Saturday, November 12, 2016

While changing the narrative of farming in PH, Agrea's Cherrie Atilano receives top awards

Cherrie Atilano is the President and Founding Farmer of AGREA, an innovative social enterprise based in the island of Marinduque. It aims to help eradicate poverty in farming and fishing communities, to alleviate the negative effects of climate change, natural disasters and to help establish food security in the countryside and in the Philippines as a whole.
Cherrie in the middle of a school gardens program in cooperation with DepEd Marinduque.

In December 2015, among many other programs, AGREA partnered with the Asia New Zealand Foundation to host five New Zealand social entrepreneurs in the food and beverage sector. The aim was to understand how the agriculture value chain operates in the Philippines and explore potential partnerships and new markets. The five met with producers in Marinduque, Filipino counterparts in Manila and the New Zealand Embassy in Manila. This 10-day programme linked with one of AGREA’s pillars of intercultural collaboration.


AGREA team and New Zealand social entrepreneurs join the Duyay farming community in planting cacao seedlings on Duyay Hill. Photo: Rachel Espejo

Just recently AGREA secured a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Education office in Marinduque to implement a school gardens program – aptly named The Garden Classroom – to over 180 schools in Marinduque. The aim of The Garden Classroom is to build or develop school gardens into centres for learning across all subjects. The garden can be used in mathematics, science, english and physical education. Additionally, the produce will be harvested and used in school feeding programs – this is both a health impact (access to nutritious food) and an economic one (saving costs from buying produce for meals). As most of these students are children of farmers and fishermen AGREA hopes to reach the next generation with a love for farming and caring for the environment.

Another recently launched program is AGREA’s system of rice intensification (SRI) training to four rice-farming communities. In the Philippines, rice is seen as a staple in all meals. According to IRRI, in 2013 (the most recent year available), average rice consumption was at 119.4kg per year per capita. Despite rice being a major crop in farms, the Philippines has been classed as the largest importer of rice in the world. Marinduque itself is also a heavy importer of rice, largely from Vietnam.

Working with the Department of Agrarian Reform, AGREA is pushing to see SRI change this norm (of importing rice). AGREA has consulted with two of the four rice farming communities and consistently the feedback is more technologies and training is needed to increase yield and make rice farming more viable. Riding on current waves to support local produce, AGREA is aiming towards rice sufficiency for Marinduque but also supplying organic and delicious rice varieties to the urban market. - AGREA

For more on Agrea's activities, click here.


AGREA staff and volunteers with Duyay Farming Cooperative – following a morning consultation session discussing issues within the Duyay farming community. Photo: Cherrie Atilano

Cherrie Atilano: TOWNS awardee yesterday, Rappler Earth Mover today

She was awarded as one of The Outstanding Women in the Nations Service on November 10, 2016. The next day Cherrie was named ‘Earth Mover 2016’ during Rappler’s Annual Move Awards.

Watch Cherrie's acceptance speech here

Cherrie is a Magna cum Laude of the VSU Agriculture program. She graduated in 2007 and was one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines a few years ago. Cherrie was granted a two-year Fullbright scholarship and the opportunity to pursue her studies in the US. But after seeing the plight of our farmers when she volunteered at the GK Enchanted Garden in Angat, Bulacan, she gave up the well-sought after scholarship for a chance to help her countrymen.

Cherrie joined Gawad Kalinga and helped put up the Agricool initiative to empower farmers by teaching through inclusive decision making, and by equipping them with the necessary farming skills. 

Today, she is the CEO of AGREA, a company she founded to promote the “Cultivation of human beings through livelihood that is indigenous to the land”. In her own words: “to make agriculture smart, cool, sexy, and humane”. - Amaranth/VSU

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