Date Published: March 4, 2021
All Juanas in society are indeed trailblazers and forerunners of change so much so that not even a pandemic can stop them from exploring new opportunities for new sources of income.
For the Pantad Women Fisherfolk Association in Dumalinao, Zamboanga del Sur, COVID-19 paved the way for them to venture into the production of seaweed crackers as well as other local delicacies such as nilubid and binangkal with seaweed as one of the primary ingredients.
DA-PRDP staff holds nilubid they buy from Pantad Women Fisherfolk Association. (Photo by RPCO IX)
Seaweeds have been a main source of income for these women and their families. Last year was a real struggle for them because aside from the restrictions from the lockdown, their seaweeds farms also suffered from “ice-ice disease” which threatened their main livelihood.
It was in the midst of the lockdown that the association president Aurelia Ursal took a stand for their members by making the decision not to stop operations even when the pandemic started to affect everything last year. Instead, they strategized on how to continue their operations.
“I thought, we can’t just stay at home and do nothing,” said Ursal. “So, I decided not to stop from conducting meetings with my members. In order to observe the COVID-19 safety protocols we divided our members so there would be less people and we can observe social distancing.”
Ursal set a schedule for her members who would work alternately in preparing their seaweed products from cooking to packing.
Last year, Pantad Women Fisherfolk Association also joined the Department of Agriculture’s Kadiwa on Wheels in Pagadian City and Zamboanga City where they introduced their seaweed products to the market.
Their current market for nilubid, which is like deep-fried twisted doughnuts, are the sari-sari stores, and the seaweed crackers are usually based on order. In fact this coming March 15, they will be delivering 1000 packs of nilubid in Davao City. They are also planning to produce more seaweeds crackers soon.
Seaweeds crackers sold during Kadiwa on Wheels last year. (Photo RPCO IX)
The women’s group has come a long way from their humble beginnings in 2015. According to Ursal, who has been the president of the association since then, they tried different enterprises but their venture on seaweeds has been the successful one so far.
Now, on top of making and selling seaweeds crackers, they are also able to start their business on buying and selling raw dried seaweeds (RDS), and retailing of agri-fishery and veterinary supplies and materials with the capital they got from their savings.
According to their treasurer Lilia Tejana, the association already saved at least P200,000 from the association’s 20 percent share every time a member sells raw dried seaweeds.
In August 24, 2018, the association launched the DA-PRDP assisted Seaweeds Production and Marketing Enterprise worth P3.45 million which was allotted for the expansion of their existing seaweeds farms through purchasing 103,000 kilograms of seaweeds seedling plus needed materials for planting and production of seaweeds.
Aside from DA-PRDP, other agencies like the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Trade and Industry also provided them with other support.
DA-PRDP ensures the provision of assistance to women through enterprise development and business aspects of farming, post-harvest handling and processing as it acknowledges the bigger role played by women in the field of agriculture especially during these times of crisis. (JOY M. MONTECALVO)