A Woman Farmer to the Rescue

Story by Annabelle Encabo (Enterprise Development Specialist, CARE Philippines)

CARE Philippines has ventured into cassava value chain development in Leyte, one of the most depressed provinces in the Philippines and the hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. Cassava is a perennial crop and traditionally grown for food and other food products.   Nida Lauron takes an extraordinary role of leading the Barugohay Sur Farmers' Association As such, there are a good number of women participants in the value chain but mostly as food processors. The Barugohay Sur Farmers Association (BASUFA) is a women-led association with 13 out of its 18 members are women, half of whom are officers. BASUFA’s success now as a community association is greatly steered by its active leader, Nida Lauron.   Nida, 51, barely re-established herself in her home province of Leyte after being an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) for quite some time, when Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013. Her hopes of staying home for good was extinguished as she witnessed the devastation of her farm and the loss of everything she worked hard for. Broken hearted, she decided to work overseas again, but not for long. After a year, she was back to tilling the soil and determined to regain what she lost. It was then that she heard about BASUFA and decided to join. The association of 28 farmers were involved in cassava production.   In September 2015, BASUFA received a grant from USAID for training in cassava processing with the Visayas State University, in cooperation with Fatima Multi-Purpose Cooperative (FMPC). The following year January 2016, CARE Philippines through FMPC and the Typhoon Haiyan Reconstruction Assistance (THRA) Project provided financial assistance to farmers to increase their cassava production. At that time Nida Lauron was appointed Secretary of BASUFA.    The project is supported by the Government of Canada through the Global Affairs Canada. Everything went well at first, the association had made good use of CARE’s assistance for production and post-harvest processing and was actively trading their harvest with FMPC. BASUFA also received an equipment grant from the Department of Agriculture – a cassava grater to be used in food processing. Later on however, the association incurred operational problems and 10 members left the association because of disagreement with their previous president. In January 2018, the remaining farmer members called for a change of leadership and Nida was elected as the new president of BASUFA.   “We really love the association and I don’t want our hard work to be wasted, so I accepted the new role with all my heart even though this was completely new for me,” said Nida.   With practically no money left in their bank account, BASUFA’s resilient spirit remained high and positive that they can recover from their organizational crisis, just as they did from Typhoon Haiyan. Nida appealed to grant giving institutions to consider their plan to operationalize a small cassava processing enterprise for the benefit of women and elderly members of BASUFA. In May 2018, CARE finally approved BASUFA’s livelihood plan and the association was back in business. They had refurbished a small area in the community for their processing activities. Every day, women and elderly members contribute their time after farming to build and nurture their food processing enterprise. Small teams of women take turns grating, drying, cooking and packing chips.   “I am happy to see this positive change to women in our community. Before this project, women only stay in their homes and do household chores and now they have realized that we can definitely perform this role,” Nida added.   BASUFA members also applied what they learned from CARE’s capacity building package that includes Financial Literacy, Community-based Enterprise Development and Values Formation. They have completed Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Risk Reduction training and have enrolled with Philippine Crop Insurance Protection as part of risk mitigation and resiliency. CARE through its stakeholders meetings also helped BASUFA connect with agencies that assist micro enterprises such as the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Science and Technology.   Indeed BASUFA has recovered. They are slowly making a name as a local processor of cassava grates- a raw material for cakes and snack foods. They also perfected the technology of making cassava chips that they are now selling in school canteens as a healthy snack for children and adults alike. Members of BASUFA now earn from cassava chip making   “Our hard work really paid off. And we don’t stop learning. CARE empowered us to access various support not just from NGOs but from the government as well. Now we keep on sending proposals to various agencies for additional training because we want more women in our community to learn about cassava processing for additional income.”   Nida says she is now more inspired to work even harder for the association and ensure that everyone gets to enjoy the benefits of their collective effort. Nida believes that is attainable, if BASUFA remains strong, resilient, and united.   Nida tells her BASUFA members: “CARE really cares for us, we need to show to them that we are worthy of their care”. Nida is also extending her arms to reach out to members who previously left, to rejoin the association after all, they still share a common aspiration: to live a life out of poverty.   Read more about CARE's work in the Philippines.