LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 29 (PNA) -– A small group of rural women in a modest rice farming village in Bicol has been crowned as this year’s national champion in the Gawad Saka Awards of the Department of Agriculture (DA), a notable achievement that the entire agricultural sector of the region is taking pride of.
“We are so proud of the Rural Improvement Club (RIC) of Barangay Miluya, Castilla, Sorsogon for winning the national award under its category. The award recognized its exemplary performance that should be emulated by its counterparts in Bicol,” DA Regional Executive Director Abelardo Bragas based in Pili, Camarines Sur said in a statement reaching here Monday.
Gawad Saka is considered the most prestigious award being given by the DA to individuals and groups in farming communities that excel in their respective fields leading to exemplary contributions to the realization of food security and sufficiency.
RICs are nationwide rural-based non-government organization of women whose goal is to uplift the living condition of barrio families and the Bicol Region has 435 RICs representing a total of 15,000 members.
Composed of 40 members, the Miluya RIC exemplifies women’s capability in rice farming not restricted by gender roles and socio-cultural stereotypes, according to Bragas.
It won the award because the group demonstrates the mettle of women in doing farm work and managing farms to liberate their families and community from poverty, he said.
Organized by the DA in 2009, the Miluya RIC started with several farming projects in the same year with a borrowed Php5,000 capital plus the collection of membership fee of P100 each.
Now, the club already boasts of cash and material assets worth over Php1.4 million earned by way of initiating various farm projects.
The group, according to its president Jenie Matamorosa, attributes this success to farm mechanization introduced by the DA way back in 2012.
“First, the DA constructed for us a flatbed rice drier worth Php624,500, followed by the provision of a hand tractor with trailer in November of the same year, then the construction of a palay shed and solar dryer in October 2013. We hired men to operate these facilities and equipment and since then, the management skill of the club was put to test and was honed through time,” she said.
Agricultural mechanization, she said, has increased the productivity not only of these women-farmers and their families but also of the whole rice farming community through the more efficient use of labor, the timeliness of operations, and reduction in post-harvest losses.
Since 80 percent of the 402.10 hectares total land area of Barangay Miluya is devoted to rain-fed rice farms, the availability of modern farm equipment helped them cope with the brunt of climate change.
Bragas said the mechanization does not only make their farm works a lot much easier but gives the RIC additional income wherein its flatbed drier and hand tractor rented by other farmers generated a net income of about Php62,000 in its first two years of operations.
The club also maintains a one-hectare communal garden of pechay, tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, string beans and "gabi" which gave them a total net income of more than Php35,000 in the past two years.
The Miluya RIC also advocates organic agriculture, making them a beneficiary by Intervida, Phils., a non-government organization, of a 250-square-meter vermin-culture facility now being maintained by members who were given various training on organic agriculture.
This project gave the group an income of about Php40,000 as of last year out of vermicast produced and sold to Intervida and local users at Php5 per kilo.
Bragas said it is very impressing that although the Miluya RIC is composed of women whose highest educational attainment is high school, they strived to be at the best of their self-acquired craft—rice farming combined with learned skills in organic agriculture.
“These rural women believe that to be effective leaders in the community, they must first equip themselves with knowledge on technologies that could bring greater benefits to them. Hence, they never hesitate to attend training courses and seminars extended to them particularly by the Technical Education and Skills Development (TESDA) campus located in the nearby barangay of Mayon,” he stressed.
For being this year’s winner of the Gawad Saka Award, the Miluya RIC, along with other winners in all the other 22 categories of the awards, was conferred by Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala with honors during a fitting ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City last December 18.
Apart from a plaque and a certificate, the group also received an incentive of Php300,000 in project grant plus Php50,000 cash award.
The awards were received by Matamorosa and Miluya barangay chair Vilma Marticio, who is also an active member of the group.
Bragas said that Alcala, told the awardees during the awarding rites that while Philippine agriculture sector is greatly affected by numerous typhoons and the heightened competition in the ASEAN market, the DA is intensifying its interventions to help farmers and fisherfolk increase their income.
Despite the calamities like typhoons "Yolanda" and "Glenda," the agriculture sector steadily maintained its upward trend in the first three quarters of this year, with the crops subsector registering 1.2-percent growth and 1.05 percent for the livestock sector,
Although the fisheries and poultry sectors suffered setbacks from those typhoons, Bragas quoted Alcala as saying that over all, the agriculture sector this year managed to achieve Php1.1 trillion profit based on current prices, which is 9.55 percent higher than last year’s.
Alcala said these growths have been possible because of massive government interventions particularly focused on farm mechanization and modernization backed up by agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads and post-harvest facilities, among others.
Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture who also graced the awarding event, said the 22 awardees representing all the 11 million Filipino farm workers are the tangible proof that there is hope for agriculture in the Philippines, according to Bragas. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS