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Empowering Growers as Climate Champions

Inclusion is not just a buzzword, it’s a catalyst for growth. Our research shows that empowering women farmers as climate champions and decision makers drives growth in the agriculture sector and helps communities thrive. The ASEAN Green Recovery through Equity and Empowerment (AGREE) Project envisions that. Implemented by Grow Asia and the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA) with the support of the International Development Research Centre, the project seeks to contribute in fostering gender-responsive and climate-smart agribusiness practices in the sector.

"The project aims to elevate commitment from the private sector towards gender-responsive and inclusive practices. It seeks to increase awareness among policymakers for gender-inclusive and climate-smart policies, while simultaneously cultivating an improved approach to gender-responsive research products and practices,” shared PPSA Programs Manager Monica Milano during the GrowHer Learning Session.

More than 35 stakeholders from various sectors learned about the role of women as climate champions in agriculture. The session presented key findings of the AGREE Project’s case studies and invited key partners for a panel conversation on empowering women in agriculture. 


A closer look at the corn fields in Mindanao reveals the stories of resilience and challenges of women farmers. Pesticide exposure and limited access to government support for women's land ownership are just some of the hurdles they face. PPSA's recommendations, stemming from the AGREE Project’s gender and climate study, emphasized the importance of climate-resilient corn varieties, a green national corn policy, and amplifying women's roles in climate change mitigation.

“Through these case studies we hope to inform policymakers and inspire the widespread adoption and replication of diverse initiatives pioneered by the private sector. We hope you can join us in unlocking opportunities for collaboration that can elevate women’s empowerment in the corn value chain,” said Milano.

Aside from the gender and climate study, the AGREE Project also looked at inclusive and climate-smart initiatives by the private sector. The project assessed the ongoing efforts and investments of Cargill Philippines’ Agri-Sagana Project and Aboitiz Foundation’s Agribusiness Project to identify opportunities for women-inclusive value chain activities and adoption of climate-smart business practices. 

The Agri-Sagana Project, launched by Cargill in 2022, aims to support 8,000 men and women corn farmers in enhancing their livelihoods and ensuring food security. Through capacity building, climate-positive investment, and post-harvest retrofitting, Cargill seeks to empower women and increase farmers’ income. The success of Agri-Sagana demonstrates the significance of partnerships and collaboration in successful implementation of agricultural projects. It also highlighted how Value Chain Strengthening contributes to positive social impact by improving post-harvest product quality and supporting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

On the other hand, Aboitiz Foundation's Agribusiness Project focuses on resource expansion and expertise development of farmers. Since 2017, the project has been collaborating with Aboitiz Group’s subsidiary Pilmico Foods Corporation to link farmers to a consistent market for high-quality corn. The project also highlights how enhancing farmer’s resources and expertise can empower and improve their livelihoods and quality of life. The Agribusiness Project also recognizes the significant role of women in agriculture and provides an opportunity to develop Key Performance Indicators that can measure and promote gender equality in agricultural development.


Meanwhile, the panel conversation shared learnings and best practices of the private sector in implementing initiatives on women's economic empowerment and climate-smart agriculture practices. Panelists from the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST), Aboitiz Foundation, and Grow Asia shared insights that can help create collaborative solutions for women farmers. The discussion highlighted the need for initiatives focusing on providing equal opportunities, access to resources, and capacitating women farmers to bridge the gender gap in agriculture.

“We need to move the needle when it comes to the basic services and help farmers improve their harvest and outputs, so that they can take a more active role in managing the climate challenges in our country,” shared ASSIST Executive Director Francis Macatulad who also addressed the issue of the aging population of farmers and the youth’s declining interest in agriculture. With the right support and enough resources, he underscored that potential in women to take an active role as climate champions.

The discussion also touched on breaking barriers to women's economic empowerment, which entails shaping the government and private sector's perspective on women, finding practical solutions in projects, breaking silos by encouraging collaboration and complementation of efforts, and highlighted that platforms like PPSA play a crucial role by promoting inclusivity and managing risks.

“We need to provide women with the necessary support so that the examples set by the heroes of the past can be upgraded. It is important that we combine economic empowerment and leadership while monitoring how women benefit from the work they do,” said Grow Asia Regional Manager for Women's Economic Empowerment Cherry Cunanan.

The panel conversation also highlighted that strong partnership between the government and private sector is key for projects to succeed. This collaboration should provide interventions to develop infrastructure, provide financial incentives, and deliver effective training to support farmers.

“The successful implementation of a project focusing on climate-smart agriculture and women's economic empowerment necessitates collaborative efforts with diverse stakeholders. This includes active engagement with government entities, national agencies, local government units at the barangay level, and, crucially, the private sector,” said Aboitiz Foundation’s Impact Program Lead for Enterprise and Jobs Geronimo Torres.


The GrowHer Learning Session reflected PPSA and the agriculture sector’s commitment to advancing women's economic empowerment and adopting sustainable practices to address climate challenges. Through collaborative efforts with the private sector, PPSA and the AGREE Project strives to create a positive impact on the corn value chain, addressing climate challenges and empowering women farmers. As the project progresses, it sets a precedent for inclusive and sustainable agricultural practices that can be replicated across different commodities and regions.

The next phase of the project will leverage insights from the Gender and Climate Analysis Study to launch a Training of Trainers program that will capacitate 30 women farmer leaders in climate-smart farming practices and farmer entrepreneurship. This will enable them to share learnings and train their community members. This training will harness the strengths and expertise of PPSA partners and scale impact through collaboration.

"We learned today that women are at the heart of a successful transition to more sustainable practices and improved productivity in the agriculture sector. We need to break the vicious cycle of low investment in the farm, low productivity, and low profit experienced by our smallholder farmers with women as powerful champions of this transformation. Every form of help, no matter how small, can make a difference in the lives of at least one farmer,” said PPSA Country Director Angel Bautista.

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