2 of 10 workers in Bicol agriculture are women

June 4, 2013 10:22 pm 

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, June 3 (PNA) – As an agricultural economy, nearly half of Bicol’s productive manpower is dependent on the industry and a fifth of employed persons in the region’s agriculture sector is composed of women.

According to the latest gender statistics of the National Statistical Coordination Board, workers in Bicol’s agriculture in 2011 were listed by the National Statistics Office at 828,000 or about 41 percent of the total labor force that reached 2.2 million.

Women in this number were counted at 174,000 or 21 percent of the total.

Although significantly outnumbered, the NSCB said, there are developments that indicate the growing recognition of women as productive agricultural partners in Bicol.

The Regional Field Unit of the Department of Agriculture (DA) had in its list names of not a few of them.

Leading the list is Eduarda Villadolid-Ayo of Sorsogon City, a 58-year-old widow who runs E. V. Ayo Enterprises, a multimillion-peso agri-based business outfit considered as Sorsogon province’s biggest rice producer and Bicol’s top supplier of certified palay seeds — a huge bulk of it being bought by DA for its seed dispersal program nationwide.

Apart from attending to her businesses, Ayo also singlehandedly manages the about-500 hectares of ricefield straddling four barangays — including Barangay Capuy, her place of residence and business address.

She derives her supply of commercial rice and certified palay seed varieties from these farm.

For these, Ayo has been recipient of various awards and recognitions from several government and private institutions for her remarkable achievements in agri-business and contributions to agriculture industry.

Another famous name in Bicol’s women in agriculture is Fe “Ping” Federis, the former svelte and stunning fashion icon who now lives in Naga City with a new passion — cultivating the good earth and advocating healthy diet and healthful living through organic farming.

Federis has taken over as administrator of the 40-hectare family estate in Barangay Carangkang in Magarao, Camarines Sur, as she has opted to go into organic vegetable farming and now advocates healthy diet not only for herself but also for other consumers.

Another is Bernadette De Los Santos, an affable and beauteous single lady who developed a four-hectare family-owned land into the now famous La Huerta Farm, an agro-tourism site in Barangay Sta. Teresita, Baao, Camarines Sur.

Aside from serving as an organic food production base, the La Huerta farm also serves as a preserved area of nature and provides an opportunity to appreciate beautiful rural landscape and experience calm and serenity far from the bustle and hustle of urban living.

De los Santos has pioneered in Bicol the "pick-your-own vegetable" style of marketing, which is widely practiced in the United States, where consumers buy directly from the farm and harvest the vegetables of their choice.

Another one is Melinda Yee of Sorsogon City, the producer of organic oil from pili pulp, whose studies have found it suitable for culinary purposes, salad dressing, shortening, for canned sardines and other food preparations.

Yee now is the solo supplier not only to food manufacturers but also to pharmaceutical and cosmetics factories of pili oil, which was also found to be an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory agent.

It has been tested as effective in healing wounds and allergies.

“These four are only a few of the enormous number of Bicolanas now performing important roles and excelling in agriculture, a playing field that traditionally belongs to men,” according to Abelardo Bragas, DA’s regional executive director.

But despite women’s significant contribution to agricultural productivity, the agrarian structure in the region remains biased in favor of men, the NSCB said

“They still earn less, own less and control less,” it added, while noting that recent figures, however, show that women are slowly being mainstreamed into the region’s agricultural activities.

Women in Bicol now account for a third of agrarian reform program beneficiaries and majority of agricultural production program recipients.

In the gender statistics released last March, the NSCB said that in 2012, the number of Bicolanas who were listed by the Department of Agrarian Reform as Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beneficiaries in Agrarian Reform Communities reached 634 or 32.2 percent of the total of 1,856 beneficiaries.

Beneficiaries of agricultural production programs as of 2010 were 55,112 Bicol women representing 57.1 percent of the total of 96,593 recipients from both genders.

Women comprise about half of the region’s 5.4 million 2010 population, an almost equal share with men in the region’s human resource capital.

However, the NSCB said, harnessing women’s full capacity in the task of social and economic development still face constraints brought about by lingering gender role definitions.

While improvements in shared domestic responsibility between women and men have been noted in recent years, majority of the burden of changing population sizes and family compositions and limited resources is still borne by women.

The last three decades saw the increased participation of women in the labor market, a development that fosters partnership between women and men in the economic sphere.

The increasing participation of women in both formal and informal sectors of the labor force is, however, still attended with problems.

Bicol had a 2.2 million-strong labor force in October 2011 and only a third was composed of women, representing less than 50 percent participation rate compared to 81 percent among men.

Of the two million employed persons in the same period, women composed only 37 percent.

In terms of employment opportunity, women with higher educational attainment are less likely to find jobs after graduation than men.

Women also make up the minority of the membership in work-based organizations such as labor unions and organizations, although recent years showed a steady rise in women’s participation.

In education, however, Bicol women, besides being more literate, avail of educational services more than men and achieve higher educational levels.

Women, likewise, dominate the faculty of instruction of the different educational institutions in the region, according to the NSCB.

Gender equality in educational opportunities is among the Millennium Development Goals and in Bicol, indications point to the achievement of this goal.

For women, education provides the vehicle for making choices for themselves beyond the confines of marriage and motherhood, it added. (PNA)



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