Sustaining food security and sovereignty through organic farming remains the aspiration of Kababaihang Nagtataglay ng Bihirang Lakas (KNBL), a women’s group in Davao City.
KNBL empowers others to shift to organic farming in their small plots of land and actively participate in the advocacy for food security. The federation of fourteen organizations with a total membership of around 600, continue to broaden their reach amidst the forces of corporate agriculture and rapid urbanization.
The women of KNBL are direct participants in the production of organic vegetables, fruits, root crops, rice, corn, soybeans, fish and livestock which help in providing sustenance and added income to their families. To some of these women, their involvement with KNBL and their shift to organic farming, have been a great help economically. These women serve as role models and inspiration to others who struggle to meet ends meet and to provide the needs of their families.
The organization is continuously studying and trying ways how to earn more from their produce by selling their goods collectively Livelihood projects include gardening, livestock production, Sunday market, and bag-making are held to help women gain knowledge on different possible sources of income. Some products of these projects are sold in the market.
Going further than being direct participants in farming, the women of KNBL are also advocates for safe organic food production. The organization holds seminars about how to plant without the use of fertilizers, sprays and other farming inputs to increase awareness regarding adverse environmental effects of chemical farming inputs. These trainings are held with the help of other organizations such as METSA Foundation and MASIPAG.
In line with their principles, they successfully campaigned against aerial spraying by corporate plantations and against field trials of the genetically modified Bt talong (eggplant). KNBL also pushed for the passage of a local legislation, the Organic Agricultural Ordinance and its implementing rules. They did this with other people’s organizations and NGOs in Davao city.
The campaign against Bt talong field trials is a milestone in KNBL’s struggle. The Bt talong field trials were part of the University of the Philippines – Los Banos’ (UPLB) project on agricultural biotechnology, using technology of Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company) on local variety eggplants. KNBL asserted that the technology was totally unnecessary, as their organic practice showed that the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) could be repelled by companion plants and out-populated by friendly insects with crop diversification and a properly balanced environment.
After several hearings on the pros and cons, the Davao City government ordered the destruction of the Bt talong field trials for violation of standards set by the Bureau of Plant Industry requiring the conduct of public consultations. The city officials were not convinced that the field trials were held in a controlled environment, as the site was only protected by barbed wire.
In addition to the abolition of field-testing of Bt talong, aerial spraying was stopped through the passage of an ordinance. KNBL’s advocacy and campaigns have been a significant factor that made these victories possible. These campaigns also resulted in increased awareness on the effects and benefits of organic farming and agriculture versus that of chemical farming.
Ultimately, the campaigns and projects of the women of KNBL are part of the struggle for food sovereignty. KNBL acts according to the knowledge and beliefs that, one, that they can only achieve food sovereignty when their right to produce healthy food is enshrined in law and in practice. Secondly, when they are able to assert their right to practice their own organic agriculture system despite the proliferation of chemical farms and large agribusiness. Thirdly, a step towards food sovereignty is when they are able to have their own viable space in the consumer market, despite the deluge of cheap imported food.