Evangeline’s Journey: Environmental Innovation in the Philippines Transforms Opportunities for Women Farmers

A woman stands under a cacao tree in the Philippines.
Evangeline is the proud owner of Novela Farm and an environmental innovator in the Philippines' cacao sector.

In the southern Philippines, Evangeline Novela’s journey is one of resilience and adaptation that has been driven by both her own determination and support from her community. She is the proud owner of Novela Farm and an active member of the Fardeco Agricultural Multipurpose Cooperative (FARDECO). She is also a widow and the sole provider for her household of five, including one family member who requires special care. But Evangeline has never let economic hurdles define her. Instead, she has embraced agriculture as her lifeline, cultivating a wide selection of crops and livestock on her two-hectare farm.

Environmental innovation in cacao production

Cacao farming is Evangeline’s primary source of income to provide for her family. Yet, her ingenuity has gone far beyond cacao bean cultivation alone. She has also explored innovative avenues for utilizing its by-products, transforming cacao leaves into intricate crafts and processing beans into tablea – a ground-up ball of cacao beans used to make a traditional Filipino hot chocolate drink. She further maximizes the organic waste from her farm to produce vermicompost, which she then supplies to cooperative members at FARDECO to generate additional income. Buyers from other nearby farms heard about Evangeline and have started to acquire vermicompost from her farm too.

“A lot of farm waste in my farm [is] put to great use. I gather the fallen leaves and branches and let it rot as part of compost. Since I have farm animals like cows, goats and chickens, I also include the manure I collect from these animals into the vermicompost. I produce my own fertilizer by maximizing farm waste while improving soil health when applied.”

Evangeline Novela, Owner of Novela Farm

Through support from MEDA’s Resilience and Inclusion through Investment for Sustainable Agrikultura (RIISA) project, Evangeline’s journey took a transformative turn when she applied MEDA’s environmentally sustainable agriculture production (ESAP) practices. Through a series of training sessions, dialogues, and cooperative action planning sessions, Evangeline has gained invaluable insights into sustainable farming techniques.

“I further learned that intercropping, composting, and rainwater harvesting are integral components of our farming processes, nurturing not just our crops but the soil’s vitality and biodiversity,” she says. Setting up a rainwater harvesting system has additionally allowed her household to store water during the dry season and use it both to water their crops and for other purposes on the farm.

Leading the way for environmental stewardship and economic prosperity

The ripple effects of Evangeline’s newfound knowledge are wide-reaching. She witnessed an increase in her farm’s productivity, coupled with less effort needed for farming activities. Through connections from her cooperative, she accessed vital resources including inputs needed to produce cacao and up-to-date market information. She is now leveraging her newfound expertise to navigate the agricultural landscape with confidence. Her farm has also been certified as an agricultural training site for its good agricultural practices, with learning events organized at the farm by the Department of Agriculture and other cooperatives.

“Income from farming has helped me send my children to school. Right now, they are also helping grow the farm.”

Evangeline Novela, Owner of Novela Farm

As the seasons change and her farm flourishes, Evangeline stands as a testament to the transformative power of sustainable agriculture. Her journey offers an example of how environmental stewardship and economic prosperity can exist side by side – fostering both greater resilience for her family today and hope for future generations.

The RIISA project is reaching 5,400 smallholder farmers like Evangeline, who are members of cooperatives and partners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Davao region, to promote environmentally sustainable farming practices including the use of biofertilizer and bioenhancer. Learn more.




  • Reine Rala

    Reine Rala is the Monitoring and Impact Measurement Manager for MEDA’s Resilience and Inclusion through Investment for Sustainable Agrikultura (RIISA) project in the Philippines.

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