“Women hold up half the sky” is the slogan that synthesizes the call and struggle for women’s  rights.  This may be an understatement.  In spite of the patriarchal machismo culture the womenfolk has demonstrated in many unproclaimed ways that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.  Associated with that truism, the world’s women literally nurture the bones and flesh of  humankind.  The milk of their breast is the fountain of human life.  World Food Day is the nativity of every child of the world.

In Davao City, on a Saturday that falls on October 17,  the celebration  of  World Food Day highlights the feats of women farmers in the area of food production.  The womenfolk encompassed by the women’s organizations that adopt organic agriculture is also at the forefront in the care and concern for proper diet.

Isn’t it fitting that they, the womenfolk, should be the first warriors in the line against the forces that  make a mockery of the richness and abundance of our resources for food and food production?   Yes, they constitute the avantgarde in the promotion and practice of  organic agriculture in the rural peripheries of Davao City.  They are the dwellers in the outskirts of Davao City which by reasonable standards can still be considered rural farming communities.

Organizing themselves into groups that uphold and pursue the scientific methods of food  production, these women farmers spearhead projects and activities all for the advancement of food production via the road of organic farming.  They have journeyed long from the pots and pans in the households to the grassblades and thorns in the fields, their struggles have always been in the agenda of upholding women’s rights and uplifting the lot of the  marginalized sectors in the social spectrum.  They are  by the very nature of their ecological concern and social awareness virtual activists championing the integrity of the environment and the emancipation of the  female race from the bondage of poverty and  discrimination.  True heroines are they as reliable stewardesses of the planet Earth.

A few kilometers away from  downtown Davao City, a good half a kilometer walk from the highway along  footpaths skirting fishponds and rice paddies,  is an unassuming social hall no larger than a rural village classroom. This is the Imulayan Center,  owned and maintained by Metsa Foundation, Inc., an NGO that has long been in the thick of the struggle of women”s rights and  promotion of organic agriculture.  It looks more of a rest cottage, and that’s why it came to be called Imulayan  [ pahulayan ] where one can lull himself to a dream of ‘organic’ foods. It was here the 19 organizations of  women farmers of Davao  converged to celebrate World Food Day.

The celebration was capped by  lectures of  two scientists in the areas of environmental concerns and how these are intimately connected to the integrity of food production.  The first lecture was given by Prof. Kim Gargar who disclosed the  rich natural endowments of wealth and rare blessings of our country and how these are exploited and despoiled by unscrupulous foreign and domestic capitalists  at the expense of the Filipino  nation.  The great irony is the inverse ratio between these incalculable richness to the conditions of extreme poverty of the people.

In relation to this,  Dr Aleyla de Cadiz of  UP-Mindanao delved on the harms done  by Climate Change.  She explained the chain of causes of this alarming phenomenon.  She lamented  the fact  that the deterioration of  the environment  is  humankind’s  own  making, whose irresponsible and abusive exploitation of  Nature has brought about  global warming.  Special mention was made of carbon dioxide  emissions to the atmosphere  as a result of fossil fuels in economic activities, especially in advanced industrial countries in the West.. And so,  she said,  it is humankind that is paying in terms of disasters—mostly the underdeveloped countries in the world.  She stressed the  imperative task of  all peoples around the globe to contribute to the healing of Mother Nature.

On her part, the founder and head of Metsa Foundation, Ms. Anita Morales,  zeroed in on how  the women organizations have done concrete achievements towards ameliorating the plight of their communities by their successes in organic farming.  She felt that the women farmers of Davao City have concretely  contributed to the  production of healthy foods, but called for more efforts in this direction, as part of their role in the re-shaping of a more safe and humane environment .

Their prophetic role in the shaping of a new world  is encapsulated in the following versified tribute to their kind –

Hail Ye, Women of Dawn Arising

Hail ye  noble women of the dawn arising!

You’ve gleaned the seeds of a new morning.

Like buds that fold their petals in the night,

You’ve endured the pain of darkness and the cold.

The shadows of night quicken’d your heartbeats,

The chilling cold freshen’d the budding thought

That keeps the promise of endless tomorrows—

From the moment you held the future in your fist.

“Damn the lies of inputs that grow false outputs!

Damn the empty sacks of  bountiful harvests!”

Yes, you’ve thrown away the garbage of deceit,

Embraced nature’s law of freedom and truth.

You’ve dared to cut off the sweetened tongue

Of the despoilers of the wealth of the earth!

Brave words that spring from a woman’s heart,

You’ve wielded the gentle weapon of your will!

By the sway of your dream and the might of

Your decision you have daringly changed the color

Of your life and the shape of your community.

Nothing matches the power of your womanhood!

Noble women of the glowing hue of dawn!

You’ve carved a vision of an ideal farming village,

When by your hands, flooding tears and sweat,

You chose to tread the path of organic agriculture.

Hail, toiling women of the farm!  Yours be the glory

Of the unsung heroines of history!  And yours be

The honor of the vanguards who blazed the trail

Of organic farming long envisioned for posterity!

Onward shall you tirelessly plod the footpaths

Of the future! And the bins and cottages shall bear

The weight of bounteous fruits your children and

Your children’s children shall enjoy in their days.

Hooray!  Hooray to the toiling women of the farm!

Hooray to the vision they have sculpted for history!

Hooray to organic farming – sweet dream’s legacy

Nurtured by the gentle hearts of the female race!

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