Philippines: Cash Transfers Provide Flexible Options for Women

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Analyn at their community garden in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur. © WFP/Faizza Tanggol

As WFP increasingly uses cash-based assistance in the Philippines, women farmers like Analyn are able to grow their own produce and choose what to buy with the money they earn.

Home-grown change

Under the heat of the sun, Analyn inspects the cabbage patch that she planted a few months ago together with 39 other women in their communal garden in the village of Paling in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur, Philippines.

Aside from cabbage, the women have planted other high-value vegetables including pumpkin, eggplant, and bitter gourd in their small 20-square meter garden, as part of the WFP cash-based project in Mindanao to assist communities in rebuilding their lives after the decades-long conflict.

Conflict and displacement leads to food and nutrition insecurity of vulnerable populations. Once the conflict is over, families sometimes find it difficult to get back on their feet. For Analyn and her husband, who works as a tricycle driver, their income is not enough to feed their family of eight children. The vegetable garden helps augment their current income. Aside from their potential earnings from selling the vegetables, the women farmers also received entitlements in exchange for work.

Capacity building

WFP works with the national and local government in the Philippines to bring about social protection programmes such as cash-based transfers in conflict-affected communities. In Piagapo, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DAF-ARMM) provided complementary vegetable seedlings, while the local government supported the training and capacity building to the farmers.

“We learned about this project from our village chief,” shares Analyn. “We decided to work together so that those who do not have livelihood will have one. So we formed a group made up of forty women and then we prepared the land and planted the vegetables.”

“The actual work was easy especially if you have companions with whom you can talk to,” says Analyn. “It was fun because we could chit-chat while planting the vegetables.”

Building resilience

Today, the vegetables are not yet ready for harvest but Analyn is keen on checking them to see if there are pests or weeds which need to be removed. She has lived and farmed this land for years and she knows that aside from pests, she also has to deal with natural calamities which might destroy their hard work in one sweep. The Philippines experiences frequent natural hazards, including typhoons, which affect the country an average of twenty times in a year.

“Sometimes, there’s typhoon, sometimes there’s drought. We will never know what will come,” she worries. As part of the resiliency measures, the DAF-ARMM has also taught the farmers to learn planting varieties that can thrive in different weather conditions such as root crops.

Though concerned for the success of their harvest, Analyn is clearly happy as she explains how she has already earned money from helping establish the vegetable garden. After doing their work at the vegetable garden, participants received electronic prepaid cards (e-cards) with cash entitlements depending on their days of work. Analyn and her group worked for 30 days, so each woman was entitled to around Php6,000 or US$128.

“During the first payout, I withdrew my money at the ATM machine,” Analyn explains. “Even though there was an orientation on how to use the e-card, I was nervous because it was my first time to withdraw from an ATM and I didn’t know which buttons to press. I had to ask for help from the bank’s security guard. For the second payout, I got my money from the local remittance centre.”

Cash transfers create flexibility

WFP Philippines is increasingly using cash transfers as a modality for improving food and nutrition security especially in areas where the markets are accessible. Cash transfers provide more flexible options for the participants. For women like Analyn, the ability to choose and participate in decision-making is important. Cash in the hands of women also ensures that their families have access to a nutritionally diverse diet, as women play a crucial role in ensuring food security in the household.

With the cash she received, Analyn was able to buy rice, fish, sugar, and soap for her family. She has also set aside some money for emergency needs.

“I do prefer cash because I could buy food as well as other essentials. Everything I need, I can buy with cash. I can also provide allowance for my children when they go to school,” Analyn shares.

As she finishes the careful inspection of the vegetables in the communal garden, Analyn expresses thanks to their local government and WFP for the assistance they received.

“We will make sure that we sustain this garden. We will not only get money from it, but we can also get vegetables which our families can eat,” she says.