This year’s Outstanding Rural Women is Ms. Evelyn Alegado – Grace of Brgy. Louis, Candelaria, Zambales (Region 3).

Evelyn personally overseas the management of the three-hectare farm where they produce rice, mango and vegetable. An agro-forest area was also established within the farm, where cashew, tamarind and ginger are intercropped with forest tress. Harvested fruits are processed into snacks to add value.

In 2017, from all of these, she earned a gross income of about ₱3 million with 49.91% return of investment.

The farm adopts good agricultural practices (GAD) and is compliant with the requirements of the food and drugs administration. Its operations ensure quality products and services with sustainability, and environment production through measures that apply adaptation to climate change and other emerging conditions.

Grace was a regular companion of her father in doing farm activities starting at 4:00 in the morning, at a young age of five. She was not able to finish her education due to her family’s financial limitations. But this did not hinder her to become a productive member of the community.

She worked in various financial institutions such as the Farm Systems Development Corporation Area Development Bank and the Mother Rita Multi-Purpose Cooperative. When she retired, she established the Green Thumb Agri- Products with the support of the family.

Being actively engaged in various community works, she plays a vital role in forest production and livelihood development.

For Grace, women empowerment is providing opportunities for women to grow and develop in all aspects of life. She considers herself empowered, acknowledging her capability to share her skills and knowledge to other members of the community.

Grace now in her senior years, continues to inspire many young women to engage in agricultural work and be an agent of change.

Evelyn Alegado – Grace will receive cash price of ₱150,000 and additional price in the form of project or interventions such as production inputs, farm machinery or postharvest facility and others that are available in the DA-RFO programs.

Second Placer, Evangeline Asistado – Novela of Purok 3, Cadalian, Baguio District, Davao City (Region 1) will receive ₱100,000 and Third Placer Josefina Gandal – Artiaga of Bulawan Sr. Lupi, Camarines Sur (Region 5).

Consolation prizes of ₱10,000 each will be awarded to Evelyn Agtarap – Duldulao of Poblacion Luna Apayao (CAR); Franchisco Samejo – Ramalos of Brgy. Tapel Gonzalo, Cagayan (Region 2). and Susana Villanca – Arcenal of Tinago, Talisay, Daanbantayan, Cebu (Region 1).

DA-GAD’s (Department of Agriculture – Gender and Development Program) Search for Outstanding Rural Woman or Gawad Parangal sa Katangi-tanging Kababaihan sa Pagsasaka at Pangigisda sa Kanayunan aims to give due recognition to rural women who have shown excellence in their fields of endeavor.

These are the women who have outstanding accomplishments in developing the agriculture and fishery sectors and made significant impacts in the rural areas. The search highlights the success stories of the awardees to serve as inspiration and models of women empowerment.

From the 15 regional winners, the national technical committee and the board of judges have chosen the top six candidates to receive trophies, plaques, and total of
₱355,000 cash prizes. Additional incentives of ₱25,000 shall be given to the agricultural extension worker of the national winner.
The nominees were adjudged according to three major criteria: A) Contribution to food security/agricultural and fishery development; productivity, profitability of economic activities, and quality of products/services (30%); B) Contribution to sustainable development: efforts to adapt to climate change/emerging condition, and innovativeness/creativity (30%); and C) Impact to rural development/use of environment friendly technologies: promotion of women empowerment in family life, excellence in character/ability to handle difficulties and contribution to local economy (40%).

The nationwide search headed by DA-GAD Focal Point System Chairperson and Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn Laviña, is being implemented since 2003, pursuant to the provision of the women in the Magna Carta of Women (MCW) for the DA to empower the marginalized sector. The nominee should be a farmer or fisher whose land holding is not mare than three hectares. (By Estrella Z. Gallardo)