WP:Fact sheet:Philippines
SD DIMENSIONS / Women and Population / Resources
Posted 3 June 1996

Fact sheet: Women, Agriculture and Rural Development


Population: 64.2 million
Growth rate: 2.3%
Fertility rate: 3.5
IMR: 40/1,000 births
GNP/head: US$770
Source: "World Bank Atlas", 1994

Importance of agriculture in the economy

Agriculture plays a dominant role in the economy, contributing 2.21% to the GDP in 1990, and employing 45.5% of the labour force in 1992. About 51% of the population resided in rural areas in 1991. The main export crops are coconuts, sugar cane, bananas and pineapples, while the principal subsistence crops are rice, maize and cassava. Livestock (mainly pigs, goats, water buffalo and poultry) and fisheries are important. Due to deforestation, the export of logs, formerly a important source of foreign exchange, and sawn wood were banned in 1986 and 1989, respectively. The major agro-ecological systems are coastal fishing, lowland irrigated farming, rainfed farming, upland farming, and riverine and lake fishing usually combined with crop cultivation.

Role of women in agriculture

Approximately 50% of rural women are classified as members of the labour force. In 1992, 25.8% of the agricultural labour force, including fisheries and forestry, were women. Women play important roles in both cash crops and subsistence production, and in small livestock raising. They also take part in some aspects of fisheries. To feed their families, women cultivate kitchen gardens and subsistence crops, mainly rootcrops.

Division of Labour by Gender

Women and men have distinct, but not necessarily rigid, tasks and responsibilities which often vary by crop or activity. In general, land clearing and preparation are carried out by men, except where minimum tillage is required, as in vegetable gardening. Women supply the major part of the labour for planting, weeding and harvesting, while men are largely responsible for spraying chemicals and fertilizers and mechanized tasks. Women are heavily engaged in post-harvest tasks, such as threshing, processing and marketing. A similar division of labour prevails in agro-forestry production. Women are largely responsible for poultry raising and for most pig-raising activities, while men tend to cattle and water buffalo. In fisheries, women are responsible for processing and marketing. As transportation facilities improve, women are also increasingly involved in transporting produce to the market. In addition, women bear almost total responsibility for household tasks.

Gender Relations in Decision-making in Farming Activities

Although men tend to have greater decision-making power in farming activities, women participate in farming decisions to a great extent and have their own areas of authority, particularly in regard to seed selection, harvesting, threshing, storage, processing, and the utilization of the harvest. Women also have major decision-making power in regard to how to allocate earnings, how much of the harvest to sell and what to feed their families. Men generally have a greater say in regard to credit and loans, although in certain communities, such decisions are made jointly.

Sharing of power and decisionmaking

Members and Officers of Agricultural/Rural Organizations

Although members and office bearers of agricultural and rural organizations are predominantly male, women comprise a significant percentage of both. For instance, the number of women members in farmer's associations has increased from 16% in the early 1980s to 26% in the early 1990s. During the same period, their representation as office bearers increased from 3% to 29%. In regards to women members of cooperatives, they represented 41% in the early 1990s, and constituted 37-55% of the office bearers. However, membership in fisherfolks' associations remains predominantly male.

Women in Decision-making Positions in Ministries and Government Bodies

Women comprise only a small percentage of decision-makers in the government agencies that plan and oversee rural and agricultural development programmes.

Mechanisms to promote the advancement of women

National Machinery

The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) was established in the Office of the President in 1975 to review, evaluate and recommend measures, including priorities, to ensure full integration of women for economic, social and cultural development and to ensure further equality between men and women. A major achievement was the drafting of the Philippine Development Plan for Women, adopted by the Government in 1989, which contains chapters focusing on agriculture, agrarian reform, environment and natural resources. A Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development 1995-2025 is being prepared under the leadership of the NCRFW in coordination with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). The NCRFW also established WID/Gender and Development (GAD) focal points and undertook gender sensitivity training in various line agencies. Efforts are underway to establish a data base on women.

WID Units or Focal Points in Technical Ministries

WID/GAD focal points were established in 1989 in the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to serve as the primary structure for the implementation of the Philippine Development Plan for Women and to serve as catalysts for gender-responsive planning and programming in their respective line ministries.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

WID/GAD advocates in the NGO movement have made efforts, particularly since the early 1990s, to set up women's desks and develop a WID/GAD strategy. One result was a increase in women beneficiaries in rural projects funded by one international donor. Most of these project involve hog raising, food and fish processing and marketing, and other small-scale agricultural enterprises. Since 1986, the NCRFW has promoted cooperation between the Government (GO) and the NGO community. In 1992 a Women GO-NGO Network was established.

Women's rights

The Philippines has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Philippine Constitution of 1987 recognizes the fundamental equality of women and men and the New Family Code of 1987 affirms women's right to own property and to contract employment and credit without the need of their husbands' consent. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 guarantees equal rights to land ownership, equal shares of the farm's produce, and representation in advisory or appropriate decision-making bodies to qualified women of the agricultural work force. Legislation of 1990 mandates the establishment of day care centres in every village to free women for other activities such as farming or attending extension and other meetings. The Women in Development and Nation Building Act of 1992 provides equal access to resources, including credit and training. It also requires the allocation of a substantial portion of Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds to support programmes and activities for women.

These laws, however, have yet to be fully implemented. In the case of the Women in Development and National Building Act, mechanisms and systems have yet to be developed and established for allocating and monitoring ODA funds for women. In the case of agrarian reform, as of 1992, 87% of the redistributed land went to men and only 13% to women. At the higher levels of the agrarian reform decision-making bodies, women hold only about 5% of the positions and at the village level about 20%.

This can be attributed to the lack of awareness by men and women of women's legal rights in regard to access to resources and membership in decision-making bodies. Gender-awareness sessions do not usually deal with women's legal rights.

Dimensions and determinants of rural poverty

The economic crisis of the country persists although in muted form. The foreign debt rose from $24 million in the mid-1980s to $28.9 million in 1990. Budget and trade deficits were approximately $1.5 billion in the early 1990s. Inflation continued at about 18% in the early 1990s. The incidence of rural families living in poverty was 56% in 1991. Increasing rural poverty has resulted in migration to urban areas. Malnutrition affected about 14% of children under six in 1989/90 and is more widespread among girls.

Access to agricultural resources and services


According to the 1990 Census of Population Housing, 55.2% of households were landless, while 25% of households had agricultural land. Slightly more female-headed households than male-headed ones owned land. However, under the agrarian reform programme, only 13% of redistributed land went to women.


Men tend to have responsibility for water buffalo and cattle, while women are more involved in pig and poultry raising. Data collection is needed on ownership.


Only about 1% of the persons employed in agriculture are engaged in forestry. There is a gender division of labour in forestry activities: women predominate in the tasks of vegetative contouring, planting and establishing trees, weeding, caring for trees, and selling produce in the market.

Water. Data collection needed.


Bank-managed credit, mainstream farming and fishing credit programmes are usually directed to men, as are agricultural production loans from NGO donors. A number of NGOs and NGO projects target small loans to women. The women recipients of such small-scale credit schemes tend to use the loans for small livestock raising, marketing produce, or operating a home industry.

Extension services and agricultural training

Women comprised about 6% of the participants in training activities conducted by the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in 1993. The figure was highest (15%) for day training and lowest (3%) for on-farm research. The classification by the ATI of participants as "housewives" or RIC (all-women Rural Improvement Clubs) suggests that other participants (farmers and fishers) are assumed to be men. Rural women's contact is greatest with agricultural technicians who were formerly known as home management technicians.

Selected programmes in support of women in agriculture, fisheries and forestry

Policy Planning and Research

  • A Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development 1995-2025 is being prepared under the leadership of the NCRFW in coordination with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
  • WID/Gender and Development (GAD) focal points have been established in government line agencies by the NCRFW.
  • Gender sensitivity training has been undertaken in various line agencies by the NCRFW.
  • Many NGOs involved in funding and implementing projects have made efforts to sensitize decision makers, planners, designers and field implementors to gender issues and to establish monitoring systems that differentiate by gender, project beneficiaries and the distribution of project resources.
  • A pilot Provincial Agricultural Extension Project, implemented by the Department of Agriculture to draft a community agricultural sector plan, involved a significant number of women and devised a number of strategies for including women, such as: identifying women's specific agricultural needs in the plan, specifying how women would be involved in or benefit from general agricultural activities, and, to a lesser extent, a separate women's plan.
  • A number of NGOs are carrying out gender awareness programs for rural men and women.
  • The Women in Rice Farming Systems Network is advocating scientists to orient their technologies towards women as well as men users.

Legal and Policy Reform

The Women in Nation Building Act of 1992 provides for the allocation of a substantial portion of ODA funds to support activities for women. As of May 1993, it is estimated that 18% of ODA funds has been earmarked for projects that aimed to integrate women in their activities or had women's components.

Access to Agricultural Resources and Services

  • Government and NGO credit schemes, based on the Grameen Bank experience in Bangladesh, have helped bring credit to landless people and have benefited women.
  • GAD advocacy within the National Confederation of Cooperatives has resulted in a pilot project to enhance women's participation in cooperatives, including gender awareness building within the leadership of cooperatives.
  • A number of projects or project components are directed to increasing women's access to agricultural resources and services.

Areas to be strengthened

Policy Planning and Research

  • WID/GAD focal points should be strengthened by improving their status in the line agencies and increasing the gender advocacy competence of focal group members.
  • Sector-specific GAD guidelines need to be developed, to complement the general GAD guidelines, to help the Government assess the gender-responsiveness of projects or programmes.
  • Policies and instructional/training materials should be reviewed to make them more gender sensitive.
  • Food security should be given greater importance than export-oriented cash crop production.

Legal and Policy Reform

  • Legislation should be enacted to recognize rural women as farmers and fisherfolk and ensure the right of women peasants and agricultural workers to own land and have access support services.
  • Leadership and assertiveness training should be conducted for women and information should be disseminated on women's rights.

Access to Agricultural Resources and Services

  • A systematic monitoring system needs to be established by the government to ascertain how much ODA is going to projects or activities that address women's concerns.
  • Environmental reconstruction programs should be adopted to generate sustainable development in terms of the creation of economic activities for women, and to eliminate environmental destruction which specifically affects women as providers of food, water and fuel.
  • Women's organizations should be activated or established with a view to increasing women's access to resources and services.
  • Women's participation in cooperatives should be promoted.
  • Women's groups should be established in Agrarian Reform Communities.
  • Agricultural technicians should be made more aware of the needs of women farmers for technical assistance.
  • Gender awareness training and discussions should be held for both women and men.

Prepared by Women in Development Service (SDWW)
FAO Women and Population Division

Source: "National Sectoral Report on Women, Agriculture and Rural Development", 1994.

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