My name is Sophia, a recent high school graduate from International School Manila. Instead of starting college right away, I decided to take a year off to gain experience beyond the classroom, while also exploring career possibilities.
My high school geography class piqued my interest in understanding urban challenges, of which food security was one. However, I realized that I knew next to nothing about the country’s agriculture sector and desired to learn more about it to be able to eventually extrapolate that knowledge to an urban context.
While doing research on sustainable agriculture in the Philippines, I came across PPSA’s website. I saw how involved they were in the industry as a broker of partnerships across societal sectors, so I decided to reach out to them. Soon after, I met with Ms. Jade and Ms. Monica who were both very accommodating in terms of helping tailor my internship to my interests. From there, I knew that PPSA was going to be a great opportunity for me because I would be working closely with a small team and thus be highly involved in the work they were doing.
Throughout the internship, my tasks were varied which allowed me to develop different skills, as well as grow my understanding of the industry. While designing social media materials for the AGREE Project, I practiced using visuals and data to precisely convey information about gender inequality in the corn value chain. From doing this, I realized that it is essential to tailor farmer support programs to the needs of specific farmers—in this case, the needs of the female farmers were different and greater than those of the men.
Moreover, by conducting research about the cacao industry, I sharpened my ability to quickly understand and then extract the central message of reports and papers—a skill that will be valuable for me in college. Through this research process, it became clear to me that a crucial part of increasing the resilience of the cacao industry is to focus on developing climate-smart farming practices that maintain the environmental conditions necessary to grow cacao.
My favorite task, however, was carrying out interviews for PPSA’s ‘Women in Agriculture’ article series. I learned to ask thought-provoking questions, and not only listen to the response but to truly understand what the interviewee was saying. In effect, the interviews resembled conversations more than a standard question-and-answer format. These interviews highlighted the partnerships between multiple stakeholders across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors that need to take place in the agricultural industry to leave a positive and lasting impact.
Overall, the six weeks I worked with the PPSA taught me the importance of seeing the bigger picture. At first, the small responsibilities like filling up spreadsheets of research or creating infographics seemed menial. However, by taking a step back, I saw that the research was the springboard for effective project development, and the infographics helped disseminate the information beyond research papers. In the same way, it is difficult for a single organization to enact meaningful change independently. Rather, their efforts should be coordinated to complement and build on each other, allowing for joint progress.