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Agriculture plays a significant role in the Philippine economy. Involving about 40 percent of Filipino workers, it contributes an average of 20 percent to the Gross Domestic Product. This output comes mainly from agribusiness, which in turn accounts for about 70 percent of the total agricultural output (CIDA-LGSP, 2003).

The main agricultural enterprise is crop cultivation. Others are chicken broiler production, including operation of chicken hatcheries (20.4 percent), agricultural services (19.8 percent), and hog farming (18.4 percent) (NSO, 2002).

The general trends in the last two decades present a dim picture of the agriculture sector. Significant decrease in productivity, high production costs, and low government support to the sector, among other things, have led to a crisis in Philippine agriculture (CIDA-LGSP, 2003).

The neglect of the agriculture sector and the uneven distribution of resources worsened the poverty situation in rural areas. Only the remittances of migrant workers to their families have enabled the latter to survive crippling poverty brought about by stagnant agricultural productivity, stiff competition from cheaper food imports, and periodic droughts and floods that devastated crops and livelihoods.

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Rural women undertake a variety of production and caring activities. Though not counted in official statistics, women are active economic actors such as landless workers, traders of agricultural and fishery products, and engaged in micro-manufacturing enterprises. Of the total rural work force, women comprised 27.3 percent of the 10.4 million workers employed in the agricultural, hunting and forestry sector in 2004 (NSO, 2004).

Women's actual contribution to food production and rural economy remains undervalued if not invisible. As a result, women have less access to productive resources than men do. Access to land, technology, extension services, capital, and infrastructure support tend to favour rural men (WAGI, 2003).

Ownership of land remains elusive for many rural women. As per an assessment from January to September 2001, women comprised only 34.8 percent of total agrarian reform beneficiaries (Philippine NGO BPA+10 Report, 2005).

Crop Production

Major agricultural systems include lowland irrigated farming, rainfed farming and upland farming. Irrigated farm areas mainly grow rice and sugarcane whereas rainfed areas are planted with coconut, corn and cassava. The Philippines' major agricultural products include rice, coconuts, corn, sugarcane, bananas, pineapples, and mangoes.

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From 1999 to 2003, women's participation was significant in planting/transplanting, manual weeding, care of crops and harvesting. Women were least involved in land preparation and furrowing. In palay farming, about 35 percent to 49 percent of the farming households hired women workers in pulling and bundling of seedlings, and in planting and harvesting activities. More women workers were also employed in corn (harvesting/husking, planting and transplanting and care of crops), and sugarcane farming (weeding and fertilizer application). Women workers were least employed in coconut farming, particularly in the removal of coconut meat (BAS, 2004).

The following chart describes the gender division of labour in rice production:

Gender division of labour in rice production

Farm Activities




Land preparation


Seedbed preparation








Care of seedlings


Pulling and bundling of seedlings






Care of irrigation canal


Care of crops




Mechanical weeding


Manual weeding


Fertilizer application




Picking of snails










Other farm activities


Source: BAS, 2004
Note: F - Female; M - Male; B - Both

Women farmers toil with their male counterparts in most of the farm tasks, except for food preparation, which is usually undertaken by the women, and for ploughing with tractors, which is usually done by men. Rural women are also mostly responsible for accessing capital needed for farm production. Many of these women engage in off-farm activities that can help augment household income (PPI, 2002).


The Philippines' total land area is 300 179 sq km, 49 percent of which is classified as forest (although only 21 percent is under forest cover) (EIU, 2001/2002). It directly supports approximately 30 percent of the population, including indigenous peoples. Three percent of the total land area is still unclassified (DENR, 2004).

With a per capita forest cover of about 0.085 ha, the forest cover of the Philippines ranks as one of the 11 poorest among 89 countries in the tropics. It declined from 70 percent of the total land area in 1900 to about 18.3 percent in 1999, or just over 5 million ha of residual and old-growth forests (ESSC, 1999a as cited in FAO, 2001).

Among forest-based industries, more women are employed in saw milling than in logging, veneer and plywood manufacturing, and other wood-based products manufacturing. On the whole however, there are more men than women employed in forest-based industries (DENR, 2004).

Women in the environment and natural resources (ENR) sector are constantly seen in the limited context of implementing forestry-related programmes, focusing on special activities such as nursery establishment in reforestation. There is a need to expand women's participation in ENR programmes and projects, particularly as these affect their roles as: a) heads of households who might benefit from forestry-related programmes; b) entrepreneurs in forestry-related occupations needing assistance and extension services; c) technical workers and researchers especially in the private sector, and as supervisors and managers in both private and public sectors in ENR development and management (PPGD, 1995-2025).

The continuous destruction of the environment threatens everyone, but has graver consequences for marginalized women and indigenous communities. The immediate effects of environmental problems on them include not only the loss of traditional sources of livelihood and food, but also serious damage to health and life (FPW, 2001-2004).

Since time immemorial, women and indigenous cultural communities have taken part in the maintenance of ecosystems. A corollary of this is that they are especially affected by the deterioration of the environment. There is a need therefore to harness women and indigenous groups as active agents in the preservation of the environment: as advocates supporting programmes for environmental maintenance; as vigilant groups deterring polluters; as educators advocating values on conservation/development of natural resources and preservation of the environment; or as agents of technology generation for environmental sustainability (PPGD 1995-2025).


Fisheries is an important sector in the Philippine economy. The fisheries industry accounted for 15 percent ($1.22B) and 18.6 percent ($618.2M) of the Gross Value Added (GVA) in the agriculture, fishery and forestry sectors at current and constant prices, respectively, with the second largest share next only to agricultural crops (BFAR, 2004). The sector provides substantial employment and income for some segments of the population, contributes to export earnings, and supplies a major part of the dietary protein requirement of the population as a whole (DA, 2004).

With regard to employment, the fisheries sector provides direct and indirect employment to over one million people, or about 5 percent of the national labour force, of whom 65 percent (675 677) are in municipal fisheries, 26 percent (258 480) in aquaculture and 6 percent (56 715) in commercial fisheries (BFAR, 2004).

Of the total employed workers, women consisted of only 8.2 percent, dropping to 6.3 percent in 2002. Whereas men fishers are primarily involved in catching fish, women are engaged in pre- and post-fishing activities. Women undertake 50 percent to 70 percent of local fish processing and marketing activities. They are also involved in mending the nets and tending the fishing equipment, among others (Philippine NGO BPA+10 Report, 2005).

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Currently, the fisheries sector is besieged with major issues and concerns brought about by the open-access policy in fisheries resources use, the rapid increase in population size of the poverty-stricken fishing communities where the exploitation of natural resources is most intense, and the inability of the government to provide for an environment that can support the fishery industry's growth and development (DA, 2004).


Livestock production contributed 12.7 percent to total agricultural output. The most common livestock raised in the Philippines include broiler chickens, carabao, cattle, ducks, goats, and swine.

The livestock subsector, which contributed 13.53 percent to total agricultural production, posted a negative growth of 0.41 percent in 2004. This was largely attributed to the decline in hog and cattle production (DA, 2004).

In lowland irrigated and rainfed farming systems, households generally raise a brood of chickens, ducks and or geese, and one or two pigs. On the other hand, cow and/or carabao (water buffalo) are among the other animals households keep (Illo, 1994).

Women in the rice and corn industry allot three hours to do farm-related work during ordinary days. This does not yet include 1-2 hours spent in backyard gardening and livestock raising, which provide most of their daily provisions and even for special occasions as in the case of hogs they raise (PPI, 2002).

In the dairy sector, women are involved mainly in: sanitizing milk equipment and facilities; cleaning cattle barns, grazing areas and surroundings; and conversion of raw milk into milk products. Men participate more in: production, cultivation and harvesting of fodder and other crops; water collection; collection of feeds of animals; watering and grazing cattle; calving animals; tending to sick animals; and milking and bathing of cattle. Both women and men share responsibilities in feeding the cattle, and the proper management and handling of cattle prior to milking (NDA, 2005).

Women who are involved in dairying, especially those who actively participate in dairy production, are prone to physical strain compared with men. The lack of machine-assisted facilities or equipment (e.g. milk machine) that would aid women in milking the cows can be an additional burden to women in terms of time and physical ability or strength. The additional time that is required of manual labour may also eat up time from their caregiving functions at home and to their children, thus creating multiple burdens on women (NDA, 2005).

Division of Labour in Dairying

Source: Paunlagui, 2002

Most women seem to be unaware of their potential roles in dairying, thus missing out on their possible contributions to the sector's development. The farmers' views on traditional roles in dairying, the lack of effective gender responsive dairy campaigns, the failure to value women's work in dairying and to deliberately target women beneficiaries are factors that make women unaware of their roles as potential contributors in the dairy industry (NDA, 2005).

Although women assume mainly the responsibilities of the daily activities in goat raising (herding, feeding, cleaning of the pen, cleaning of females anuses, assisting nursing of kids), they have a minor role in receiving and applying new techniques that could improve overall goat raising (Solis, 2002).

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