Rural Women and Breaking the “Invisibility Cloak” of Women Farmers in the Philippines

*This is an excerpt from PKKK’s Rural Women Status Report on CEDAW 2011.

The United Nations cited the important roles of rural women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and reducing poverty in their communities. Rural women represent 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, comprising 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide. The Food and Agriculture estimated that if rural women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent, lifting 100-150 million out of hunger. Furthermore, equal access to resources will raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent, thereby contributing to both food security and economic growth.

CSI research shows that women in agriculture spend as much as eight to eleven hours a day in productive and reproductive work—i.e. acquiring capital for farming (usually through credit), carrying out planting activities, marketing the primary crop and backyard produce, and providing for their household’s daily survival needs. They spend from one to six hours daily for domestic work, which includes activities like preparing farm tools and food for farm laborers, fetching water, gardening, foraging, wood gathering, raising poultry and livestock, and other livelihood activities. During the off-season, the women in agriculture spend more time in domestic chores, as well as augmenting cash income and ensuring food for their households.

Despite rural women’s significant contributions to agriculture, they remain unclassified. Men working in the farm are the only ones identified and classified as “farmers”. Women farm workers (and their children) are not included. In the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) studies, they have found out that though women are the sustaining aspect in agriculture, they get the least benefit from farm labor income, food systems and day-to-day farming subsistence. This observation was true with the experiences of PKK women farmers in Aurora, in Luzon; Sorsogon, in Bicol region; Bohol & Leyte, in Visayas; and, Bukidnon, and Agusan der Sur in Mindanao. Even in the aspect of land ownership, these women-farmers are not given equal rights to possess legal documents (with their names) as proofs. CSI Women in Agriculture survey shows that only 24% of the women small owner cultivators have their names included in the land titles, while only 23% of the women tenants are regarded by the landowners as tenants.

This “invisibility” of rural women in farm production system is exacerbated by the absence of disaggregated data on how women benefit from the farming industry and their actual contribution to aggregate farm production. This resulted in the non-inclusion of women-farmers from overall planning and government programs, projects and support services.  Based on the accounts of women farmers in Bohol, Leyte, Aurora, Agusan Del Sur, Bukidnon, and Sorsogon, the government failed to provide budget allocation for rural women in the conduct of capacity-building mechanisms (such as training on agriculture, mentoring, monitoring and evaluation, etc.) by the various government agencies; farm inputs (seed distribution and propagation, organic fertilizer and pesticide production, etc.); access to equipment and post-harvest facilities; credit support and alternative rural finance; access to agricultural assistance such as capability-building mechanisms (training and other technologies suitable to their health and environmental conditions); and farmer’s control over rice trading and pricing.

Apart from these, is either the lack or absence of women-friendly indicators in the different programs and projects of the government.

Gains and Milestones

There are also notable gains rural women particularly in the farming communities have conquered in order to development and become agent of change. In 2010, the PKKK engaged the Inter-agency Committee on Rural Women headed by DA and the Philippine Women Commission in launching the search for outstanding rural women as an initial step in recognizing the critical role of women in agriculture. One of PKKK women-leaders from Agusan del Sur, Zenaida   —– emerged as top three winner.

PKKK Bohol and Leyte narrated that the local DA provided them a handful of training on agriculture. They were also given a one-time shot of seeds for production.

DALUYONG in Nueva Ecija strong presence in the area of health and in agriculture in the province has prompted local government officials to involve the women farmers from pre-to post production activities. Some of their members are even recognized as strong leaders, spokespersons, and trainer in agriculture. Moreover, their sustained active participation of women farmer members is a milestone not only in the promotion of organic farming in the province but also in advocating gender equality. They expanded their programs not only in rice production but also in micro-lending, trading and marketing. They have been instrumental in the passage and implementation of a Provincial Gender Code.

In the case of PKKK Leyte, the increase of men members of PKKK shows a positive acceptance of women’s participation in local development. The men farmers said that joining PKKK provided them not only skills in family and community management but most importantly to become better husbands to their wives. According to them, their experiences in the group actually helped their relationships with their partners, children and even their relatives, friends and neighbors.

Women members of PKKK in Bohol expressed that after the series of capacity-building given by PKKK national, the local members are able to assert their rights inside their homes. They are also able to take part in major decision-making in their families such as what type of seeds (rice and vegetables) are appropriate to plant in a particular period, what types of livelihood projects could the women together with their husbands and children undertake without sacrificing their planting activities and household chores.

But more than the contests, actual women-friendly programs and projects should be crafted and implemented. PKKK’s small gains and milestones would have a great impact if scaled up and implemented nationwide.

Organic agriculture

The enactment of Republic Act 10068 or Organic Agriculture At of 2010 may be a welcome development as it stipulates the annual funding of Php 50 million for the development of organic agriculture. Added to this is the bias on organic farming of DA Secretary Proceso Alcala. However, mainstreaming and integration of organic agriculture is not yet widely promoted and implemented by the national DA and LGUs though slowly being implemented in DA ATI’s training program.

According to PKKK networks, trials and adoption of organic farming experienced various upsides and downsides but they gained more such as savings due reduction of chemical farming inputs and production costs; rehabilitation of soil nutrients, restored biodiversity and  improved harvest and income, diversified crops and farm income sources. Furthermore, it promotes self-reliance and has improved their access and control over productive resources and active participation in farming through various capacity-building given by the Department of Agriculture and the local government units (LGUs). PKKK Bohol and Leyte are actively advocating for enactment of provincial organic farming ordinances.

The technology became beneficial to female household-headed families. Most of the 40% women-farmers got involved in direct and even heavier farm management activities such as land preparation, seed selection and propagation, preparation of organic fertilizers, among others.

Farmers’ lessened if not totally became independent from traders in providing capital input for palay production. Women farmers are now doing their own organic inputs from available organic soil nutrients such as chicken manure, rice straw, carbonized rice hull, and the now popular vermin-culture technology. Instead of pesticides, they also make their own botanicals such as madre cacao, chili, and fermented juices from extracted plants.

The adoption also encouraged them to do their own selection of seeds, using traditional improved varieties suited in the area. In Nueva Ecija, DALUYONG has been propagating TRVs such as intan, Dinurado, Dugali, Iningkanto, among others. They said that women farmers learned to select off-type seeds and got rid of impurities. In fact, most of them are already self-selecting their own seeds.

The strong advocacy assumed by women in farming has manifested concrete improvement in the lives of sustainable farming practitioners which came in the form of food security in the household level, better nutritional value sans chemical contamination and healthier status. Although they have experienced lower yield from organic farming for a number of planting season, still income came out greater due to lower costs outlaid. Other sources of food nutrients came from vegetables planted by women-farmers in their farm and backyard gardens.


Following are the recommendations of the women farmer members of PKKK as part of the research done in the covered areas of Bohol and Leyte, among others.

  • Allotment of funds for capacity building of women farmers in the promotion of sustainable agriculture (from LGUs and DA)
  • Strengthen and support the formation of Women Farmer organizations
  • Provision of additional training on Organic farming: rice and vegetable production, fertilizer production, community seed banking
  • Provision of access and control on rice trading and marketing: especially in the coconut and vegetable sectors
  • Provision of credit support for other social enterprise: food processing, livestock dispersal, and resource-based home-based industries (handicrafts from available materials in the community)
  • Capacity Building – Disaster Risk Reduction in agriculture and to ensure women’s share of the resources/budget allotted for the education & training, i.e. from the 5% of the support services component (over and above the so-called 5% GAD Budget)

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