Farmer Empowerment: Strongest Foundation of Purposeful Partnerships

October 10, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

In photo: Farmers and Staff of MASIPAG along with Caritas Dalat from Vietnam in the fields of MASIPAG National Back-up Farm. September 2023

Among many partnerships forged through different learning exchange platforms, farmer empowerment seems to be the most sound indicator of measuring the success of such engagements. As such, MASIPAG and Caritas Da Lat put farmer empowerment at the center of its efforts, conscientiously creating space and capacitating  farmers to lead their development. 

MASIPAG, a farmer-led network of people’s organizations, scientists and non-government organizations in the Philippines, aims to improve the quality of small farmers. Caritas Da Lat of Vietnam, on the other hand, is an organization that works through the principles of the Catholic Church, actively promoting social charity among its partner communities. Despite being in different countries, Filipino and Vietnamese farmers both fell victim to the vicious cycle and deceit of the Green Revolution which  led to the loss of many traditional rice varieties and heavy dependence on chemical-based farming inputs. 

Buds of meaningful collaboration

In photo: Dr. Chito Medina, MASIPAG member scientist during his visit in Caritas Dalat’s community partners in Vietnam. May 2022

Guided by the People-Led Development (PLD) approach,  the Ma Danh-K’Tip group(1) through Caritas Da Lat’s support, conducted Participatory Action Research (PAR) in March 2021 to identify the community’s problems and needs. As a result, the Ma Danh-K’Tip group determined agroecology as a possible solution to multi-dimensional problems being faced by the farmers. Meanwhile, MASIPAG’s experience in agroecology, fueled by the small farmers’ strong determination of recapturing their central role in food production, is being recognized by the neighboring countries.  

MASIPAG and Caritas Da Lat’s first engagement was facilitated by Regional Learning Exchange Platform (RLEP) in 2017. Sharing the same vision of promoting agroecology, both organizations planned ways forward on how they could maximize the said collaboration, starting off from the dreams and strengths of Ma Danh-K’Tip farmers. 

In May 2022, Dr. Charito “Chito” Medina, MASIPAG member scientist, visited Caritas Da Lat’s community partners, namely Dung K’No, Ma Danh-K’Tip, and Dinh Trang Hoa. The meaningful exchange captured the changes in farming and food system directly from the experience and the perspective of the communities. The farmers’ eagerness to improve their practices was evident as the communities started to diversify their coffee farms by intercropping fruit trees, such as  avocado, durian, and jackfruit. 

Strengthening synergy for impactful change

Driven by the high spirits, especially of Ma Danh-K’Tip farmers, it did not take long before MASIPAG, through Leo XL Fuentes (MASIPAG Mindanao Regional Coordinator) and Virginia ‘nay Virgie’ Nazareno (farmer, MASIPAG Board of Trustees Chairperson) visited Da Lat, Vietnam in April 2023. The exchange focused on deepening the agriculture context and experiences of Da Lat farmers, as well as their organizational capacities. Nay Virgie, meanwhile, shared how their organization was able to further improve their capacities by practicing the MASIPAG way of life, with the conscious effort of emphasizing the context of Filipino farmers. 

The visit was concluded with an orientation on MASIPAG Trial Farm Strategy; highlighting how such efforts, including seed banking and exchange, are instrumental in organizational strengthening and achieving seed and food security/sovereignty.  Ma Danh-K’Tip and Dagroup established their trial farm with the objective of retrieving more traditional rice varieties in the local communities.

In photo: farmers from Ma Danh-K’Tip and Da Nhinh, Vietnam in the fields of MASIPAG National Back-Up Farm. September 2023

In September 2023, farmers from Ma Danh-K’Tip and Da Nhinh 1(2) villages finally visited the Philippines to witness how MASIPAG farmers practice Trial Farm and Diversified and Integrated Farming Systems.  Internalizing the importance of recovering traditional rice varieties and practicing sustainable agriculture beyond the benefits of good yield, they eagerly participated in the discussions which they hoped to share with other farmers back in Dalat.

The group shared the success and challenges they experienced in establishing the Trial Farm; had a hands-on exercise on rice data collection, concoction-making, and emasculation and pollination as initial stages of breeding. They visited the established trial farm of Lower Balandasan Farmers Association Inc (LBFAI) and Lauro Diego’s diversified and integrated farm to further discuss how the organization collectively maintains trial farm, and maximize farm components, consequently.  During their three-day visit, Ma Danh-K’Tip and Da Nhinh 1 farmers expressed their high hopes of developing into farmer-scientists through recapturing local resources and knowledge. 

Intensifying communities’ resilience in future collaborations

Ma Danh-K’Tip and Da Nhinh 1 farmers, Caritas Da Lat and MASIPAG recognize the realities on ground. While agroecology, as an approach, aims to address various challenges in agriculture, it is only through farmer empowerment that the communities can ensure sustainability of local initiatives and collective efforts in promoting agroecology. 

With this in mind, fruitful collaborations are expected to continue in the future; building on the aspirations and strengths of Ma Danh-K’Tip and Da Nhinh farmers. 

(1) Ma Danh-K’Tip group is a Churu community group who are living in Ma Danh village and whose production land is located in K’Tip area of B’La village, Ta Nang commune, Duc Trong district in Da Lat, Vietnam. 

(2)  Da Nhinh 1 belongs to the MNong community