Global Seed Savers and BASS Strengthen the Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Global Seed Savers and BASS Strengthen the Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

In a world grappling with climate change, biodiversity loss, and food security concerns, the preservation and exchange of traditional seeds have become increasingly crucial. Recognizing the significance of this mission, the GSS recently held a follow-up meeting with our partner organization, the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS). 

The meeting was a comprehensive endeavor, encompassing the review of BASS’s constitution and by-laws, the election of new officers, the creation of a new strategic plan, and the examination of financial reports. The gathering aimed to reinforce the foundation for sustainable agriculture and advance the joint pursuit of seed conservation.

Help us applaud BASS’ new elected Officers:

President – Annette Sinakay; Vice President – Letty Bisco; Secretary – Agnes Philip; Assistant Secretary – Leona Otas; Treasurer – Agnes Philip; Assistant Treasurer –  Prescila Santiago; Auditor – Jun Bayawa; Assistant Auditor – Conception Sotero; Public Relations Officer – Elizabeth Martin

This follow-up meeting between GSS and BASS marks a significant milestone in our collaborative journey toward preserving traditional seeds and promoting sustainable agriculture. By reviewing BASS’s constitution and by-laws, electing new officers, creating a new strategic plan, and examining financial reports, both organizations have laid a robust foundation for their future endeavors.

With a shared vision, strengthened governance, and a commitment to sustainable practices, Global Seed Savers and BASS are well-positioned to make a profound impact on the conservation of traditional seeds, biodiversity, and the livelihoods of farming communities in the Benguet region and beyond!

Visiting Farms and Planting Seeds of Community

Visiting Farms and Planting Seeds of Community

Efren Cabbigat, GSS Program Manager, and our partner farmer Fely Damilo (Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) Treasurer) traveled to many farms and met with a few local government officials in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya to discuss future partnerships! 

This was our follow up program from the Seed School we hosted in Solano in March of this year. Farmer Damilo is committed to organizing opportunities for local farmers and empowering farmer lives. She currently works in and around Bagahabag Solano and led this partnership outreach activity! 

Farmers who attended our Seed School in March of this year also joined Fely and Efren in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya! They traveled to four farms; one in Barangay San Luis, one in Bagahabag, one in Poblacion, and one in Bonifacio. 

They also visited three Local Government Units (LGU); Provincial Agriculture Office in Bayombong and met with Provincial Agriculturist Absalom Baysa, met with a focal person, Ms. Noralyn Busa for Organic Agriculture, and met with the Municipal Agriculture Office, Ms. Shirley Lumicao. 

Touring these farms and meeting with the local government officials is pivotal to our community building and outreach. GSS is rooted in our farmer led programs and community leadership, that is why it is important for us to continue to seek potential partners. 

Officer Shirley Lumicao, at the Municipal Agriculture Office in Solano, spoke of high interest in holding a seed school with the farmer organization that they support. She encouraged the group to include seed education in their upcoming farmer meeting by May. 

One of the farms, Jayson Gundran’s farm, is ready to prepare for a potential seed production area while the other three farms need more land preparation. This is critical to know as they prepare to meet again to discuss further inspirations and methods! 

Efren and Farmer Damilo are currently assessing and exploring Solano to seek more potential Local Government support and partnership. This meeting was an important first step in our goals to establish another seed saving group and eventually a seed library in Solano!

Farmer Letty Bisco On Her Experience As A Woman Farmer

Farmer Letty Bisco On Her Experience As A Woman Farmer

In celebration of International Women’s Month this 2023, we are honored to feature Letty Bisco on our blog. Known to the GSSP Community as “Manang Letty”, she is currently the President of the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS). Manang Letty was one of the students of the very first seed school ever conducted by Global Seed Savers Philippines (at the time, we were still known as Friends of ENCA). Along with her other classmates during the 2015 seed school, Manang Letty became a founding member of BASS. She has been instrumental in bringing seed-saving practices to several farms in the Cordilleras and is a beacon of hope for many who know her.

Continue on to the interview below to learn more about Letty’s experience as a woman farmer. 

Why is farming any different for women? In your family, did women farm or are you a first-generation woman farmer?

Traditionally the woman’s role in the family is working at home, and managing household chores. But since no one is taking the farming role, I took the initiative to continue working at my family farm. There are some difficulties for women to work in farms given the difference in physical strength compared to men.

I had to hire help for the heavy tasks on the farm which adds to the cost of farming. Being the woman owner of the farm though, I had the financial freedom to spend my own money. I also have the freedom and control over the farm and I don’t have to answer to a boss since I am the sole owner.

I realized this sense of financial freedom when I assumed responsibility as the sole breadwinner in the family due to the passing of my husband. I continued farming even in his absence.

Back in the early days of parenthood, I remember merely working in the household doing domestic chores. I was confined at home. It was a liberating experience when I did farming because I could choose to go out of the house anytime, and that I also have control over my earnings. I’m not a first generation farmer since my mother was a farmer too. These days, however, I am the only woman farmer in the family. I am also the only farmer since we don’t have any men farmers either. We all received education, which influenced my siblings to pursue other things other than farming. I thought, such a waste of our land if I don’t take on continuing farming. 

What do you consider a successful year at your farm? 

When the climate is stable, the harvest is good. When there are no calamities, the yield is optimal. I recall 2015 when the climate was favorable. There was rain all year-round and not a single major typhoon struck my farm. Because of that, production was high, and my farm sales were also high during that year. 

What, for you, is the next step for women farmers? 

Women farmers have to be open minded with agricultural innovations. They have to maintain their commitment to farming. Farming is not simple, you need to learn how to forecast what are best crops to plant, and when to plant particular crops. This is tedious and scientific which requires patience. I say it is scientific because you do trial and error. You need to experience and learn for you to get better results. 

If you could share one piece of advice with the future generation of women in agriculture, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of taking risks in experimenting and experiencing new things, because only in this way will you explore what are the best methods in farming. For future generations of women farmers, take hold of that concern and love for your family as this will guide you in your farming; this will translate into you finding ways to practice healthy and safe food production.
GSSP Supporter Dr. Ernie Amaranto Hosts Luncheon for BASS Farmers and Friends

GSSP Supporter Dr. Ernie Amaranto Hosts Luncheon for BASS Farmers and Friends

February of this year, Dr. Ernie Amaranto, one of Global Seed Saver’s most loyal supporters, came to Baguio City to visit Farmer Anita’s farm in Tublay, Benguet. During Dr. Amaranto’s visit, himself and our BASS partner farmers gathered together for a luncheon on February 11, 2023 at the Baguio County Club.

The luncheon was attended by more than 40 of our partner farmers and other GSS community members, many of whom are farmers from BASS and Tublay, two were officials from the Benguet Provincial Government, an individual from another NGO, several of our supporters, and our Former Executive Director Karen Hizola also paid a visit.

During the event, Dr. Amaranto, also fondly known in the GSSP community as “Gangster Tatay” as a heartwarming nickname, showed us a plaque for the Preserve Planet Earth which was awarded to the Mead Rotary Club. He attributes this award to the work of Global Seed Savers in the Philippines, which part of was funded by the Rotary District.

Some of the more notable events during the luncheon included a pivotal conversation with Atty. Reuben Paoad (who is the former mayor of Tublay and is currently working at the Benguet Provincial Capitol), Board Member of the Lone District of Benguet, and Chair of the Agriculture Committee. Atty. Paoad talked about how fewer edible plants there are presently in Benguet, and that we must now act to prevent this from getting worse. His words elicited a lot of questions from the audience, but we agreed to have a follow-up conversation to determine how we can collaborate in the future through a project related to food sovereignty.

More than anything, this event was an opportunity to reconnect with our partner farmers and supporters. It was a reminder of the huge work that lies ahead, and a testament of the great deed we can accomplish together as one community dedicated to seed and food sovereignty.  

New Connections: Balay Sofia Students Visit BASS Farmer Anita’s Family Farm!

New Connections: Balay Sofia Students Visit BASS Farmer Anita’s Family Farm!

Balay Sofia, the only Steiner-Waldorf School in the Cordilleras, has once again paid a visit to Annette’s farm! This time, the school brought with them about 35 students from Grades 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8.

This trip was part of the school curriculum and was meant to give children a glimpse of farm life. During the visit, the students and their teachers collected weeds and processed them for composting. They also planted peas, which at present, are now thriving. 

The kids got to interact with BASS farmers Anita and Elizabeth, and they also enjoyed their time with Anita’s farm pet mouse! 

While this visit is not yet an official program of Global Seed Savers, we are honored to have the opportunity to create these connections between farmers and the youth. We believe that through these interactions with farmers who painstakingly grow food in healthy and sustainable ways, these children will become the new generation of conscious consumers who will become advocates for sustainable food systems.

See More Photos of Balay Sofia Students Visiting Anette’s Farm!

Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) Goes On A Retreat

Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) Goes On A Retreat

I am Anita Paoad Sinakay, 41 years old, married, and a mother of one. I am presently residing with my family in Pinan Daclan, Tublay, where my farm is also located. I named my farm Nature Lovers Garden. It has an area of exactly one (1) hectare. 

I am affiliated with several farmer’s organizations like the Tublay Organic Farming Practitioners Agriculture-Cooperative (TOFPA-COOP), the Association of Farmers on Organic for the Rural Development of Daclan (AFFORD), the  Daclan Kafamilja Rural Improvement Club (DKRIC), and of course, the  Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS).

Our BASS retreat was held last September 10-11, 2022 at Paradiso Beach Resort in Aringay, La Union. We were there Saturday night so we just enjoyed our dinner together as one family and sleep right away to gain more strength for the next day. Early the next morning, at precisely five ‘o clock we went to the beach and started enjoying the coldness of the breeze and the warmth of the water in the sea. From there we experienced playing with the waves and enjoyed bonding while swimming at the same time telling stories, sharing experiences, jokes, etc. Then it was time to eat because everybody was starving.  

The thing that struck me most about the retreat is the group discussions wherein we talk about things to improve in the future that we should take seriously on seed saving. Being a member of the BASS, I realized that being committed to saving seeds must be sustained. I was really thinking about how to encourage younger farmers to go on farming and do seed saving for the future. 

I am glad that I’m part of the group (BASS) because we are learning something even just by talking with each other, sharing experiences, observing others’ attitudes, understanding others’ personalities, being considerate, etc. I learned how to adjust myself to them, forgetting past bad memories, forgiving others’ shortcomings, and thinking that everybody commits mistakes because we are just humans who are imperfect. 

Belonging to a group is more fun than being alone.  I think our goal during the retreat was attained.