BY VINA MEDENILLA
Women play a pivotal role in agriculture. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows that 43 percent of the global workforce in agriculture are women. In the Philippines, it is evident that there is increasing participation of women not only in agriculture, but also in other industries.
Vilma M. Dimaculangan, regional executive director of the DA region IV-CALABARZON, defines an empowered woman leader as a risk-taker, committed, a good communicator, firm in making decisions, has integrity, innovative, and assertive.
A webinar conducted by the ATI Calabarzon during AgriTalk 2021 pays tribute to all Filipinas, recognizing four women from CALABARZON who works in the following areas of agriculture:
A woman who’s both a farm developer and manager is Noriko Usui of Cortijo de Palsabangon.
Before venturing into farm development, Usui, 28, worked full-time managing her family’s restaurant in Pagbilao, Quezon. Cortijo de Palsabangon started as a restaurant in 2012. It became a farm in 2014, then later progressed as a TESDA-accredited farm school that offers classes on organic agriculture production NC II.
However, due to the pandemic, the family restaurant closed and the farm also stopped offering classes. “Many of our farmers lost their jobs because we cannot afford their salaries at that time,” said Usui, referring to the first few months of the pandemic.
Born and raised by a woman farmer, Usui was forced to think of other ways to earn an income and provide jobs despite this stumbling block. She devoted more time to agriculture and initially developed about 100 sqm of the family’s farm.
After gaining first-hand experience on how to plant, grow, and harvest crops by herself, she got a deeper understanding of what farming really is. She developed a bigger space on the other side of their farm, measuring a total of one hectare. Usui studied one topic to another, from land preparation to propagation, which eventually led to her interest in farm development.
The farm has been the family’s source of income amid the pandemic. As of March 2021, they sold more than 100 seedlings, thousand bags of herbs, and tons of fertilizer.
When she uploaded a photo of the farm on social media, one person reached out to her, asking for help in developing an undeveloped parcel of land. This sprouted to the idea of her offering farm development services.
Now, Usui offers farm development services to help landowners in turning their idle property into productive agricultural land. Usui said that the typical client concerns include lack of knowledge in farming, labor shortage, target market, prices, and expenses.
There are three steps in farm development: Assessment of client needs, property inspection, and planning or farm layout. The first stage is where Usui gets necessary details about the client’s land, plus their wants and needs for the transformation. Second is a site visit where Usui and her team check the exact location, the condition of the area, and where they discuss everything with the clients personally.
After getting all the information, Usui starts to create a plan for the layout of the farm, which will determine the costs, materials needed, and required numbers of laborers to implement the project. After all these steps, that’s when they put the plans into action.
According to Usui, a water source is an essential component that proprietors must ensure in their property before availing of their development services. Their services come in packages.
Once the project is accomplished, Usui and her workers continue to visit the farms in a span of one to two weeks to ensure that the plants are in stable condition.
All the farm staff are trained in their farm school and are certified TESDA NC II holders of organic agriculture production.
As a young woman in the field of agriculture, Usui believes that agriculture is for everyone, regardless of age, gender, and status.
Research and extension services
As per UNESCO, only 30 percent of the world’s researchers are women, but with exceptions in some countries like Thailand and the Philippines.
There are more and more women who participate in agriculture research and extension services in the Philippines, said Almira G. Magcawas, the extension director of Cavite State University.
In hopes of inspiring more women, Magcawas shared some key lessons from her involvement in this field.
Magcawas advises aspiring researchers and extensionists to run their race without comparing their journey to others. Recognize weaknesses and allow oneself to use their strengths to work on the weak points. With the advancement of technologies, continue to be relevant by welcoming new ideas as these can be sources of greater concepts. Fourth, be creative and innovative in solving problems that will help in any project.
Building networks is something crucial in terms of progress. Collaborating with others can help them produce better quality output. Lastly, do the work with love and finish it to the best of their abilities.
Magcawas leaves a message to all the women saying, “I believe that each woman possesses different capabilities. I hope that with these abilities, we can all use them by providing services to help those in need.”
The webinar also weaved into the role of women in local government through two agricultural leaders. One is Adelia V. Poblete, who is the current municipal agriculturist in Silang, Cavite.
Poblete shared that the local government’s role is to empower local farmers and fishing communities “to produce sufficient, accessible, and affordable food for every community member.” Poblete ensures to deliver the services directly to farmer-beneficiaries of different barangays.
As a municipal agriculturist, Poblete highlights the importance of knowing, living, and establishing trust and rapport with the farmers. Maintaining a positive relationship allows them to effectively work together toward the agricultural development in the municipality.
There are government programs and organizations put in place that promote gender equality. One of which is carried out through the Farm Business School (FBS) that gathers both men and women to work and promote farming not only for food production, but also as a source of reliable livelihood and business opportunities.
For more information, visit ATI Calabarzon.