From City Dweller to PhilGAP-Certified Farmer: Mirasol Abalora’s Growing Success
LEYTE, PHILIPPINES – An impressive achievement for any farmer in the Philippines is obtaining Philippine Good Agricultural Practices (PhilGAP) certification. For Mirasol Abalora, who only began her farming journey 4 years ago, this accomplishment is nothing short of remarkable.
Taking the Leap into Vegetable Farming
Until just a few years ago, Mirasol, a 55-year-old key farmer with East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT) Philippines, was a lifelong city dweller. But after her husband, Celestino Abalora, inherited a hectare of land in his home province of Leyte, the couple decided to move there from Bulacan.
The land was idle, aside from some coconut trees, and Mirasol and Celestino began to explore ways to make it productive. With little knowledge of vegetable farming, they looked for any available training that local governments or organizations had to offer.
The Developing Vegetable Value Chains to Meet Evolving Market Expectations in the Philippines project, with EWS-KT partners Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and Applied Horticultural Research, came at an opportune moment for them.
Through EWS-KT, Mirasol and Celestino were introduced to Good Agricultural Practices and guided through the extensive process to obtain PhilGAP certification for their farm, achieving this milestone in 2022. PhilGAP certification assures customers and wholesale buyers that the farm’s produce and products are of the highest quality, are safe to eat, and have been grown under conditions that protect workers and the environment.
PhilGAP Certification Leads to Award
Having a PhilGAP-certified farm has paved the way for many opportunities for Mirasol. She was eligible to compete for the Most Innovative Women Entrepreneur, initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and secured 6th place out of 11 contenders in Region VIII. Her entry, her very own chili-garlic oil, is one of her PhilGAP-certified products. Recognizing her accomplishments and potential, DOST VIII will be providing funding for improvements to her farm.
Mirasol has also been invited to speak at several forums to share her experiences as a PhilGAP-certified farmer and to encourage more farmers to have their farm certified. Having a PhilGAP-certified farm elevates the quality of the farm’s products and opens the door to better opportunities in new markets. For instance, bigger buyers, like institutions and large supermarkets, require the vegetables they purchase to be PhilGAP certified.
Finding Food Security and Entrepreneurial Empowerment
Achieving desired results looks different depending on the goals of each key farmer. For Mirasol and her husband, this meant ensuring food security by providing healthy meals from their own farm. They also gained an additional source of income from their vegetables. In addition, they were able to contribute food supplies to their community, which is moving toward self-sufficiency and aiming to become a vegetable basket for the region.
Most importantly, Mirasol unleashed her entrepreneurial skills, making her realize the essential role she plays in leading livelihood efforts, especially in ensuring a food supply for her family and the community while diversifying farm income.
Empowerment for Mirasol also comes in the form of sharing knowledge with others. In addition to speaking engagements, Mirasol joins EWS-KT Knowledge Transfer Specialist Melody Atanoza in the field to discuss her learnings and experiences with other farmers and assist with farmer training and hands-on activities. This inspires her fellow farmers to see the value of acquiring as well as sharing knowledge with the community.
“Slowly but Surely” Pays Off
Throughout their farming journey, Mirasol and Celestino have always said, “Bahalag hinay, basta kanunay” (“Slowly but surely”). This mantra represents their dedication to strive harder and push a little further.
They proved the power of this approach again recently, as their farm has now gained certification as a coconut-based Learning Site for Agriculture by the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Training Institute. This certification also comes with funding for farm improvements, such as a training area in which to teach other farmers.
Success has never been tastier than when it comes from one’s own hard work, as demonstrated by Mirasol and Celestino.