Nestled in Nasugbu, Batangas is a community of mothers who have taken up dragon fruit farming. Beyond the traditional roles society often assigns them, these women are not just nurturing their families but also tending to the very roots of sustenance – farming. They are hopeful that this high-priced fruit will help them have better lives.
For Loreta Gatdula, one of the women farmers, being able to support her family through farming empowers her. “Bilang isang farmer, pangarap ko po, unang una po sa pamilya ko na mapagtapos ko ang aking anak at magkaroon ng magandang kinabukasan. At dito naman sa farm, mapalago ang aming kita, ang ganda ng halaman, at bumunga ng maayos. Kaya gagawin namin ang makakayang gawin para mapaunlad ang aming tanim.” (As a farmer, I want to support my child’s education and provide a better future for my family. I also want to see our dragon fruits thrive so our income will grow. That’s why we're doing our best to care for the dragon fruits.)
Agbeam Farms is one of the agribusinesses that recognizes the important role that women play in agriculture. That is why when it opened its dragon fruit farm in Nasugbu, its founder Luis Macalincag decided to engage the women in the community and teach them dragon fruit farming.
“We wanted to help the women realize that they are not just mothers. They can also be farmers. We taught them how to farm dragon fruits and they really are doing most of the farm work,” said Luis.
SHARING THE FRUITS OF FARMING
Agbeam Farms is a unique organization that focuses on promoting and expanding dragon fruit farming in the country. One of the four leading producers of dragon fruit in the country, Agbeam recognizes that the key to effective cultivation is the harmonious synchronization of all aspects of farming—usage of the right inputs, proper crop management practice, and a sound farming strategy.
When Agbeam Farms first started in Nasugbu, they were faced with a challenge. Hoping to integrate their farm as a part of the community, they opted not to put a fence around the farm, making it an open space for everyone. However, they faced resistance from some of the members of the community.
“Of course at first, we faced some challenges especially since most of the people there didn't really know us. We were thinking, ‘how can we build trust and relationship with them?’ That’s when it came to us that for these people, their families are very important. And who is at the center of these families? It’s the mothers,” shared Luis. So started Agbeam Farms journey in teaching the women how to farm dragon fruits.
While some of the women already had experience farming other crops, dragon fruit farming was still very new to them. Zenaida Anglo who has been farming crops such as sugar cane, corn, peanuts, and camote for over 20 years had no idea how to plant dragon fruits.
“Dito sa dragon fruit, pumasok kami sa farm na wala talagang alam. Dinala muna kami doon sa opisina ng Agbeam upang makita namin lahat ng puno, paano itinatanim, pano namin yan aalagaan. Tinuruan kami paano namin i-maintain yung lupa sa paligid ng cuttings, mag putol ng sanga, at ano ang kailangan alisin.” (We really have no idea about dragon fruit farming. Agbeam had to teach us first. They trained us how to plant and care for the dragon fruits. We learned how to plant the cuttings, how to maintain the soil, and how to prune the trees.)
Now with more than 30 women farmers, Agbeam Farms has also started engaging women farmers in their other farms. Luis notes that the women are very dedicated to their work.
“Whenever there are some people in the community who disrupt the farm, these women become very protective. They really value farming and they also see their value in farming. We love that they were also able to have a sense of ownership that they are not just women farmers but also our partners in the farm.”
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON THINGS
Zenaida shares that dragon fruit farming gave her a new perspective.
“Ang pasasaka ay talagang mahalaga. Kasi kailangan yun ng tao, sa atin, hindi lang ako. Lahat tayo kailangan ang tulong ng magsasaka para sila ay mabuhay. Ang pagkain na inaani naming mga magsasaka ay para sa lahat di lang para sa amin” (Farming is really important. It’s essential to everyone, not just to me or my fellow farmers. We all need farmers so we can sustain ourselves because the food we harvest is for everyone, not just for farmers like me.)
On the other hand, farming helped Loreta realize her strengths.
“Bilang babae, kaya pala namin na maging matatag hindi lamang para sa pamilya kundi sa pagsasaka.” (As a woman, we are capable not just in caring for our families but also in farming.)
But even in the pursuit of women empowerment, the women farmers also acknowledge the importance of collaborative efforts with male farmers. Loreta reflects that while it is good to have many women farmers, there are also times when they need the help of male farmers, especially for some heavy farm work like lifting and transporting the harvests from the farm to the market. For them, it’s a harmonious blend of skills and strengths, embracing diversity, and acknowledging that both women and men are the backbones of a flourishing agricultural community.
A DREAM FOR THE FUTURE
Their work in Agbeam Farms gave the women farmers the hope to dream again. The farm has become a canvas where dreams are painted, aspirations take root, and their work is not just for the present but for a better tomorrow. Zenaida, Loreta, and the other women farmers are also looking forward to furthering their farming skills, eager to learn using digital tools in agriculture.
“Dito po sa farm, tinuturuan na rin kami gumamit ng apps para mamonitor namin yung farm activities. Sa app na rin kami ngayon nagpapadala ng updates namin sa Agbeam,” shared Loreta. (They are also teaching us how to use apps so we can monitor our farm activities. The app also helps us to update Agbeam easily.)
Meanwhile, Zenaida often sees on social media that dragon fruit farmers in other countries use machines in the farm. “Sa ibang bansa nakikita ko meron silang pang harvest, meron silang pang fertilizer na makinarya. Nakikita ko yun sa Facebook. Sana po matutulungan din kami at ang Agbeam Farms na magkaroon ng mga ganyan na makinarya para mas gaganda at gagaan ang aming trabaho.” (I saw on social media that in other countries, they have machines to harvest and fertilize dragon fruits. I hope someone will help us and Agbeam Farms so we can also have that. It will help make farming better and easier for us.)
Truly, these women farmers are helping shape the revival of dragon fruit farming in the Philippines and in fulfilling Agbeam Farms’ mission to introduce dragon fruit as a high value crop that is globally competitive in terms of production and technology, while uplifting the lives of Filipino farmers and creating more rewarding opportunities for Filipinos.
“Ang pangarap ko bilang isang farmer, sana bago ako dumating sa aking katandaan, sana marating ko rin na makapagpatayo rin ako ng farm na ganito para makatulong din ako sa ibang tao,” said Zenaida. (My dream is that one day, before I become really old, I can also have my own farm like this so I can also help others.)