Invisible no more: women farmer trio exemplify women's lead role in agric development

Three women farmers saw an opportunity to further their knowledge and benefits from farming when the FAO project “Dynamic Conservation and Sustainable Use of Agrobiodiversity in Traditional Agroecosystems of the Philippines” came to their community.

The Luhib women farmer-leader trio: Juanita Celiz, Candelaria Dumale, and Merlinda Go.


In a province in the southern Philippines, three elderly women farmers are proving that not only are women indispensable contributors to agriculture and the economy but also that gender and age are not -- and should not be -- hindrances to pursuing a better life for yourself and your community.

Juanita Celiz, 49, Candelaria Dumale, 65, and Merlinda Go, 52, tend to vegetables that they are raising in gardens for home consumption and for selling. “Sarili mong tanim, alam mong safe kainin [You know the food is safe if you plant it yourself],” says Merlinda. The three elderly women from Barangay Luhib in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato are active advocates of healthy eating and of farming. And although they admit that their years are rapidly advancing, they do not use age as an excuse to slow down. In fact, they see their “senior years” as motivation to better their lives as well as those of their fellow women farmers in their community.

This is laudable particularly in the light that many agriculture-based countries – including the Philippines – still look at women as no more than farm assistants. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that, sadly, women farmers’ contribution to food production remains “undervalued if not invisible”.

The three friends, however, says that they have not always known about the benefits of growing their own vegetables. A few years back, Juanita, Candelaria, and Merlinda, along with other women members of their barangay (village), attended training on proper nutrition provided by an NGO. It is during one of the training sessions that they realized they were unwittingly ingesting harmful substances from the food they bought from the market.

Wala akong kamalay-malay na nilalason ko na pala ang sarili ko [I was not aware that I was poisoning myself],” says Merlinda. She was referring to pesticide-laced vegetables and other food products that are sold in public markets.

Doon na lang ako sa traditional at sarili naming tanim. Siguradong safe na, puwede pa pagkakitaan [I will just stick with traditional and home-grown crops. They’re not just safe, I can earn from them as well],” she adds.

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