Driving through the beautiful lush green region of Luzon you encounter many rice fields and farm lands. It is easy to understand why this enchanting region is known for agriculture. Our scenic drive brought us to the hotel of our partner, Abrasa Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Abrasa). Immediately we were given a very warm welcome and a delicious Philippine lunch.
We spent the afternoon diving deep into Abrasa’s work, leaving us all extremely impressed with our partner’s achievements. Abrasa’s vision is to be a ‘dynamic cooperative responsive to the needs and aspirations of its members’. This vision has transpired. They provide over 3,300 members with a range of financial services, such as loans and microfinance, for livelihood projects and agriculture production. They also buy and sell rice and cassava (a drought-resistant crop), produce organic fertilizer, provide training to members and the rural community, and more. Abrasa has taken part in several of Oikocredit’s capacity building programmes, which they have then shared with their members.
We were able to visit a few of their members who showed us how Abrasa has supported them throughout the years. One of these members was Venus M Sadang. Venus comes from a rural community and after marrying a farmer she moved into her husband’s modest house with one room and a store shed. After having three children and struggling to make ends meet, she tried to support her family by working on her husband’s rice farm and selling beauty products on the side, but it just wasn’t enough. Until one day, a Philippine friend encouraged Venus to contact her Taiwanese boss who was in search of rice eels which he could sell as a food delicacy to his customers in Taiwan. Venus started searching around and found out that rice farms in the area are flooded with snake eels, which are considered to be pests.
The only problem she had was that she didn’t have enough money to buy a container for the eels. She then reached out to Abrasa, who previously supported her family with a loan for their rice farm. Abrasa encouraged her to take up this entrepreneurship and provided her with the loan she needed to buy an eel fish tank. Abrasa also provided her with financial literacy training and farming seminars which have helped her to develop her business. “Abrasa helped me to become a businesswoman!” said Venus. She now turns over 500 kilos of eels per day to Mr. Chang, who pays her up to 150 Philippine pesos per kilo. At the Oikocredit Philippines 25th anniversary she received an award in recognition of her entrepreneurial success
Venus is only one of the many women that Abrasa has supported. Approximately 54% of Abrasa’s members are women, including their CEO, Evelyn T Clement. The cooperative also offers women empowerment training where they educate the community about equality, preventing abuse, the importance of women’s education and more. For rural areas, they also offer a variety of training to provide the women with livelihood skills, such as flower making. Each of us were given beautiful synthetic flowers (surprisingly made from branches and leaves) as a token of appreciation. They also sent us home with two kilos of organic rice and a farewell meal which included...can you guess? Eel fish! It’s surprisingly delicious.
We left extremely encouraged and inspired by our partner who embodies Oikocredit’s mission to empower people.