International Women's Day has been observed for more than a century since it began as a special day to promote equal rights, including suffrage, for women. The story of women's struggle belongs to the collective efforts of all who care about equality. At this moment in time, the challenge of access to basic needs—such as safe food—continues to be a challenge that is faced head on by many, especially by women who are working in the field of agriculture to grow food that is good for the planet and people.

As we commemorate International Women’s Day, it is fitting that we also honor the extraordinary women who actively promote and practice ecological agriculture—women who nurture us with good and healthy food despite the challenges. Next time you click and post online what you had for your meal, take time to thank these women (and men) who grew the food for you.

Praxedes “Baby” Embalsado, farmerBaby Embalsado

Praxedes “Baby” Embalsado is a farmer based in Cebu, and an advocate of a organic farming as a part of GMO-Free Cebu. Following the devastation brought by Typhoon Hagupit in December, she volunteered to source organically grown vegetable seeds from farmers in Cebu and delivered the seeds herself, all the way to Dolores, Eastern Samar.  She shared to farmers affected by Typhoon Hagupit, not just the seeds but how to grow the different seeds and care for them.

“Filipinos need to have access to diverse food and diet that include naturally nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables all year-round, for food and nutrition security. It is therefore important that communities be able to grow their own food and augment the food supply in areas affected by typhoons,” explains Praxedes. “This is where ecological farming becomes more valuable as it involves having diversity in farms and in home gardens which is a way to climate proof agriculture and ensure diverse sources of food.”

Fiona Jade Lim, businesswoman, urban farmerFiona jade Lim

It was on November 2012 when Fiona set up her first edible window farm outside her bedroom with the help of friends itching to experiment growing herbs vertically.

Today, aside from having her own farm, she works closely with businesses and help them start their own garden as a part of her involvement with Youth for a Liveable Cebu, an organization that encourages collaboration among all stakeholders and bridge the experts, the volunteers, and proponent school/business/barangay to initiate projects built on the concept of sustainability.

Promoting ecological agriculture has always been a priority for Fiona. She suggests, “Anything close to our stomach is a human survival issue. Food is a basic need and right of every human being. We have been cut off on how we grow, prepare, and consume our food at its truest form and essence. We have become lazy and too mechanistic in the way we live, work, and play. Perhaps it's time to re-establish that connection.”

Margie Lacanilao, farmerMargie Lacanilao

Margie Lacanilao is a farmer and member of Sarilaya, a sustainable agriculture and development women’s group, in Palayan City, Philippines, whose goal is to to reclaim the farmland that has been lost to chemical pesticides and fertilizers, by training rural community women the methods of organic farming.

Being an organic vegetable farmer Margie, stands in opposition to genetically engineered (GE) crops such as ‘golden’ rice, a GE rice variety that has been developed by the biotech industry to produce vitamin A, which is being hyped as a high-tech, quick-fix solution to vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in developing countries.

She argues: “We are against ‘golden’ rice because we are a community of organic vegetable farmers and we may lose our livelihoods if ‘golden’ rice came to market. People may no longer buy the Vitamin A rich vegetables we produce if ‘golden’ rice was available”. With the hype around ‘golden’ rice, people will think that ‘golden’ rice can substitute for the vitamin rich vegetables.

Margie also expresses concern about certification for their organic produce and their right to produce the rice seeds they want. “We are also concerned about ‘golden’ rice seeds contaminating our organic rice. GE seeds are not natural, they are manipulated.”

Women Farmers #MakeItHappen!

Happy International Women's Day!

Empowered women farmers like Praxedes, Fiona, and Margie help us make our communities healthy and support environmental integrity. Ecological agriculture is never a long shot if we continue supporting farmers like them. They play a significant role in shaping not just the future of agriculture, but also the future of humanity.