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Women can do it: What we can learn from budding farmers in Marinduque

In the neighborhood of Cawit Boac, Marinduque, the women are busy tending to the community garden of their Women Food Producers Association (WFPA). They are hopeful that soon enough, the vegetables they planted will grow until it’s ready to be harvested. Hopefully, these vegetables create opportunities for their association. Every week, the women would take turns doing chores to care for the community garden.

Photo credit: Menchie Revarez, AGREA Farm School Administrator

The women’s association in Marinduque is one of AGREA Foundation’s five chapters formed in 2020 under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and part of AGREA Foundation’s women empowerment program that aims to empower and provide opportunities to women in the food and agri-sector to be the local leaders and champions towards bringing food and nutrition security at a household level and their community.

Maricar Morales and Olive Torres are among the members of the women’s association assisted by AGREA Foundation. Through the skills they acquired in training and their membership in the association, Maricar and Olive are able to provide healthy meals for their families and earn an additional income through vegetable gardening.

Photo credit: AGREA


The province of Marinduque sits at the typhoons belt of the Philippines and is vulnerable to many catastrophes that damage communities and their livelihood. For residents like Maricar and Olive who rely on agriculture to survive, they know very well the adverse effects of climate change and calamities.

Maricar, who manages a butterfly farm, shared that income is not always stable. There are times when there is more supply than the market’s demand, and seasons when butterflies could not survive in the environment especially during the Southwest Monsoon. And when typhoons hit, it hampers even more the farm operations and profitability.

Photo credit: Maricar Morales

Malaking kalaban ng negosyo ang bagyo dahil nadadamage talaga ang mga host plants namin. Talaga mahirap po bumangon sa calamities, parang ilang buwan pa namin patutubuin ang mga halaman bago maging ready para sa mga paro-paro (Typhoons are one of the biggest challenge in our business. Recovery is hard because it takes months to grow the host plants that sustain our butterflies),” shared Maricar.

She is grateful that she learned vegetable gardening so she can provide food for her family during these challenging times.

Meanwhile, Olive, whose father was a coconut farmer, learned the harsh realities in the agriculture sector at an early age. She recalls carrying sacks of coconuts for hours while trekking the mountains just to reach the main road so they can sell their coconuts in the market. It was even more difficult during the rainy seasons.

Mahirap po ang buhay namin dati. Hindi ko maisip kung paano kami nakapagtapos ng pag-aaral. Kulang po sa kaalaman sa pagsasaka ang mga magulang ko (Life was hard back then. I could not imagine how we were able to finish our education. My parents lacked the proper knowledge in farming).”

Photo credit: Olive Torres

Olive’s family struggled to make ends meet, especially when disasters struck. Sometimes, it took them years to regrow their coconut trees and rebuild their livelihood. When her father realized that coconut farming would not be able to sustain them, he decided to find another job that could provide for their family and educational needs.


When Maricar’s husband passed away years ago, it seemed like all hope was lost. She had no idea if she would be able to support her family. Maricar knew that she needed to work harder for her children. Thankfully, her butterfly farm and gardening was able to help her make ends meet.

Aside from the economic opportunities, Maricar’s butterfly farm also helps promote biodiversity conservation. Butterflies, like bees, are pollinators and essential in helping fruits, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds. Butterflies are also an indicator of a healthy environment. For Maricar, her butterfly farm and gardening are a match, helping each other thrive. Learning vegetable gardening provided an additional source of income and helped care for the host plants of her butterfly farm.

Photo credit: Maricar Morales

“Kung walang pambili, may mapagkukunan po ako ng ulam namin. Tapos sigurado akong masustansiya kasi ako po ang nagtanim, alam ko po ang pamamaraan ng pagtatanim (When I can’t afford to buy our food, I can always turn to my vegetables. And I’m sure that it’s nutritious because I was the one who planted it).”

On the other hand, Olive sees that their community gardening is changing them for the better through its positive influence on the ‘nanays’ of their barangay by giving them a hobby.

“Dati nakatambay lang kami sa bahay. Kung may problema lalo mong maiisip. Pero noong natututo nang magtanim, bungkal ng bungkal lang ng lupa, hindi mo namamalayang gabi na pala. Pagod ka na, mas makakatulog ka pa na maaga (Before, we used to have a lot of idle time. When you have nothing else to do, you tend to think too much about problems. But with our chores in the community garden, we’re able to redirect that energy. Even though it can be tiring, it helps us rest earlier too).”

Olive sells her newly harvested vegetables to the nearby talipapa and in their microfinance group. In this new found skill, Olive is proud that she helps increase her family's income, and at the same time, contributes to promoting proper nutrition in their barangay.

Nakakatuwa na nadagdagan ang kita ko. At tsaka, nakaka-enganyo ng iba na kaya tayo kumakain ng gulay para malusog at humaba ang buhay (I’m glad that I’m able to increase my income and encourage others to eat vegetables to live a healthier and longer life).”

Photo credit: Menchie Revarez, AGREA Farm School Administrator

Maricar and Olive hope that more people will see the potential in women and bring more focus to women in the agriculture sector. They wish to see more assistance through technologies that can support women in their farm work.

“Dapat po medyo high-tech na tayo kasi mahirap po magbungkal ng lupa, napapaltos po ang kamay namin kasi wala kaming kumpletong gamit (Women also need access to agricultural technologies that will help make farming easier for us).”


Despite the challenges, women always step up in finding solutions and making the best out of every situation. Through Agrea Foundation, the women in Cawit Boac shared how training and programs that build their skills in leadership budgeting, health, nutrition, and waste management is helping them to better manage their homes and their gardens.

Sa mga trainings na nasalihan ko, natutunan kong importante talaga ang kontribusyon ng mga babae sa agrikultura. Napapatunayan din naman po namin kasi napaka-gaganda po ng mga tanim namin dito Marinduque (In the trainings I attended, I learned that women have important contributions in agriculture. We are proving it here in Marinduque through our crops and harvests),” shared Maricar.

Photo credit: Menchie Revarez, AGREA Farm School Administrator

Maricar and Olive think we should encourage more women and youth to find value in agriculture. To ensure food security in the country, education and training in farming can help more women and youth to get involved.

“Dapat matutunan ng mga babae na kayang kaya nila maging farmer. Ang mga kabataan dapat imulat talaga para tumubo ang interes nila sa agrikultura.” (Women should learn that they are capable of becoming farmers. We also need to open the eyes of the youth so they can take interest in agriculture), shared Olive.

Maricar and Olive are great examples of persevering women who constantly find ways to improve their families’ lives. They are continuously proving that investing in women is always worth it.


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