HERoes | “Aduyon” Through Challenges

This Women’s Month we celebrate the HERoes who paved the way for a brighter future. Let’s continue to learn from their stories and work towards a more equitable future for all. #EmpoweringWomen #EqualityForAll 

Ms. Narsing Bayacsan, an Ibaloi and a graduate of Secondary Education from Saint Louis University, has a great affinity for farming and the agriculture industry. Her passion for farming has brought her to Japan, and she worked full-time in the same field for three years. Despite her college degree and teaching license, Ms. Narsing returned from farming shortly after her stay overseas, thus, her love for farming prevailing until today.  

Sitio Shontog is where her love for farming started. Located in Barangay Daclan, municipality of Tublay, Sitio Shontog is known as a small community of farmers. Agriculture is the primary industry of the whole municipality of Tublay, with which 3,713 hectares of land are being used for farming (Municipality of Tublay n.d.). Of the mentioned land total, an estimated 1,671 hectares are irrigated, and the remaining 2, 042 are rainfed (Municipality of Tublay n.d.).  

With COVID-19 rummaging the whole country up to the far-flung areas in 2020, inaccessibility of goods and resources has posed a much harder living condition in the lives of Filipinos. In Sitio Shontog where accessible transportation and public markets are yet to be firmly systemized and established, life has become way more challenging. Despite this, the spirit of resilience among members of Sitio Shontog shone; they have made resources accessible to everyone in the community by organizing a group which later became an accredited organization in the area, with which Ms. Narsing Bayacsan currently leads.   

Who is KAASFA?   

Ka Afoan Shi Shontog Farmers Association (KAASFA) is a Civil Society Organization (CSO) from Shontog, Basil, Tublay aiming to strengthen the livelihood, and to support other farmers in the community. The organization’s initiatives seek to make sources of goods and necessities more accessible to the community members of Sitio Shontog.  The organization was also established based on an agreement to start a “paluwagan” or a money lending and saving system within the members of Sitio Shontog. It was only on June 20, 2021, that the organization was established and formalized. One of their pioneer and existing projects is a sari-sari store where they currently manage and sell their produces.   

Resilience through “Aduyon”  

Tublay as a 5th class municipality deals with a level of inaccessibility to healthcare facilities, public transportation, trade and marketplaces and other communal services. This level of inaccessibility was made more ardent by COVID-19, and Daclan is one of the many barangays in Tublay that are less reached by Local Government programs and services. This, however, has made the residents of Sitio Shontog adaptive to such circumstances.   

KAASFA, despite the effects of the pandemic, is strongly held together and guided by the principle and culture of “Aduyon”; of helping one another. “Aduyon”, is an Ibaloi term for the Indigenous group’s system of mutual help, which is also synonymous to “Bayanihan”, the Filipino term for the same principle.   

While COVID-19 has subsided, KAASFA still deals with another challenge that has been present a long time ago: climate change. For Ms. Bayacsan, there is no assurance of yield from crops due to pests, price increase in farm inputs, and unavailability of water source especially during drought. Also, many of the farmers in the community only rent the land where they grow their seeds. Whether the planting was a success or not, farm renters will still need to pay for the land used.  

Since the start of the drought season, farmers in the Sitio are struggling with growing their crops. Though there were little observed changes to the seasonal patterns in the area, Ms. Bayacsan have noticed that drought over the years has become more difficult to manage. In dry seasons, water becomes scarcer, thus the many unsuccessful planting attempts over the past years.  

 To sustain their livelihood, Ms. Bayacsan believes that a water system in the area would be of huge help. Members of KAASFA also agree that farming can be sustained if there is enough water source in the Sitio, but they also recognize that it would entail huge chunks of money to be realized.  

Solving only these problems are but band aid solutions; the call for community resilience in Sitio Shontog is high, and CSOs like KAASFA are key players in achieving this through their knowledge of their community and of its needs, thus the need for their voices to be heard in the decision-making processes in the local government. 


 ADRA and KAASFA: A Partnership Towards Resilience 

KAASFA’s partnership with the RISE Benguet Project and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Philippines has become a catalyst for the organization to dream bigger and to look beyond its current challenges. Prior, Ms. Bayacsan believes that CSOs like KAASFA are only important during council meeting reports, passively participating and “agreeing” on plans laid out by the local government, but with the help of ADRA, she has begun gaining a better appreciation for the crucial role such organizations play in community development. Before, she thought KAASFA will remain to be one among the attendees in council meetings in the local government, but she has now realized that the organization has a key role to play in achieving community resilience through becoming part of the decision-making processes in the Local Development Council and the Local Special Bodies. Ms. Bayacsan has also realized her potential in leadership through the trainings conducted by ADRA. The knowledge and skills she gained to lead KAASFA properly and effectively in the next years helped her better set the organization’s trajectory. 

Through ADRA’s organizational capacity building initiatives, KAASFA now sees itself becoming more equipped to bid for funding opportunities alongside other known non-government organizations in the country and worldwide. More importantly, KAASFA now recognizes its crucial role in disaster and climate governance, and that one way to achieve community resilience is through their active, meaningful participation and membership in the Local Development Council and the Local Special Bodies.  

The direct connection between sustainable farming and community resilience is what inspires the organization to move forward and grow in the next years. With “Aduyon”, or their shared burden to improve the overall living condition in Sitio Shontog, KAASFA vows to champion community resilience through taking its place in the decision-making process.  

Through the help of ADRA Philippines, Ms. Bayacsan now believes that the organization can do so much more; from being only one among the attendees in council meetings in the local government, KAASFA is an agent of community resilience in Sitio Shontog, and in the whole of Tublay.