The village of Manga in Kolambugan, Lanao Del Norte in Mindanao, in the southern Philippines was one of many towns devastated by fighting during a major upsurge in conflict in 2008.
Life for its residents hasn’t been easy since that time, but the women of Manga are doing their utmost to support their families’ continuing efforts to recover.
One of the major activities in which the women participate is the Manga Fisherfolks Multipurpose Cooperative, or MAFIMCO, where they grow mangrove seedlings. Founded in March 2011, MAFIMCO currently has a total of 105 members, 95 of whom are women.
“Mangrove planting was a project that we women initiated on our own. It was something we started planning in 2009, but we didn’t really know how to start it. We only were able to put our plan into action in 2011 when the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners came in to support us,” said MAFIMCO President Rosita Caracot.
WFP, with funding from the European Union, provided MAFIMCO’s members with rice to support their raising mangrove seedlings. The group received technical training from a local non-government agency in Lanao, after which they constructed a bamboo nursery and raised an initial 80,000 mangrove seedlings. They are now tending to a new batch of 30,000 seedlings planted in July 2011. All in all, the women have planted 120,000 mangrove plants since they established MAFIMCO.
Rosita explained that they wanted to plant mangroves to support their fishermen husbands. Because mangrove trees serve as sanctuaries for fish, this would eventually mean increased fish production and ultimately, better catch prospects for their husbands.
They also sell some of their surplus mangrove seedlings to government institutions such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the proceeds of which help sustain the cooperative.
“We’re happy because while we’re here at a cooperative meeting, our husbands are out catching fish, and also benefitting from the mangroves we planted,” the women of MAFIMCO said. “We feel fulfilment and happiness, being able to contribute to our family’s income. It also lessens the stress on our husbands, because now we can help them provide for the family,” they proudly added.
The women also highlighted that because of their mangrove enterprise, they are now more adventurous when it comes to initiating new projects. Knowing that they have their mangroves as a stable source of income gives them the necessary confidence to explore other possible income generating opportunities.
Some of the MAFIMCO women have also found additional boost to their livelihood through a collapsible solar dryer that they received thanks to another WFP programme promoting gender equality. They use the dryer to produce dried seaweed, which they sell for P44 per kilo.
Some of the money what they earn from the seaweed enterprise is being allotted for their community’s planned projects at the local elementary school, such as school fencing and school gardens. The solar dryer is also being rented out to parents who volunteer their time to support various school activities.