Zonta Club of Makati and Environs



July 9, 2020

“Farming is the most lucrative industry because feeding people is the most sustainable business.” These are the empowering words of Agrea CEO, president, and founding farmer Cherie Atilano as she encourages the youth in getting into farming in the ‘new normal’ brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atilano is no stranger in the agriculture scene when she founded Agrea, the woman-led, award-winning, Marinduque-based social enterprise which aims to help eradicate poverty in farming and fishing families, alleviate the effects of climate change, and help establish food security in the Philippines. The Agrea program More Love for Women Farmers was launched on the island of Siargao, making it the first women-led agriculture island in the Philippines. Impressed yet? This young Filipina was appointed by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres as lead member of the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement whose goal is to ensure a world free from malnutrition by 2030. The agriculture champion has garnered tons of recognition for her work like awards for 10 Outstanding Students of the Philippines, Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum, and Young Global Laureate 2014 to name a few.

In a recent online talk with Zonta Club of Makati and Environs, Cherrie discusses why the agribusiness sector is now an essential industry since food has become more of a vital necessity. She also points out on the importance of investing in women and their initiatives in the agriculture industry.

“If the farmer is poor, so is the whole country.” This Polish proverb has always struck Cherrie to the core. In the Philippines, there exists the biggest irony of them all. Where farmers toil under the sun day in and day out, where their homes are surrounded by rows and rows of crops of every kind, there exist empty stomachs and undernourished bodies. While the country gets a fill at the dining table, farmers are left to do with a minuscule meal of rice and a bit of viand that will be shared with their families. No one is more bothered by this reality than Atilano. Filipino farmers are often neglected and given little credit for the work they put in. These farmers are one of the many unsung heroes in the country. Though they work for hours on end, they barely make enough income to make ends meet.

When Luzon was placed under lockdown last March to contain the spread of the coronavirus, roads to and from Metro Manila were sealed off, including farmer’s routes to the capital city, making food access became limited. What worsened the farmers’ woes are the many produce that rotted in the fields during the first few weeks of March which is harvest season. Cherrie emphasizes that getting into agribusiness will help solve the farming problems experienced during and after quarantine in the new normal, and from a bigger picture, will strengthen the country’s food system.

The new normal demands us to be more resilient (as) individuals, and growing our food makes us resilient in the process. “The moment you grow your food and knowing where it is coming from becomes a power that shows you can live and survive.” shares Atilano.

Get to know this self-professed farmer and her strongly-driven company Agrea, whose beliefs and goals will bring to farmers a life and respect they truly deserved.

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