


ASSIST partnered with TÜV Rheinland, SEQUA, the University of the Philippines Institute for Small Scale Industries (UP-ISSI) and AFOS Foundation for Entrepreneurial Development Cooperation to implement Pro-FIT. The project aimed to enhance the capacity of local MSMEs in the food and beverage industry, to improve competitiveness in local and foreign markets. This was done by creating awareness and addressing the benefits of food safety regulations and standards, and implementing a variety of qualification courses on food safety regulations and standards through the coordinated effort from relevant stakeholders.


By the end of the project, five courses were developed with curriculum and training materials for the pilot implementation and certification of the diploma courses. These courses included Certified Quality Associate, Diploma in Food Safety Management, Certification Programme on Good Manufacturing Practices, Certified Food Safety Professional and Basics of Food Safety, and Hygiene and Food Handling; and have been absorbed into UP-ISSI’s regular course offerings to students. ASSIST and partners also executed Train-the-Trainer workshops for 30 trainers coming from UP-ISSI, the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Philippine Trade Training Center and other TVET centers in the country. Additionally, basic courses were administered to 200 operators from 10 MSMEs. The overall impact of this project increases the chances of MSMEs in the food and beverage sector to better enter domestic and foreign markets and contribute to the growing economy of the Philippines.

Case Study on Green SME Best Practices

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are key to the Philippines’ economic growth and development. They accounted for 99.5% of the total business establishments in the country in 2016 and 14% of these MSMEs were engaged in manufacturing and food processing. With a vital role in the global economy, it is essential to push MSMEs to converting traditional operational processes into green and sustainable practices.


In 2016, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines launched a collaborative initiative to develop business case studies for greening practices of MSME operations, which was executed by ASSIST and GGGI. This study was conducted with the aim to encourage MSMEs in the Philippines to start incorporating greening practices in their production/manufacturing processes by sharing and promoting stories from pioneering individuals on how their committed actions to protect the surrounding environment and resources were beneficial financially and socially.


The case study contains assessment results of ongoing best greening efforts being practiced among twelve MSMEs from selected food processing industries: coffee, cacao, processed fruits and nuts. Greening efforts taken from the twelve include waste recycling and reusing, energy saving and emission reduction, water saving, and innovation and research.

Fire and Life Safety Risk Profiling

The standards of work health and safety were brought to the forefront of the public eye after the collapse of the Rana Plaza Building in Bangladesh in April 2013. The commercial structure housed a garment factory and its collapse resulted in numerous injuries and a death toll of 1,127. In the aftermath, it called for improved working conditions and better compliance with factory safety standards.


The IFC Fire and Life Safety Risk Profiling (FLSRP) Project aimed to support the Better Work Programme – a partnership project of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – in its objective to improve labour conditions and compliance of standards by participating garment and footwear factories in developing countries. The project aided Better Work in reviewing its tools and approaches to assess and remedy fire and building safety issues in each of the countries in which it operates; ultimately to prevent or mitigate the impact of future incidents like the 2013 disaster in Bangladesh.


FLSRP involved the conduct of sectoral-level risk assessments on fire and building safety in garment and footwear factories to develop respective risk profiles for Cambodia, Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nicaragua, and Vietnam. Major activities included research and desk review, benchmarking, report review, site selection and inspections, stakeholder discussions, data compilation and lessons-learnt workshops in each of the target countries.