USAID, through its Protect Wildlife project, and the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative, have been advancing efforts to strengthen the t’nalak weaving enterprise of Lake Sebu Indigenous Women Weavers Association, Inc. (LASIWWAI). The group is composed of more than 300 abaca producers and artisan weavers who produce t’nalak—a traditional T’boli cloth—in Allah Valley Protected Landscape in southern Mindanao.
USAID assisted LASIWWAI in strategic management and business development, investments in postharvest equipment, and market linkages. Either through workshops or trainings, its members analyzed challenges affecting their operations and developed a plan to capitalize on opportunities, such as securing authentic indigenous t’nalak certification to gain a competitive edge. They also learned basic bookkeeping and record-keeping to track expenses and manage cash flow.
Equally important as these skills enhancement programs, USAID handed over an abaca spindle stripping machine to the association. With the equipment, LASIWWAI members can produce high-quality fiber—up to 20 times faster than by hand-stripping—that will be used to weave intricately designed t’nalak cloth and various abaca handicrafts. Moreover, such mechanized production greatly improves the quality of abaca fiber, helping farmers command a higher price in the market.
The Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) took charge of the training on operations of the stripping machine and helped the group develop its operations and maintenance manual.
USAID has made an arrangement with United Maligang Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative—an accredited trader and processor of high-quality abaca fiber in Sarangani—to buy the abaca fiber from the association.
Under the W-GDP Initiative, USAID’s Protect Wildlife project targets to support 20 enterprises with active women members and aims to benefit around 5,000 households by strengthening the economic benefits derived from biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. W-GDP support for women’s livelihoods includes training on organizational development, training on improved production and post-harvest technologies, strengthening access to credit, and facilitating marketing agreements and networking opportunities. (PWP/ May Anne Ramos)