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ISEA holds Philippine Country Workshop, highlights transformational partnerships and women’s empowerment in AVCs in ASEAN

ISEA organized the Philippine Country Workshop dubbed as “Promoting Transformational Partnerships and Women’s Empowerment in Agricultural Value Chains (AVCs) in ASEAN” last December 6, 2016 held at the Social Development Complex Conference Hall in Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan, Quezon City. 

The country workshop became a venue for sharing and validating the result of the year-long action research on social enterprise initiatives in agricultural value chains in the Philippines. The workshop gathered more than 50 representatives from social enterprises, social enterprise support institutions, civil society organizations, inclusive business, funding institutions, and government representatives. 

The keynote speaker, Ms. Emmeline Versoza, the Executive Director of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) emphasized the importance of women empowerment in the country’s economic development especially in the rural areas. “Women stand-out as pillars of economic growth, they are major producers of food, earners of household income and custodians of knowledge especially the indigenous women and the indigenous community,” Versoza added.

The workshop highlighted two case studies that feature success stories of two social enterprises in the Philippines that work with the poor as primary stakeholder/s. 

Sugar Cane and Beyond

Edwin Marthine Lopez, Executive Director of Alter Trade Foundation shared their business model that transformed farm workers to entrepreneurs by assisting them in producing and selling muscovado sugar and other agricultural products. 

Moreover, Erlin Samulde of the STARFA, a people’s organization in Sta. Rita, Bago City in Negros Occidental also shared that after realizing that women and men have equals rights, STARFA started to engage more women in the organization. 

Ngayon nadama namin na kami ay umangat ang kabuhayan at gayundin ang kapasidad sa pamamahala sa mgaproyekto. Nakatulong kami sa pagkilala sa STARFA hanggang sa LGU dahil sa award sa STARFA-Women sa paggawa ng mga bagong produkto tulad ng mga pineapple jam, calamansi juice drink, tarts at baked items,” Samulde added. (Now we feel our lives are getting better and also our capacity in managing our projects. We (women) have also contributed in promoting STARFA especially through the award given to us by the LGU because of the new products that we are doing like pineapple jam, calamansi juice drink, tarts at baked items.)

Ranie Catimbang, the writer of the case study on Alter Trade and the women in STARFA pointed out that one of the major impacts of the social enterprise to women aside from having their own income for needs and their family, was that they now have more time for their family and themselves compare to the time when they used to work in the hacienda,a where they have to wake up as early as 2:00 o’clock in the morning. 

Coffee for Life

Another case study that was presented in the workshop is the success story of Bote Central Philippines and some of the local organizations that it is supporting. Vie Reyes, co-founder of Bote Central shared that instead of selling the coffee roasting machine that his husband assembled and invented, they chose to make it available for the coffee producing communities in the Philippines so that they will not just stay as coffee farmers but also a producers and sellers of their own brand of coffee. 

Among them is the RIC Federation of Kape Maramag, Inc. or Kape Maramag, Inc. in Bukidnon that has now 337 women members who are all coffee farmers. In her presentation, Imelda Paulican Mendoza Chairperson of RIC Maramag mentioned that “Women embody the right attitude to development: this include being open to new ideas, patient and persevering until good results are attained, and being eager to connect.”

For Juanita Mamo, an indigenous people (IP) woman and leader in Sitio Tudog, Barangay Bugso, Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Sultan Kudarat, the opportunity of producing and selling their own coffee brand, Kape Dulangan, had empowered women to take leadership roles in the community and gain income for needs and that of her family. 

Mamo also added, “Sa ngayon, napagtanto ko na ang kahalagahan ng edukasyon kaya pinag-aral ko ang aking mga anak. Ngayon ay may isang anak na ako na degree holder sa kursong elementary education.” (Today, I realized the importance of education that is why I am sending my children to school. Now I have a child who is now a degree holder in elementary education.)

To cap the workshop, Dr. Lisa Dacanay presented the Benchmarks for Transformational Partnerships in Agricultural Value Chains. Sharing the emerging findings and conclusions of the ongoing action research of selected social enterprises in 4 countries in ASEAN (Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines) that engaged small producers with a significant number of women in their respective value chain intervention. 

The Philippine Country Workshop is the second of the series of workshops under the project entitled, “Promoting the Role of Social Enterprises (PROSE)” implemented by ISEA. PROSE is a component of “Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia (GRAISEA),” a regional project led by Oxfam with funding support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). 

PROSE-GRAISEA aims to benefit women and men small-scale producers, including agricultural workers, in Southeast Asia via the adoption of gendered benchmarks for transformational partnerships in agricultural value chains, by social enterprises themselves, and governments at the national and ASEAN levels.