I am Justin Paolo Dayapan Interno, 22 years old, an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture majoring in Landscape Agroforestry. I have a technical background in agroforestry design and development, agricultural systems, community organization, agricultural extension and communication from the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Philippines.
Although I am well-educated, circumstances have exposed me to the country’s endangered agricultural landscape, underutilized genetic resources and of course, poorly empowered women.
As of 2015, 51.2 million Filipinos are women, and approximately 839,000 of these work as farmers, forestry workers and fisherwomen in rural areas. Aside from their domestic responsibilities like house chores and taking care of their children, these women have to take part in labor activities to supplement their families’ income.
Women’s commitment is supposed to have equalized the nation’s agricultural panorama, but women still struggle because they are limited by factors such as unfairness in land productivity and tenure opportunities, agricultural resources, market opportunities, social discrimination and oppression and violence.
Although the Philippines is an agricultural country, undernourishment issues (like micronutrient deficiency) and hunger still prevail. In 2014, more than half (56.6%) of infants, 49.1% of older males, 50.7% of pregnant women and 45.7% of lactating women are affected by iron-deficiency (anemia). Thirty-two percent of preschool children are underweight.
Furthermore, almost 20% of adolescents and 12.2% of adults are under their normal Body Mass Index, and are ‘chronically energy-deficient’. Filipinos who remain undernourished reached 13.5% in 2015. These figures are greatly influenced by Filipinos’ declining daily vegetable consumption, especially legumes.
Moreover, the local livestock industry is having a hard time securing healthy feed for ruminants and poultry, as livestock raisers depend largely on unimproved pastures and less nutrient-filled grasses.
Filipino women in agriculture clamor for inclusive, sustainable and empowering mechanisms that will ensure that their efforts will truly reflect their worth. The most appropriate solution is to provide them the avenue to become collaborative leaders, entrepreneurs, and nutritionally sound, and for them to contribute to food security, livestock raising, social acceptance and a healthy environment.
To address these intertwining issues, Filipinas United for Legumes and Forage (FULF) is proposed. FULF is a woman-centered social enterprise that caters to the production of important local pulses and botanical species edible for livestock.
Specifically, this enterprise will focus on Filipina women empowerment, promotion of intercropping and climate change adaptation, improved crop production, conservation of genetic resources and biodiversity, agribusiness and agritourism, restoration of soil health and appreciation of pulses and forage crops in the country.
FULF will be established at Nagcarlan, Laguna, where the Gliricidia sepium (local name Kakawate or madre de cacao) trellising system is prevalent. Furthermore, numerous potential land areas in this region remain unimproved even with Gliricidia stakes. This project includes the participation of female rural farmers starting from age 16. Women farmers are partners and core leaders of FULF, and they will be involved in different stages.
Stage 1: Curriculum Development.
This stage includes 2 months of curriculum formulation in coordination with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Bureau of Plant Industry–Region IV-A (BPI) and the University of the Philippines Los Banos-Crop Science Cluster (CSC), UPLB Center for Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship (CTTE), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the University of the Philippines Los Banos-Agricultural Systems Cluster (ASC).
The curriculum will cover the following areas: legume and forage crop-specific production, organic fertilizer production using forages and legumes and their by-products, social enterprise structure, agricultural accounting and marketing, seed funding, sponsorship, crop insurance and financial management, leadership and community organization.
Stage 2: Coordination with Local Government Units (LGUs).
Securing logistical, operational, legal permits and other documents, as well as getting permission to hold orientations and focus group discussions with farmers in the Barangay will be emphasized. We will disseminate information about the upcoming social enterprises and the scheduling of future activities.
Stage 3: Farmers Orientation, Focus Group Discussion and Recruitment.
Terms and conditions related to establishing the entity as a social enterprise will be discussed. Commitment of women farmers for this project will also be identified. Expectations will also be set and calibrated for long-term involvement.
Stage 4: Canvassing, Deliberation and Purchasing of Resources.
Canvassing, deliberation and purchasing of tools, planting materials, land and other necessary preparations must be done prior to the execution.
Stage 5: Educational Discussion/Agricultural Extension.
This training will run for up to six months. This stage covers systematic lecture-type and hands-on type trainings, technology transfer, focus group discussions, monthly participatory monitoring and evaluation and leadership training.
Crops such as pole sitao (Vigna unguiculata), Goa bean/Asparagus bean/winged pea (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), Velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens), Mungbean (Vigna radiata), Baguio bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), Chickpea (Cicer arietinum), Peanut (Arachis hypogaea), Soybean (Glycine max), and Lentils (Lens culinaris) will be covered.
Stage 6: Exposure and External Involvements.
Growth and empowerment should be maximized both inside and outside the program. Women farmers will be taken to various talks, symposia and congresses relevant to the enterprise and their personal development. Appropriate arrangements will be taken into consideration.
Stage 7: Strengthening of Enterprise’s Organizational Structure.
By the time the women are technically trained, positive changes will be applied such as determination of women’s specializations and roles in the enterprise, whether in leadership, technology transfer, quality assurance, production, human resource, finances or external relations. As they become more aware of their specific duties and responsibilities they will facilitate efficiency and order.
Stage 8: Positioning and Networking.
This stage includes securing posts in market fairs to sell goods, network, deal with prospective partners and recruits, execute strategies with the most profitable market segments, operate the FULF stall/s in the public market/s, and others.
Stage 9. Expansion and Innovation.
Other possible business opportunities will be integrated at this time because FULF is expected to have tight ties with the LGU’s, the region and of course the chosen market segment. Exploration of possible profits from by-products and wastes will be started. Organic fertilizer manufacturing should be started, while packaging and branding of FULF products and services are improved. The idea of agro-tourism will be revitalized and applied according to pioneer site profiles.
As of now, the pioneer site has already been determined. Basic profiling has also been done for women farmers. Visual inspection of Gliricidia farms in Nagcarlan has been conducted. We have also made initial contact and coordination with the Local Government Unit of Nagcarlan and the barangays that will be covered.
After institutionalizing FULF, the following goals should be achieved:
- Women farmers have distinct specializations in legume and forage production by the first year.
- Women specializing in organic fertilizer production should be established in the second year.
- In two years, an organic fertilizer production facility is integrated into the enterprise.
- 50-60% of independent women farmers in the area are members and practitioners in the first year.
- 70-90% of women are members and practitioners in the second year.
- 100% are members by the third year.
- Women’s farmers markets at Nagcarlan will earn a gross income amounting to 60-80% of the seed funding for the first year; income will break even after 1.5 years. Income of 50% more than $5000 seed fund will be achieved for the second year and 200% gross income by the third year.
- 80% of Laguna province’s mungbean, pole sitao, and other economically important legumes are supplied by FULF after three years.
- After a year of establishment, FULF has the ability to trade products and by-products across the province.
- In four years, the FULF learning laboratory will be expand by adding forage and legume storage facilities.
- In five years, FULF must have established its own packaging and postharvest facility.
Seed funding of $5000 is devoted to different important resources and tools:
Leasing of 2 hectares of land for $1500.
Construction of mini learning laboratory/meeting center/quarters for $1750.
Planting resources (seeds and seedlings) for $350.
Technological materials (basic tools) for $650.
Educational Materials USD $300.
Logistical and operational expenses for $250.
Communication/IEC materials for $200.
Initial investment to crop insurance starting at $500.
I have a dream: to wake up one day realizing that agriculture has become the profession of the people and for the people; to live in a world that is vigilant in ensuring healthy, economical and ethical food systems; to be in a satisfied society that observes equality among genders, races and ideas; to be in a world free from hungry stomachs, uneducated children, and poor people, especially women.
Right now, I’m living in a reality where I can walk closer to achieving this aspiration with like-minded fellows, and with opportunities like this.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Justin Interno (Philippines) – jdinterno1[at]up.edu.ph
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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