Championing the Case for Midwives’ Community Care

In times of chaos and crisis, people tend to look for heroes — or they step up and become one themselves. Having surpassed more than 2,400,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, a number steadily growing, it’s clear that more needs to be done. At ASSIST, we understand our unique role and responsibility to help our communities and support our heroes. We have engaged with midwives, who care for very vulnerable populations (pregnant women, new mothers, and infants), across the country and empowered them as Champions of Community Care.

ASSIST’s ongoing partnership with Project HOPE has expanded to launch this pilot COVID-19 training program for midwives nationwide. The project’s first goal has already been exceeded, with more than 150 Master Trainers or Champions now able to cascade the training on COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Management and Vaccines to thousands of other midwives and midwifery students across different regions of the Philippines. But perhaps one of the biggest impacts of this project that we are already able to see is the creation of new platforms for midwives to connect with and support one another.

Midwives live with the people they care for in the farthest flung and hardest to reach provinces in the Philippines, thus are more trusted, more accessible, and more capable of connecting with people. The midwives we work with acknowledge that in the community of healthcare workers they are sometimes overlooked, but it’s at these grassroot levels that people face the most challenges, as a lot of healthcare support doesn’t reach them. Still, even before the pandemic, midwives have been going above and beyond their duties.

One of our Master Trainers, a retired midwife and senior citizen living in Canada, turns on her computer to connect with midwives in the Philippines over Zoom until midnight or later. She and many other participants in the program feel a strong sense of duty to ensure their fellow Filipino midwives are protected and able to continue to protect
others.

Midwives know what their communities need and are situated to respond to those needs accordingly. Their unique role means they wear multiple hats and play various roles in contact tracing, vaccine administration, and more in addition to their existing work in prenatal and postpartum care. These overlooked healthcare workers that have toiled day and night since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic should widely be recognized as modern day heroes and we will continue to uphold these midwives and future midwives as our Champions of Community Care.

To access these materials and share them with your communities or for partnership inquiries, please contact Franz Raña, Social Actions Manager at franz@assistasia.org

This article is published in the October-December 2021 issue of the ASSIST Now newsletter.

Sinag Pagasa: Lighting the Path to Better Lives of Indigenous People

Manila, Philippines – Indigenous peoples (IPs) are geographically isolated and underserved, with limited access to basic social services and economic opportunities. Their communities are in remote locations and usually have no reliable power sources, forcing indigenous people to use kerosene gas lamps for their lighting needs. These lights not only pose fire hazards and numerous health risks from fumes but also do not provide adequate illumination for family members to do housework, for children to study and for village elders to gather at night. Safety and security are also major concerns, as darkness exposes them to various dangers.

Sinag Pag-asa (Sinag: ray, radiate; Pag-asa: hope) provides indigenous people a brighter future by giving them access to sustainable lighting solutions. This project is funded by Signify Foundation and jointly implemented by ASSIST and Signify Philippines in partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Pampamayanang Mangyan Ugnayan. Sinag Pagasa provided 550 solar-powered floodlights and 1,000 solar lanterns to various IPs including Dumagats, Mangyans and Aetas. These lights now illuminate their homes, tribal halls, study centers, places of worship and other communal facilities of off-grid communities in nine provinces in Central Luzon and MIMAROPA, impacting the lives of over 2,200 IP families. Community members are now able to work, study, meet and socialize safely at night at no cost, greatly improving their productivity, safety and security. “We often take lighting for granted in our modern world. But for indigenous people, most of whom live in far-flung areas untouched by electricity, darkness is a lifelong problem and safe and affordable illumination is always a challenge,” says Francis Macatulad, the Executive Director of ASSIST. “Sinag Pagasa has lit up the lives of these tribal communities and they now see a brighter future ahead.”

About ASSIST, Inc.

Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) was established in 2003 with the aim of addressing sustainability challenges in the Philippines. Driven by passion and purpose for progress and prosperity in the region, ASSIST takes pride in its professional outlook, social responsibility, and process-oriented approach to capacity-building towards social impact. More on ASSIST here.

About Signify

Signify is the new company name of Philips Lighting. Signify is the world leader in lighting for professionals, consumers and lighting for the Internet of Things. Signify’s energy efficient lighting products, systems and services enable our customers to enjoy a superior quality of light, and make people’s lives safer and more comfortable, businesses more productive and cities more livable. Signify proudly markets the best lighting brands in the world: Philips, Interact, Philips Hue, and Color Kinetics. More on Signify here.

About Signify Foundation

The Signify Foundation is an organization dedicated to supporting underprivileged and underserved communities across the world by enabling access to light. When pursuing this mission, the Foundation expects to leverage on Signify’s expertise and knowledge to help develop and provide easily-accessible, sustainable lighting systems that have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. More on the Signify Foundation here.

SIBOL Regenerates New-Found Hope for Corn Farmers in the Philippines

A sustainable farming partnership by ASSIST and Syngenta Philippines aims to improve livelihoods and yields of over 20,000 farmers through soil health

8 April 2022, Manila, Philippines – Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) and Syngenta Philippines, Inc. have announced an initiative to improve farmer livelihoods and yields through healthy soil. Project SIBOL will reach over 20,000 farmers to educate them on proper soil management and regenerative agriculture starting in the Cordilleras and Cagayan Valley, the top corn-producing region in the Philippines.  

Corn is one of the most significant crops in the country but productivity in the region has been hampered by problems related to intensive farming practices, leading to significant soil erosion and degradation. Named after the Tagalog word for sprout, growth, or germinate, Project SIBOL aims to help farmers in Cagayan Valley and the Cordilleras improve productivity and double their corn yields within the next three years from current levels of four metric tons per hectare.

According to Ruby Eduarte, Business Sustainability Manager of Syngenta Philippines, Inc., “Farming should not only be profitable but sustainable as well, as the existence of our growing global population depends on it. The SIBOL project will bring better soil health, yield, and income to the farmers of Cagayan Valley, and for the Philippines, greater food security and climate resilience.”

In addition to training farmers on climate-smart agricultural practices, the project aims to establish two model farms to showcase the benefits of adopting these sustainable practices and Syngenta’s innovative technology. The project’s pilot phase will take place in Isabela and Ifugao, with plans to replicate this project in other corn-growing areas around the Philippines in the following years.

“As our population continues to grow, food scarcity and security are becoming an unavoidable problem. We believe that SIBOL not only addresses these issues but also helps our farmers boost agricultural productivity and yield in a sustainable manner while enhancing long-term soil health at the same time. Our farmers are faced with numerous challenges. They don’t have to face these challenges alone,” says Francis Macatulad, ASSIST’s Executive Director.

“What distinguishes this project is the integration of multiple technologies.  These technologies can help ensure that the lands remain productive and can assist many farmers in improving their livelihoods. We’re all here to provide farmers with a better future through technology,” added Allan Nieves, Head of Agronomy & Field Corps, Syngenta Philippines Inc.

Project SIBOL is created with the assistance of Ifugao State University; Isabela State University; Municipal Agricultural Office; Bureau of Soils and Water Management, and local government units. 

75% of all croplands in the Philippines are vulnerable to soil erosion. This has impacted the country’s corn farming sector, with erosion driving a decline in corn productivity by 80% over the last 25 years[1]. Soil is also a key nature-based climate solution. Soil stores around 80% of carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, about two to three times more carbon than is in the atmosphere[2].

About ASSIST, Inc.

Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) was established in 2003 with the aim of addressing sustainability challenges in the Philippines.  Driven by passion and purpose for progress and prosperity in the region, ASSIST takes pride in its professional outlook, social responsibility, and process-oriented approach to capacity-building towards social impact.  More on ASSIST here.

About Syngenta Philippines, Inc.

Syngenta is a leading global agricultural company.  Syngenta equips and empowers farmers to overcome multiple challenges as they strive toward global food security.  Their innovative crop solutions transform how crops are grown, enabling millions of growers to use available resources efficiently.  In the Philippines, Syngenta improves the lives of Filipino growers and increases food security by giving farmers access to sustainable crop protection technology and innovative seed varieties.  Their products undergo rigorous trials to ensure safety before being released into the market.  These integrated solutions guarantee high quantity and quality yields.  More on Syngenta here.

About Project SIBOL

Project SIBOL is a partnership for sustainable farming between Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) and Syngenta Philippines, Inc. By training and empowering farmers on proper soil management and regenerative practices, Project SIBOL aims to improve agricultural yields and farmers’ incomes in the Cordilleras and Cagayan Valley, the top corn-producing region in the Philippines.


[1] Bureau of Soils and Water Management and Department of Environment and Natural Resources

[2] Ontl, T. A. & Schulte, L. A. (2012) Soil Carbon Storage. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):35