UST’s collaborative research efforts help female farmers of Nueva Ecija

Empowering women and youth in the agricultural sector through sustainable livelihood practices

UST team and woman farmers during the World Cafe session in May 2019

UST Family Literacy Team leader and UST faculty member Dr. Gina Lontoc shared how the project she leads explores multi-stakeholder collaboration and leadership and how they create synergies in promoting adult learning, sustainable farming system, and livelihood practices. Lontoc’s research study titled “The ties that bind: Exploring synergies in multi-stakeholder skills development programs in rural communities,” was featured in the webinar of the UST Department of English held via Zoom.

A team of researchers from the UST Research Center for Social Sciences and Education (RCSSED) led by Lontoc has been working for more than a year now with the rural female farmers of Pinili, San Jose, Nueva Ecija. Located in the Central Luzon region, Nueva Ecija is known as the Rice Bowl of the Philippines. This research program is titled “Empowering women and youth in the agricultural sector through sustainable livelihood practices.”

The research, according to Lontoc, who teaches Research courses at the UST Graduate School and the College of Education, centers on helping the out-of-school youth and women-led organizations in marginalized communities in Nueva Ecija. Started in 2019, the research is expected to be completed in 2021.

Using collaborative programs in research, participants of the research project get expert assistance from the multi-disciplinary team from the University of Santo Tomas. Lontoc, an expert on adult literacy and intergenerational learning, helps manage, monitor, and coordinate the program with stakeholders.

Graduate School Asst. Dean Prof. Camilla Vizconde, Ph.D., Asst. Prof. Evalyn Abiog, Ph.D., and Asst. Prof. Katrina Ninfa Topacio, who are faculty members of the English Language Department, contribute their expertise in digital literacy, gender, and readability components of curriculum materials.

Nueva Ecija farmers at work taken in 2019

This research program combines Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology and the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) operating within Freirean principles that entail the developing critical consciousness of structures of power and the realization of their own power, through praxis to take a collective action to address present challenges. This also involves collaborative efforts among government agencies, NGOs, research institutions, and women-led organizations.

The project is funded by the University through the funds allotted by the RCSSED to its individual researchers involved in the project. In an online interview, Lontoc explained that support also comes from the Don Bosco Training Center and the Department of Agriculture in Nueva Ecija. The latter provides the participants with equipment, seeds, animals, and access to training opportunities.

The program also considers not only approaches to skills training in rural communities but also contextual factors which impact access and participation in training programs. Thus, it addresses issues such as challenges and opportunities in co-facilitating and co-producing knowledge in rural communities, practices that build on existing literacies of participants, and distribution of power across sectors to achieve social transformation in rural communities.

Focusing on her audience that was composed of faculty members from the Department of English, Lontoc explained that they could use their communication and social interaction skills in addressing the priorities of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Capacity building activity on Feb 17, 2020

After presenting her research, during the Open Forum, Lontoc called on her co-teachers to “be involved.”

“We need your time, passion, and compassion,” she ended.

The webinar was organized by Department Chair Rachelle B. Lintao, Ph.D., while Assoc. Prof. Ma. Regina Arriero was the Open Forum moderator.