Enhancing the Seed Industry Development Act for a More Gender-Responsive Seed System in the Philippines

Enhancing the Seed Industry Development Act for a More Gender-Responsive Seed System in the Philippines

Published: 2021.07.06
Accepted: 2021.07.01
17
Science Research Specialist II
Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development
Science Research Specialist I
Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, Department of Science and Technology (PCAARD-DOST)

ABSTRACT

The paper provides recommendations to enhance the gender-responsiveness of Republic Act No. 7308, or the Seed Industry Development Act in the Philippines. Seed systems are one of the foundations of agricultural development and food security. Its development is especially crucial in agricultural nations such as the Philippines. Much of the improvement of seed systems rely on policy-making. Beyond seed systems, multiple research organizations recognize that gender-responsiveness is key to the sustainability of development initiatives and interventions. Therefore, it is important to ensure that current policies related to seed systems continue to be gender-responsive. The recommendations provided draw from existing and previous PCAARRD and DOST initiatives towards gender-responsive agricultural development.

Keywords: seed systems, Seed Industry Development Act, gender-responsiveness, agricultural development, DOST- PCAARRD

INTRODUCTION

Seeds are the foundation for agriculture and access to quality seeds of crop varieties that are adapted to the needs and production systems of farmers is an essential feature of a sustainable food system (CIP, 2020). The seed, being the fundamental lifeblood of agriculture (Mula, 2014), is the repository of crop species' genetic potential and their varieties, which will result in crop productivity and food security through continuous improvement and selection over time (FAO, 2021).

The seed system is one of the pillars of agricultural development and food security. Its sustainability is crucial for men and women alike, especially those in agricultural nations such as the Philippines. A sustainable food system entails that farmers have access to quality seeds of crop varieties that are tailored to their needs (FAO, 2016).

In developing countries, especially the Philippines, farmers often have limited access to “affordable quality seeds and planting materials of crop varieties that are adapted to their production systems and growing conditions (CIP, 2020).” The need for quality seed is a must to ensure its good productivity at farmers’ fields. Ensuring availability of quality seed is a big task faced by most of the countries in Asia and Africa. Most of the varieties currently used by farmers are either very old (sometimes more than 30 years old) or are selections from landraces that yield low, are of poor quality, and are unresponsive to management and modern agronomy. The rate of varietal replacement from farmers must increase to at least 80%, and old varieties need to be phased out to ensure continued gains in production and market value with good returns for farmers (Canlas, 2020). It was cited that one of the reasons for the problem is the lack of seed policies to address the mentioned needs.

One strategy gaining much traction in underdeveloped and developing agricultural economies is enhancing the gender-responsiveness of its seed systems. The literature is replete with evidence that more equitable gender roles lead to higher productivity and more sustainable development. Researches showed that where there is gender inequality, there is food insecurity (ADB, 2013). Understanding the role of women in various agricultural systems, such as in enhancing seed systems, has therefore become a crucial imperative if agricultural development is to be achieved.

The paper examines the current landscape of seed systems and attempts to pin-down specific R&D and policy initiatives that may contribute to enhancing the gender-responsiveness of such systems. The first section defines and discusses the Republic Act No. 7308, or the Seed Industry Development Act. The second section shares some of the initiatives of PCAARRD/DOST towards more gender-equitable agricultural development. The final section identifies R&D and policy initiatives that may be pursued towards enhancing gender-responsiveness of seed systems in the Philippines.

SEED DEVELOPMENT ACT

Seed systems are the vehicle through which farmers get high-quality seed of the new crop varieties they want and need (CIAT, 2019). It entails the entire chain of activities in the production, post-harvest processing, and distribution of seeds carried out by different entities like households, cooperatives, research institutes, academic institutions, and other government agencies which bears the mandate of ensuring a sustainable seed flow for all sectors of the society (FAO, 2014).

Any seed system requires a legislative regulatory framework, particularly a seed policy that regulates an expanding and increasingly diversifying seed sector for the benefit of farmers and other stakeholders engaged in the seed production system. Republic Act No. 7308, or the Seed Industry Development Act, became a law in 1992 with the mandate to empower seed growers and fortify the local seed industry. Administrative Order (AO) No. 4 s. 2009 of the Department of Agriculture (DA) also explicitly dictates that only seed varieties approved by the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) and passed the standard national cooperative trial are allowed to be imported in commercial quantities. To date, there are ongoing house hearings on the proposed ratifications for the Act.

Through the Seed Industry Development Act, the government committed to the promotion and acceleration of the development of the seed industry. Specifically, its purpose include the following: conserve, preserve and develop the plant genetic resources of the nation; encourage and hasten the organization of all sectors engaged in the industry, integrate all their activities, and provide assistance to them; consider the seed industry as a preferred area of investment; encourage the private sector to engage in seed research and development and in mass production and distribution of good quality seeds; and provide the local seed industry protection against unfair competition from imported seeds.

To implement the law’s vision, the National Seed Industry Council was established. The duties of the Council include the following: to formulate policies that will stimulate plant breeding activities for the development of the genetic resources of the country in accordance with the provisions of this Act; to encourage persons, associations, cooperatives and corporations engaged in genetic resources conservation, varietal development, production and processing, quality control, storage, marketing, and distribution of seeds to adopt system and practices which improve the quality of seeds for distribution to farmers; to promote the establishment of infrastructures and other support services in priority areas geared toward the development of the seed industry; to formulate a comprehensive medium and long-term national seed industry development program in order to achieve self-sufficiency in the supply of high quality seeds; to grant awards, subsidiaries and other forms of assistance to seed or plant breeders who develop or are developing outstanding varieties or cultivars; to formulate policies that will stimulate plant breeding activities; and to promote rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this Act.

PCAARRD/DOST INITIATIVES TOWARDS GENDER-RESPONSIVE AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT

Women’s empowerment is considered as a prerequisite to achieving global food security (Akter et al. 2017). This sentiment has been backed by the United Nations (UN) and the Philippine government. In 2012, the UN included gender equality as one of the Sustainable Development Goals. In RA 9710, or the Magna Carta of Women, government offices are mandated to adopt gender mainstreaming.

In the Philippine farming system, the role of women has been increasing. In fact, women have a dominant role in farm decision-making. They are in charge of purchasing of inputs, managing farm activities, and seed selection and storage (Sison, 1988).  In the Cordillera region, the role of women in rice agriculture is mostly in seed selection and the management of varietal diversity since these are viewed as light tasks that can be handled by women (Sajise et al. 2012).

The roles of women in the seed system, especially those involved in rice-based farming, have been captured by the studies of Paris (2011), Mula (2014), and Sajise (2012).  Generally, women in the household are responsible for seed management. They often share or have complete responsibility for the seed selection and for seed storage and pre-germination tests. They are also greatly involved in the cultivation and drying and husking. Aside from farming responsibilities, rural women have the primary responsibilities for domestic care (Paris, 2011). Because of these roles, which can be arduous and time-consuming, they can lose their capacity to sustain their families’ farming resulting from loss of seeds.

PCAARRD has long recognized the need to integrate gender in agriculture, aquatic and natural resources (AANR) R&D. Therefore, it has pursued various initiatives along this concern below:

  • Enhancement of Gender and Development Integration towards a more inclusive R&D in AANR. In accordance to Republic Act 9710 or An Act Providing for the Magna Carta of Women enacted in 2009, which mandates all government offices, including government-owned and controlled corporations, and local government units (LGUs) to adopt gender mainstreaming as a strategy for implementing the law and attaining its objectives, this project is a comprehensive assessment of the extent by which gender is integrated in PCAARRD R&D, and devise integration strategies to incorporate gender in AANR research.
  • Enhancing the Sustainability of the Informal Soybean Seed Sector. This project focuses on advancing farmer seed-saving techniques, from seed selection to storage, and on developing sustainability mechanisms. The project involves women industry key players in the pursuit of expanding governance, developing local seed business, integrating with the local soybean markets, and enhancing linkage with the formal seed system.
  • Disaster Risk Reduction of Climate Change Impacts in Agricultural Farms in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). This project aims to capacitate farmers and barangay and municipal officials on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation through Science and Technology Interventions at the farm level and communities in the Cordillera Administrative Region. The project capacitates women and men farmers in adapting to climate change in their agricultural region. Since the farming communities in the areas of the study are comprised of a high percentage of women who are also active in both the paid work of farming and unpaid work of domestic functions, they benefit largely from this effort to address the negative impact of climate change and implement science-based solutions to minimize its effects and ensure the viability of agricultural programs. 
  • Improvement of Peanut Seed Production Management System. The project aims to boost production of quality seeds of improved and adaptable peanut varieties, and employ enhanced cultural management which involves varietal selection. The project utilizes the contributions from women and men who are directly involved in the seed production management system. According to FAO (1998), interviews with women peanut producers in parts of the Philippines showed that they actively participated in the production process of peanuts from plowing, harrowing, planting, weeding, harvesting and to post-harvest activities such as drying and storing. They were involved in the production of peanuts as an income-generating activity to increase their family income. Therefore, the project will aid in making the production roles of women more efficient and higher in value.
  • Science and Technology Action Frontline for Emergencies and Hazards (SAFE) Case Study of Farmer-Leader Marina of Madaymen Kibungan “Climate Hazards.” The study assessed the technological adaptations of farmers to climate-related hazards like drought, typhoon, and recurrence of pests and diseases. In addition, it also aims to increase the adaptive capacity of farmers to cope with the effects of climate change through capacity building on adaptation measures suitable for the farming communities. Women are increasingly taking on leadership roles both in the government and government-assisted development projects (PCW, 2019) especially in the context of climate change, usually dominated by males. The study is nuanced to the experiences of woman farmer-leader Marina Bugtong of the study site whose experiences illustrate the intersection of agriculture and gender. Bugtong is among the SAFE-Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) champions who were trained by the project to respond in times of emergencies and hazards.
  • Tublay ‘SAFE’ Women Capacitating Pool of Champion in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) – “weathering the storm” the case of Asita Mag-ili. This study seeks to introduce “climate-smart agriculture” to farmers in the Cordillera Administrative Region to increase the sustainable productivity and resilience of farming systems to climate impacts. Farmers were trained to adopt modern technologies, techniques, and practices that are appropriate to changes in the environment. Women are increasingly recognized as having the ability to mobilize resources during the different phases of a disaster. The case study focused on Asita Mag-ili, the chair Board of Directors (BOD) of the Tublay Agriculture Based League of Entrepreneurs (TABLE), a farmers’ group assisted by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD). She is just one of the women farmers who have been stepping up in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, TABLE has been bringing agricultural crops to the Tublay Agri-Marketing and Food processing grounds for repacking and delivery to different entities that conduct relief operations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. On her part, Mag-ili has been mobilizing resources by introducing the local government unit’s (LGU) marketing scheme to her fellow farmers, whose income and livelihood have become unstable due to the lockdown. The Council has also been active in contributing to legislative initiatives through its Policy Action Group (PAG) of Socio-Economics Research Division PAG is the interdivisional collegial body composed of senior PCAARRD staff tapped on an ad hoc basis, backstopped by SERD as the secretariat. PAG actively provides comments and inputs on draft executive/legislative instruments and policy papers. The division served as a member of the Technical Working Group on the following amendments to the Seed Industry Development Act (RA 3708):
  • House Bill (HB) 1935 by Rep. Michael L. Romero – An Act Establishing a Continuing National Program for Hybrid and Other Quality Seeds Production and Providing Funds there of and for other purposes
  • HB 3591 by Rep. Sharon S. Garin –otherwise known as the “Seed Industry Development Act of 1992”
  • HB 3638 by Rep. Manuel E. Zamora – An Act Amending the Seed Industry Development Act of 1992 and for other purposes and resurgence of the once limited geographic and host ranges of infectious diseases are largely spurred by anthropogenic factors. The anthropogenic impacts on the three components of the “disease risk triangle” are further discussed below.

CONCLUSION

Any initiative which aims to effectively enhance the existing seed system in the Philippines should recognize the importance of making development initiatives gender-responsive. It is necessary to acknowledge that women farmers in the Philippines are relatively empowered and that they perform key roles in agricultural activities. This means that the strategy should veer away from the traditional “women empowerment” development slant which is typical of interventions in Africa and South Asia.

In Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, strategies involving women should take advantage of the fact that these women are substantially empowered and what is needed is to build on the key roles which they play in the system. The following specific R&D and Policy recommendations may be worth pursuing:

  • Extensive research with gender dimension. Designing a gender-responsive and climate-smart seed system requires a holistic approach ─ one that involves mainstreaming gender equality into planning down to the implementation. Despite the vast improvement in agricultural gender equality in the Philippines over the years, the need for gender-disaggregated data is still important (Bayudan-Dacuycuy, 2018). Hence, extensive research with a gender dimension on the Philippine Seed System and Seed Industry is timely and relevant. Studying the impacts of climate change on men and women is also relatively new in the country. These studies would give us the necessary evidence in pushing for inclusive policy reforms.
  • Addressing barriers in technology adoption. As seed selectors, women must be actively involved in the technology and knowledge transfer of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies. By understanding the role of women and gender disparities in the system, we can relate them to and identify proper technology transfer mechanisms, which could potentially address the barriers in farm-level technology adoption. A thorough research on this topic shall identify the needed interventions/incentives/change in approach of extension workers to ensure successful farmer adoption of technologies. The development and promotion of women-friendly (i.e., less laborious, time-saving) and low-cost seed conservation technologies suitable for women with resource constraints could also further boost the productivity and resilience of the communities.
  • Gender-sensitive business models. One of the challenges, especially in far-flung areas, is low availability of high-quality seeds (Bossue, 2020). Sadly, the prevailing gap between women and men farmers worsens this already poor access. Women also tend to veer away from large packaging of seeds due to very limited purchasing power. Others, on the other hand, prefer small quantities of different seed varieties for diversity. Integrating gender in marketing strategies would not only improve women’s access to seeds but could also increase the revenues of seed companies (Adam et al., 2019). It is important to study and explore different business models for seed dissemination that shall cater to the unique needs and preferences of both men and women of different socio-demographics (Subedi et al., 2013).
  • Support for greater women participation in all aspects of seed value chain. Women play a major role in food production and they also participate in the other stages of the value chain primarily on seed management. Participatory Plant Breeding (PBB) entails the active participation of farmers involved in plant breeding. Processes include defining goals and priorities, selecting or providing germplasm, hosting trials in their own fields, selecting superior plants for further breeding, engaging in the research design and administration processes as well as the commercialization of selected lines. PPB is among the widely-supported initiatives as it promotes community-based agricultural biodiversity management and is proven to empower women farmers. The goal now is to provide support and enhance PBB models to guarantee that farmer breeders are well-assisted. The creation of a supportive framework for community-based diversity management initiatives (e.g., community bank) would also be beneficial, especially for women.
  • Basket of varietal options. Although there are several existing studies concerning crop suitability, another best practice in ensuring seed system resilience in other countries is the exploration and expansion of “seed repertoires”. This involves the identification of different types of crops that farmers could plant under different conditions (Cordaid, 2014). According to the Global Alliance of Future Food (GAFF) (2019), “Plant breeders should develop a basket of varietal options from which farmers can choose varieties specifically adapted to different contexts, and functions, changing a few “best-bet” varieties to “best-fit” varieties.”
  • Other specific R&D priorities. Among the critical components of a climate-smart seed system are “shock-proof” seed varieties. With the inevitable consequences of climate change on agriculture, much of the R&D investments are spent on developing seeds that could withstand extreme weather events, temperature, and diseases. It is essential to note that fostering exchange and cooperation between public research and private partners is seen as a good practice for the development of new varieties (Cordaid, 2014). Other specific R&D priorities related to attaining climate-smart seed systems include the creation of an evidence-based agroecology and resilient seed systems; innovation and research on germplasm rights and inclusive markets that promote diversity; policy research on seed certification systems, including participatory guarantee system; research on the social and institutional components of resilient seed systems, and assessment of farmers’ access to national and international gene banks, among others (GAFF, 2019).

Institutional Support and Policy Interventions

  • Promote gender-sensitive approach in R&D and extension services. In conduct of R&D and extension services, there is a need to have a deep understanding of the needs of women involved in the seed value chain. Projects/programs and technology that will be offered to them should be women-friendly (i.e., appropriate and acceptable to women) (Paris, 2011).
  • Revisit and/or improve agrarian-related laws and credit policies, and their implementation. As mentioned, one of the major hindrances for women to actively participate in the seed sector is their limited access to land and financial resources. Despite the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and Magna Carta of Women (MCW) providing and promoting equal rights of women and men in land ownership, and land and water resources management, women’s share in the total land ownership remains minimal and incomparable to men’s share. In many instances, men are still considered and preferred to be the primary landowners over women mainly because of “lack of awareness and weak administrative practices” in the country. Lack of access to land does not only limit a woman’s ability to independently decide and use land for seed production or any other activities; it also affects her access to capital and credit, and, even, her ability to seek assistance for inputs and extension services (Corral, 2019). Evidently, many financial institutions and banks require married women to seek for their husbands’ signature and consent in financial transactions (White & Case, 2017). Also, seed certification and commercialization tend to favor those who have control over the land, which are men (Pyburn et al. 2019). To address these recurring, there is a need to revisit agrarian-related and credit policies, and/or investigate the system of monitoring and implementing the policies.
  • Put more gender lens to the Seed Law. As the key policy governing the seed sector, amending RA 7308, would largely contribute in enhancing the role of women in the development of the seed sector. While the law has been instrumental in the progress of the seed industry, in terms of seed certification, it has failed to look through the gender lens as a tool for development of the industry.  Some points that can be considered to improve the law are:
  • Include gender-sensitivity in the Declaration of the Policy explicitly. There was no mention of anything gender-related in the RA 7308. To be more effective in embedding gender lens in the law, there is a need to explicitly include gender-sensitivity in its Declaration. It may be read as follows: “It is hereby declared the policy of the State to promote and accelerate the development of the seed industry and, for this purpose, the Government shall: … f.) promote a gender-sensitive seed system in the country”.
  • Recognize and equally empower the informal seed system. As discussed earlier, the informal seed system dominates the seed industry in the country. Most of our smallholder farmers, IPs, and women are in the informal system; hence, it is imperative to recognize and give equal importance to this system in terms of development programs and policies. Pyburn et al. (2019) also asserted that women effectively participate, as they benefit more, in a less formal system.  However, it should also be noted that subjecting our women farmers in the informal seed system to the seed certification procedure designed for the formal system may undermine their access to quality seeds, and may threaten their social capital. They might not be able to secure all the requirements and documents needed for the certification, which may further hamper their participation in the seed sector. Nevertheless, it is still important that women have access to good quality seeds, which is said to be the main motive of women in the seed sector. For this reason, a separate seed guarantee system should be designed for the informal sector. This should include framework and parameters on how a traditional seed can be guaranteed as a quality seed. In relation to this, a bill amending RA 7308 - HB 3638, which aims to integrate and implement formal and informal seed system, enhance organizational structure of BPI, and design appropriate penal provisions, is currently in the process of deliberation facilitated by the House of Representatives-Committee of Agriculture and Food.
  • Embed gender lens in the Seed Industry Development Program. Gender-sensitivity should form part of the overall framework guiding the development of the Seed Industry Development Program. In particular, the program should also include provision for the following: improving women’s access to good quality seeds, technologies and capacity building, etc.; creating sex-disaggregated database for seed system; strengthening gender budgeting, auditing and targeting; and allocating certain percentage to gender-responsive programs/projects (ADB 2013: Corral, 2019).
  •  Represent women in the Council. If possible, there should be one representation from a women’s organization associated with seed business may be included in the Council to ensure gender justice (Rengalakshmi, 2002).
  • Use gender-sensitive language. To be consistent, terms and prepositions used in RA 7308 such as “chairman” and “he” should be transformed/revised into more gender-sensitive language (i.e., “Chairperson”, and “he/she”).

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