PASAY CITY – The Department of Agriculture honors the outstanding women in agriculture who have demonstrated excellence in their agri-based undertakings which uplifted not only their families but the community as well. In a simple but meaningful ceremonies, the top six national finalists selected from the 15 regional winners were conferred trophies, plaques and a total of P355,000 cash prizes. This year’s top three Outstanding Rural Women are, Evelyn Alegado-Grace of barangay Lauis, Candelaria, Zambales ; Evangeline Asistado-Novela of Cadalian, Baguio District , Davao City and Josephine Gandol Artiaga of Bulawan Sr., Lupi Camarines Sur . DA undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit and concurrently the chairperson of the Gender and Development (GAD) Focal Point System conferred the awards, on December 7, 2018 at the Philippine Convention Center

Evelyn Grace, the grand winner received a cash prize of P150,00 and an additional prize in the form of production inputs, farm machinery and postharvest facility. Evangeline Novela and Josephione Artiaga , 1st and 2nd runner up received P100,000 and P75,000 cash prize respectively. Consolation prize of P10,000 each was given to Evelyn Agtarap Duldulao of poblacion, Luna, Luna, Apayao; Francisca-Somejo-Rimalos of Bgy. Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan and Susana Villanca-Arcenal of Tinago, Talisay, Daanbantayan, Cebu.

Grace was cited for being outstanding not only in the field of agriculture, environment conservation and protection but also exemplary in community service and in promoting advocacies such as women empowerment and rural development. She personally oversees the management of the three-hectare farm where they produce rice, mango and vegetables and an agro-forest area where cashew, tamarind and ginger are intercropped with agro-forest trees. Harvested fruits are processed to add value. From all these she earned a gross income of about P3millin with a 49.91% ROI in 2017.

Novela is engaged in dairy production and selling male offspring. Aside from raising cattle, the family was able to attain a gross income of P1.07 million from their coconut, cacao, guyabano, mangosteen, red pepper and ginger acquiring a total ROI of 224%. As a woman leader, she was instrumental in buying the lot where the Farmers Development Cooperative was established and she also facilitated the P1million loan from government, as well as the acquisition of the lot where the milk collection center of Cadalian Dairy Farmers Coop now stands.

Artiaga on the other hand is proof that perseverance, hard work and being open to new things can make a big difference to one’s life. For 20 years she worked overseas as domestic helper to help her family and support the education of her siblings. She was an active crusader of migrants rights. In 2011 she decided to go home to take care of her ailing parents. She then ventured into farming. Using her savings she developed the one hectare hilly land along the highway of Lupi into an integrated diversified organic farm now known as St. Francis St. Rita Nature Farm. It has become the first certified organic farm in the province. Her farm which she personally manage is into commercial production of organically certified swine as well as native pigs, which are sold as breeder or roasted organic lechon. She is an active member of various civic and agri- organizations in her municipality.

Agriculture secretary Pinol in his message read by Usec. Lavina said that the DA is continuously retooling its system and making headway to level the playing field for men and women.

Usec, Lavina for her part underscored that the DA is striving to be inclusive – to cater to all; the producers, the consumers, the traders and other players. She disclosed that the DA- GAD system is working out that the 5% budget allocated for GAD from the various programs of the government but appropriated equitably that is, 2% to be used for GAD focused projects and 3% on attribution.

She commended the winners and thanked the people behind the Annual Search for the Outstanding Rural Women in Agriculture. She made special mention and requested the audience to applaud of the Bicol women team headed by Aloha Gigi Banaria, the DA-GAD regional focal person for working very hard in all their undertakings. Since the conferment of this prestigious National Award, the Bicol region has produced 3 national grand winners which had gained recognition even internationally. Last year the grand prize winner was Rebecca Sanchez Purisima a tribal chieftain from Tigaon, Camarines Sur who also represented the Philippine in APECS’s Women in Agriculture and Fisheries (WiAF) Dialogue in Papua New Guinea. Purisima was also invited during this year’s awarding ceremony who have inspirational message. Yearly Bicol’s regional winner in this search is always in the top three. (Emily B. Bordado- DA-RAFIS 5)