This is a feature contribution from Agrea, an agriculture- and fisheries-focused social enterprise and foundation that aims to help establish food security in the Philippines.
MANILA, Philippines – “Women farmers here in Siargao will play an important role in redefining and revitalizing Siargao’s agriculture sector.”
These were the words of multi-awarded Agri Change Maker Cherrie Atilano, Agrea’s chief executive officer and founding farmer, during the “LEAF Siargao: More Love for Women Farmers” conference held last February 23.
Composed of 700 participants, the conference was the largest gathering of women farmers in the country which featured inspiring stories of women who are taking opportunities in leading the islands’ agriculture sector.
One of them is Rosalie Sajol, a 41-year-old farmer in Dapa, Siargao Islands, who sees herself and each of the women in agriculture entrepreneurship as individuals who are “breaking the glass ceiling.” Using habal-habal, she would wake up early everyday and laboriously transport her fresh farm produce to the market, on a rough road that she wishes to be a real farm-to-market road.
“In a field research conducted by Agrea, we found out that men are leaving their farms to take part in the booming tourism in opportunities here in Siargao, as Habal-Habal drivers, or construction workers. Women are left behind to plant vegetables, and apply loans for farm capitalization,” Atilano said.
Stories of success
Referred to as the “Dragon Fruit Queen of the Philippines,” Edita Dacuycuy shared how dragon fruit’s therapeutic relief for her daughter with cerebral palsy turned her into a multi-awarded farmer-scientist.
“Have we realized that we can be a key that reinforces a successful and sustainable economy to our nation, making Philippines great again – through women empowerment?” Dacuycuy asked.
As of now, she continues to inspire and uplift the lives of farmers and persons with disabilities through her company, Refmad-V.
Meanwhile, the “Seedling Queen of Bulacan” Daisy Duran encouraged and inspired the participants to start small, become agriculture entrepreneurs, and always see opportunities in agriculture.
“Give people something to see, do, and buy,” Duran, a former fishball vendor said.
Globally, women produce over 50% of the world’s food and comprise about 43% of the agricultural labor force. Additionally, women invest as much as 10 times more of their earnings than men do in their family’s well-being in areas including child health, education and nutrition.
Furthermore, various researches have found out that women’s empowerment has a direct impact on agricultural productivity and household food security, and as a result it remains at the core of agricultural research and outreach practices in developing countries.
In the case of Siargao, 2018 data showed that on agri-fishery credit loan window of the Department of Agriculture, through the Agri-Credit Policy Council’s Production Loan Easy Access Program, 55.55% of the farmer loan borrowers are women. In March 2019, another 87 or 67.44% women farmer borrowers will be able to access PLEA.
Agrea envisions in making Siargao the first women-led agriculture island in the Philippines.
Women farmers, like Rosalie, will be leaders for food security and agriculture in the island. Thus, creating opportunities to meet the growing demand of food for the booming tourism industry in Siargao.
According to Atilano, women have a lot of potential to be leaders in agriculture and food security.
“Our agriculture sector needs more sustainable nurturers – nurturers that could endure the problems in our society. Women have this kind of charm and nurturing attitude that is needed in the agriculture sector, a sector that deals with all living things – from plants, to animals, to consumers. It demands a lot of nurturing spirit to change the narrative of agriculture and turn it into a sector that will make our country progressive.”
The “More Love for Women Farmers” is a first step to reinvigorate Siargao’s agriculture, through empowering the women farmers of the island. The conference is part of Agrea’s local iteration of Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Forum – a community of champions across all sectors uniting as advocates for better agriculture. – Rappler.com