In 2017, Emilyn M. Labor, a wife of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), had a dream: To establish an alternative source of income so that her family could be together again for good. Who would have thought that after two years, with support from various government agencies including the Department of Agriculture’s Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project 2, that dream would come true?

Now, Labor is the proprietor of Jireh Food Products, manufacturer of the famous veggie chips in Daet, Camarines Norte, which won 5th place during the Best Product Competition at the 14th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition on September 2, 2018 in Mandaluyong City. As Jireh Food Products’ Marketing Head, Labor invests in joining trade fairs to promote their products.

“Kahit magastos, sa pagsali sa trade fair, bibenta kami, kikita. Sa trade fair kami nakikilala,” she said.

That is why Labor was delighted with the opportunity to display her product for free at the Grand Starbex Fair (TGSF), a two-week pre-Christmas expo on agri-trade, tourism, food and bazaar for a cause, organized by the Starbex Corp. and co-sponsored by the DA-Bicol Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division (AMAD) in Ayala Malls Legazpi City which opened last August 25, 2019.

About 12 individual beneficiaries including Labor and rural women organizations under the DA Great Women Project 2 participated in the TGSF. Their booths showcase local products with some innovations like coco jam, seaweed noodles, rice puto, muscovado sugar, brown rice, turmeric tea, and dried dilis, among others.

In his message during the Opening Program of the TGSF, DA-Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla thanked the Starbex Corp. and Ayala Malls Legazpi for their initiative to highlight agri-business and farm tourism in their activity. Tornilla underscored that their partnership is a big contributor to the agency’s goal of attaining food security, poverty reduction and a progressive economy in the region.

“Ang mga ganito pong activity ay naka-align po sa new thinking na pino-promote ng ating bagong Secretary ng Department of Agriculture—yung partnership with private sector and other partners para lalo pang mapaunlad ang ating mga maliliit na magsasaka, maliliit na negosyante para sila ay makapag-compete globally.. Kailangan po tayong magtulungan,” Tornilla said.

Aside from the trade exhibit, TGSF will also feature learning sessions for aspiring entrepreneurs and start-ups. As part of the event, the DA-Bicol will be sharing investment opportunities in Mushroom Production and Product Development, an on-station and community-based enterprise development project by the DA in partnership with the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) which is now a flourishing additional source of income and livelihood for local farmers in the region. It will also serve as the venue for the launch of the rimas or breadfruit-flavored ice cream, an affordable and alternative source of essential nutrients such as carbohydrates and fiber which was already subjected to acceptability trials in Hongkong.

The GREAT Women Project 2 is a collaborative project of the DA-Bicol and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) and funded by the Government of Canada which focuses on the competitiveness and sustainability of women’s enterprises. Aside from marketing assistance, Labor also profited from GREAT Women Project 2-funded trainings on basic accounting, product development, market testing and packaging.

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Great Women kasi tinutulungan nila kami at nabibigyan kami ng opportunity to showcase and promote our products kasi mahal ang advertisement. At least sa ganito, sa mga trade fair, nakikilala yung product namin,” Labor added. The DA Great Women Project Beneficiaries’ booths are open at the TGSF in Ayala Malls Legazpi City Activity Center from August 25 until September 7, 2019. Some proceeds of the expo will be donated to Gawad Kalinga, the organizers’ chosen charity. #Masaganang Ani, Dagdag Kita(Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS)