Women from mountain communities to digital village: finding new markets for indigenous products

 Philippines, April 2013 - An increasing number of women’s microenterprises producing handicrafts and growing mountain agricultural crops have started to tap into the global market by using the Internet and social media and joining the enlarging global digital village.  These women from the mountainous regions of northern Philippines are associated with people’s organizations that are partners of the WINNER (Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement) programme.

The Streams Foundation, Coalition of Blue Collar Workers, Kababaihan Kaagapay sa Hanapbuhay, Pambansang Taga-Ugnay ng Mangagawa sa Bahay and the Benquet Entrepreneurs Association, among others,  sent some of their members to participate in the series of training courses conducted by WINNER.  The training is part of the capacity-building of women in running their businesses in order to find new markets for products from their farms and home-based industries.

For example, one of the people’s organizations based in the Cordillera Administrative Region, namely KAKASAHA, has reported that many of its members are now engaged in the production of wood products like table top Christmas trees, decorative picket fences, picture frames, slippers, bags, novelties.

According to Susanita Tesiorna, national coordinator of KAKASAHA, one of the major gaps identified by the organization is marketing.  “When TIPS introduced to us the WINNER Project, the KAKASAHA grabbed it immediately as we had hope that this would link our members to wider markets.  Indeed, after several training courses on e-commerce, enterprise development and marketing, our members have become fully aware of the potentials of using the Internet for networking among themselves and for informing buyers about their products,” she reported.

A recent training held at La Trinidad, Benguet Province, had women even from distant mountain communities joining as participants in production networking, product critiquing and business negotiation exercises as well as forming collaboration to create the volume required by large scale buyers.

Todate, around 200 Cordilleran women are now actively doing business with outside markets including those in the North America and Europe.