How organic farming helps women feed their families and communities

Elizabeth Martin, market gardener from La Trinidad, Benguet (Photo courtesy of Bicol Umalohokan)

Bicol Umalohokan /

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – Elizabeth Martin, a vegetable farmer from La Trinidad, Benguet, said when it comes to agriculture, the roles of men and women are not that different.

“Women also plant crops, water them and take care of them,” Martin said. Bulatlat in a telephone interview.

However, it is usually the women who save the seeds for sowing. “Once harvested, we clean the seeds and put them in sealed glass jars,” she said. Although the seed saving process is another layer of work, it also has its benefits.

“When you save seeds, you no longer have to buy for your planting needs, or use chemical fertilizers and pesticides that kill soil nutrients,” she said. That’s why Martin and other indigenous members of the Benguet Association of Seed Saviors (BASS) need to grow their seed collections through organic farming, which she says also allows her to serve healthy food to his family. “All I have to worry about as a mum when I’m cooking is salt, especially when you have fresh vegetable crops,” she said, adding, “Your budget goes to other food preferences like meat.”

Lany Guavez, an organic farming advocate from Camarines Sur, has a similar story. “Not having to worry about your daily diet because you have enough rice to cook is peace of mind,” she said. For her, this is a big problem because while it is true that her husband also supports the family, it is mothers like her who make the daily budget. It has also helped that her children are rarely hospitalized, which she associates with the healthy food they eat.

His family grew rice and organic vegetables in the city of Pasacao. At that time, it was not only a source of income but also a family culture. They trained their children to take care of part of the public land of almost two hectares that they cultivated. On weekends, she helped her husband because she was then a private teacher.

According to Guavez, the three-quarters of a hectare of paddy field could yield 65 cavans of Bulao rice in a good growing season, but in the dry season they could only harvest 20 to 25 cavans. The rest of the non-irrigated land was planted with vegetables. Eventually, together with neighboring farmers, they adapted ten seed varieties from the farmer-led MASIPAG network, including drought- and flood-resistant PBB varieties, to help them circumvent the limitation of no seed source. direct water. To do this, they must adapt them to their local conditions by observing, testing and verifying over three cultivation periods, while ensuring that the soil is healthy.

Unfortunately, her family had to leave when her children were in grades four, seven and eight because they spoke out for land rights. Now they live with his mother where they have a small vegetable garden and livestock. His eldest, now a student, embarked on agricultural engineering because he learned experimental agriculture at a very young age.

Her husband has to drive the habal-habal (motorcycle) to increase their income, while she continues to advocate for organic farming through grassroots organizations like AMIHAN (National Federation of Peasant Women) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Bikol. Just this week, she went to the local agriculture office to ask for inbred seeds for upland farmers, as these need less water and can be used for subsequent plantings. , unlike hybrid seeds.

Guavez explained that while farmers can get free seeds from local branches of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), which serves as the country’s seed bank, there is a limit to that. She said farmers cannot use these certified seeds in experimental farming and public breeding, otherwise they could be legally liable.

Bulatlat has tried to reach the agriculture office of Bicol but has not yet answered his question whether the certified seeds supplied by PhilRice are patented.

Guavez is also consistent with his other plea, which is to give Pasacao land to farmers and fishermen.

Photo courtesy of Bicol Umalohokan

Likewise, Martin urges the Department of Agriculture, as well as 2022 election candidates, to support the creation of community seed libraries nationwide where individual seed savers donate a portion of their collections. seeds for mutual aid and crop diversity. As a typhoon survivor in 2018, access to seeds and land helped her replant quickly.

Martin said seed savers also observe and verify which crops are well adapted to their environment, much like how scientists do their systematic documentation and knowledge sharing among local farmers. The collaboration between the Tublay Municipal Agriculture Office and Global Seed Savers Philippines provided them with training and was also instrumental in establishing the town’s seed library and reviving the practice of seed saving in Province.

AMIHAN Secretary General Cathy Estavillo highlighted in a Zoom interview the importance for smallholder farming families to have control over their food production, and even more to have their own farmland.

“For women, this means protection from the exploitation they experience in order to fulfill their roles as mothers, wives and daughters,” Estavillo said. (RTS, RVO) (

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