The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the deepening crisis of inequality in our country— the widening divide and neglect for rural areas and the agricultural sector, who oftentimes are the same. Peasant women especially have long borne the brunt of gender-based inequality, burdened with farmer exploitation while struggling as mothers to support the family with their meager income. Aiming to address these issues, DLSU Archers for UNICEF (AU) gave rise to SolYOUtion, a platform for the youth to raise awareness and provide possible solutions to prevalent issues affecting women and children.
A two-part event with the webinar held on May 8 and the case competition held on May 21 to 22, SolYOUtion 2021 was launched with the theme, “Visualizing opportunities for every Filipino.” Participants of the event listened and lent their voice to modern-day issues of poverty, access to education, health and well-being, and the environment.
The webinar kicked off with a talk titled Practicality and Passion: How We Act Towards Our Goals and Advocacies in Life by Darla Mae Hasan, a social media and freelancing coach. Narrating her experience with choosing to freelance over her previous nine-to-five, Hasan highlighted the importance of being willing to take on challenges and risk in a career while staying on a practical path. She emphasized that acting toward our goals and passion in life allows us to work on our advocacies for the common good.
The second speaker for the event was Lea Astrude Santiago, the owner and manager of Our Farm Republic Integrated Organic Farms (OFR). Discussing the stigma of agriculture as a poverty-stricken job where only men are deemed capable of working, Santiago shone the spotlight on empowered and resilient women as agri-preneurs. She takes pride in the trailblazing role of women farmers, from refining the different aspects and techniques under food production to mentoring farmers and agri-enthusiasts, and further involving the rest of the community through agri-tourism. “Agreecooltour is very much herstory,” she declared.
Having learned about the challenges faced by Filipino farmers, participants of the event came up with project proposals aligned with OFR’s goals for the farming community. The case competition began with a pre-elimination round, from which ten groups were selected to present their promising proposals to the panelists.
The first group, BLK21G, presented Kita Kits—recipe kits and fertilizer kits to be sold through various online platforms, which will ensure a steady stream of revenue for the farmers. Next came a proposal for a business incubator program by the ECOSOC Triplets, aiming to launch a karinderya, build-a-plant project, food delivery service, and a basket-weaving workshop for OFR. The third presenter was a group of students from Ateneo De Manila University, Tornips, who proposed an organizational makeover of OFR, through a three-part plan that consisted of providing livelihood consultation, creating a digital dashboard to guide farming operations, and online selling. Team Cely’s presented right after with Project S.E.E.D., a program spanning e-commerce, skills training and development, and farm tourism. Coming in as the fifth presenter was the Fantabulous Four with their Project Evergreen, composed of an e-commerce launch and a farmer training program.
Moving onward, JMP entertainment presented their project Transfarmers, which promises various creative programs from Farmlandia, a tourist farmscape, to Farming in your Area, a series of online workshops on organic farming. Seventh on the list was Team Archons with their mobile app Agri-Juan that aims to reshape the agricultural industry with readily available farming information. Next, FARMamahagi in the Pandemic was presented by the group Sheeeshhh, who explained plans for an agri-entrepreneur training program, a grocery food truck, e-commerce platform and a video series highlighting agricultural work. Team Apollo came up next with LIFT: Love and Integrity, bringing Food Through Technology, a proposal for a virtual restaurant that will serve OFR’s farm-to-table-products. Finally, Team Rocket finishes off the semi-finals with RISE: Reinforce, Innovate, Secure, Expand, a recovery plan dedicated to establishing a support structure for Filipino farmers through innovative techniques, in-farm training, and agri-tourism.
From the 10 case proposals, only five were chosen to advance onto the finals round: Apollo, Tornips, Fantabulous Four, Team Rocket, and JMP Entertainment. The teams prepared a fast-pitch presentation for a six-month comprehensive program on the second day of the case competition.
Apollo kicked off the lineup of presentations with their project, Greener Pastures—an accelerator and incubator program with modular activities and workshops that promised a future for agricultural entrepreneurship. Second to present was Team Rocket with their Connect, Access, Reinforce, Educate program, which aimed to reduce the gender gap problem for female farmers by providing livelihood resources and training that would sustain the well-being of their families. Further shining the light on women in agriculture, Tornips presented their ILAAW framework, a learning system designed to develop women farmers’ managerial and marketing skills.
Fourth presenter for the afternoon was the Fantabulous Four with their Project Perennial, a three-phased plan that starts with implementing gender-inclusive policies and training and integrating a purposive social media platform for OFR. Rounding up the roster of outstanding proposals, JMP Entertainment brought to the table Kilos-Babae, a multifaceted program that primarily aims to push women into leadership roles and a marketing mindset, as well as initiate an advocacy campaign for women farmers.
That’s a wrap!
The showdown of ideas that afternoon came to an end with the announcement of SolYOUtion’s top three winners. Coming up as second runner-up was JMP Entertainment and first runner-up was Tornips, each receiving cash prizes worth P2,500 and P5,000 respectively. Finally, bagging a P10,000 cash prize was the Fantabulous Four, champions of the SolYOUtion 2021 Case Competition.
Wrapping up the past eventful weeks, AU President Aleesa Advincula left everyone with a message to foster innovation and encourage one another to take action. SolYOUtion ended on an inspiring note to continue providing a platform and opportunities for fellow Filipinos who deserve more empowering opportunities to bridge the gap.