Who says farm mechanization is only for men? The women of the Rural Improvement Club (RIC) of Barangay Miluya in Castilla, Sorsogon exemplify women’s capability in rice farming not restricted by gender roles and socio-cultural stereotypes.
Here, women have proven their mettle in doing farm work and managing farms to alleviate their families and community from poverty.
Farm mechanization in Miluya started in January 2012, when through the efforts of the Local Government Unit of Castilla, the DA constructed a flatbed dryer worth P624,500.00 for the RIC, followed by the provision of hand tractor with trailer in November of same year, and the construction of a palay shed and solar dryer in October 2013. The club, headed by its president Mrs. Jenie Matamorosa, hired men to operate said facilities and equipment. Since then, the management skill of the club was put to test and was honed through time.
Agricultural mechanization 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 postharvest losses. Since 80% of the 402.10 hectares total land area of barangay Miluya is devoted to rainfed rice, the availability of farm equipment helped them cope with the brunt of climate change. With a flatbed dryer now available, rice harvest are no spared from rotting even on rainy days.
Record shows that in 2012, rice farmers in Sorsogon harvested an average yield of 3.60 cavans per hectare. Now, with the aid of machineries, the average yield in rice farms of Sorsogon is 3.72 cavans per hectare registering a growth rate of 3.29%.
Even farmers who are not members of RICOM benefit from these farm equipment. At the onset of the cropping seasons in June and October about twenty (20) non-members use the handtractors. During harvest season in September to November last year, 17 non-members availed of the flat bed dryer services, and 43 non-members used the RICOM solar dryer.
Mechanization not only made their farm works a lot easier, it also gave the RIC additional income. For the flatbed dryer operation they charge P25/sack., generating a net income of P13,050 in 2012 and P25,265 in 2013. For every P2,500 income earned from drying 100 sacks of palay, P500 goes to diesel expenses, P1,000 goes to the dryer operator who also hires another 2 laborers to do the manual mixing, and the remaining P1,000 goes the club’s coffer. The peak months of drying operation are September to December. Meanwhile, from the hand tractor rental which charges P140.00/hectare, the association generated an income of P2,780 in 2012 and P20,935 in 2013.
The husbands of the RIC members were also beneficiaries of the Community Seed Banking of the Department of Agriculture. Through the CSB, they were able to plant high yielding upland rice varieties for two croppings annually and get an average of 120-135 cavans per hectare.
Impressed with the management skills of the RIC, the LGU has again chosen the RIC to be the recipient of the P3.4M Farm Level Grains Center of the Department of Agriculture Regional Office under its Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (formerly Bottom Up Budgeting). The RICOM was chosen by the LGU out of the 15 existing farmers organizations in Castilla, because of its sterling track record, tangible accomplishments and contribution to the community. With the establishment of this rice processing complex, the RICOM will serve as the buying station of all the palay produced in their barangay.
Early Beginnings of RICOM
The RIC of Miluya was organized in 2009 through the help of Alice Jamoralin of Sorsogon Provincial Agriculture office and registered with the DOLE in 2010. It started with P5,000 starting capital. Now, the club has P1,419,349.00 assets, 42 active members and numerous community projects worthy of recognition.
The women of RICOM are mostly high school graduates and some did not even reach secondary education, but they strived to study their craft – rice farming and organic agriculture. They believe that to be effective women leaders in the community, they must be equipped with the necessary, knowledge, technologies and skills. Thus, all the members do not hesitate to attend trainings and seminars extended to them particularly by the TESDA whose office is located in the nearby barangay of Mayon.
These trainings helped them start their own income generating projects. Fifteen (15) members are engaged in vermi composting, soap making (4), rag making (6), swine raising (8), poultry raising (1), sari-sari store (7), and vegetable production (16 members), all being financed by the organization through re-lending.
Organic Agriculture is their advocacy
In 2009, the club was chosen by Intervida Phils. Foundation to manage its newly constructed 250 square meter vermi composting facility for barangay Miluya. As caretakers of the facility, they were required to attend various trainings on organic agriculture. Aware of the long term benefits of organic farming and its potential as an enterprise, most of the members also put up their own vermi composting pit at home.
Their vermi-culture project gave them an income of P20,200 in 2012 and P17,900 in 2013. The vermicast they produce are sold to Intervida, Sorsogon National Agricultural School (SNAS) and interested rice farmers at P50.00 per 10 kilos.
The club also maintains a (one) 1 hectare communal garden for organic vegetables which gave them a net income of P23,390 in 2012 and P11,960 in 2013. Through this project, they were able to provide safe, nutritious and fresh vegetables for their families and the community. Like any other organizations, the RICOM is also lending money to the members. In 2012 it generated an income of P8,600 and in 2013 P16,100 from loan interest of 5% per month.
From all their farming enterprise, the RICOM generated a total of P42,550.00 net income in 2011, P 73,770.00 in 2012, and P116,634.00 in 2013.
Linkages/Social DevelopmenThe women were also active in civic and religious activities in the barangay. They do the feeding of 50 daycare children during schooldays. The feeding is funded by the LGU and DSWD at P13/child/day for lunch. They also lead the tree planting, cleaning and beautification of the barangay every month. Three (3) members of the club serve as catechists in the elementary school, and some members organized the choir for the parish.
The RICOM was also instrumental in the organization of the Miluya 4-H Club and is assisting them in project proposal preparation.
Another significant project of the RICOM is the establishment of the Material Recovery Facility at Purok 1 where they led the segregation of waste materials in compliance with AO 39. During barangay assembly, Barangay Captain Marticio, together with some RICOM members, discuss topics on solid waste management and vermi composting to approximately 150 constituents who usually attend the assembly.
The group also ventured in fund raising activities such as Bingo Socials during fiestas and other holidays, and do caroling in December. The proceeds from these activities were used to buy small home appliances which were given as raffle prizes to RIC members during Christmas get together and some were used to buy groceries that were given to 30 indigent families last Christmas (2013). The club also distributes net surplus, allocates funds for education and training, and provides incentives such as dividends.
One major factor to the success of the club is that the Barangay Captain of Miluya is also a very active member of the club.
This group of empowered women contributes significantly to our food security. Their courage, generosity and selfless bid to uplift the living condition of the farm families in the rural areas are worth recognizing and emulating.