Located in an inner sugar farming community in Barangay Tortosa, Manapla is an all-women group of 39 agrarian reform beneficiaries, who in Year 2013 bonded together to establish the San Antonio Farmers and Farm Workers Association or SAFFWA. While it is only 7 kms. from the national highway, one has to traverse for some 40 minutes the rough roads leading to their farming community. Thus, access to basic commodities for households is not an easy task. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified this problem even more.
In 2019, SAFFWA became one of the partners of the Responsible Sourcing from Smallholders or RSS Program, implemented by the Sugar Industry Foundation Inc. and the 3 mills – Hawaiian-Philippine Company, Victorias Milling Company and Lopez Sugar Corporation. Together, they raised awareness on protecting farmers by using the appropriate PPE or personal protective equipment, mitigating child labour in sugar farms, and adding knowledge on the correct sugar farming practices.
SIFI-RSS Program afforded SAFFWA with an alternative livelihood. In July 2019, SAFFWA received the starter support of business training and Php10,000 cash for its rice retailing livelihood. After one year, the group reported a Php16,000 net profit, which was equally distributed to its members. Three months after and with continued RSS technical and financial support, the group expanded its business and opened the SAFFWA Sari-sari Store. The store will sell rice, frozen food products, household goods, school supplies and some PPE items. The aim is not only for SAFFWA to earn extra income, but to give members and non-members alike easy access to basic goods, especially during this pandemic.