Some potential partner came to our garden to see our practice of agroecology on the land and they were very interested to support us by buying all our products for the next season. We are also talking about the possibility of setting up a CSA with some communities in city. This is a new concept for village women but at the same time it have given them confidence about the work they do.
What challenges did or does your project face?
Half of women in the group (5 people) decided to drop out because of several reasons. Main reason is because their husband does not allow them to work on the garden because: no one prepare their meal on the plate and serve the meal to them, no one making them coffee, the husbands do not want their wive's skin turn dark because too much exposure with sun when working in garden and many other reasons. Another reason is because some women think working as a labor for someone else is better than working in their own garden. Especially in harvest time, many of land owner will need cheap labors to harvest the corn, sugarcane or clove. Village women fill in this position and they have to work from 7AM-3PM and only paid USD2.59. Even though it's a small amount of money they feel secure because they hold money for one day whereas the money will all be spent for their children's snack or their husband's cigarette once they reach home.
In term of garden itself, while the village women working together with us in garden know the importance of biodiversity and understand well the excellence benefit of the wild edible plants they grow in the garden, many of them are still in doubt and still have an old perception in their mind that these plants are food for the poor.
How are you working to overcome them?
It is a delicate subject to deal with patriarchy system, especially in remote village. I have tried talk with the women who decided to drop out from the project as well as to their husband, but the discussion did not work well because the women could not speak freely with their husband beside them. So even though in front of me the husbands said that the decisions are all in their wive's hands, but that is not really true. So for this matter I drop it for now and focus on more important thing, like strengthening the current group after being left by its members.
And for the daily money they expect to get by working in garden, it is hard to change their mentality about this matter. We have done a simple calculation on how much money they would get from their garden compare with the money they get by being a labor, but the problem obviously is not how much money they would get at the end, but the money they could hold in daily basis to give them a sense of security without considering the value of the work they've done as a cheap labor. This is still a challenge for me and I have not found the solution yet. I do not want to promise them some money to get in daily basis and make them merely a worker in garden, instead I want them to feel that it is their garden and feel the sense of ownership. One thing I am trying to do now is now I am making them fully responsible of the management of the garden. My role is only to help them market their products. They seem excited with this new management and said willing to work on the garden seriously.
What did you or your project learn this season that might be useful to others as well?
When working with community to create a sense of ownership and self dignity is a challenging process, especially when they are so used to be a cheap labor and think that they have got nothing precious in themselves. It's all about trials, through the years we need to try different ways to make them feel proud of themselves and to see themselves as a person full of potential.