Cecilia Abilio is a 40-year-old farmer and the president of the Farmer Field School (FFS) in Saua Saua, where she learns techniques to improve her agricultural production with her husband, Marcelino, who is also a farmer, and her two children, Miro and Momede. Their horticulture field is something to be proud of. Lines of cabbage, lettuce, onions, peppers, tomatoes and other greens adorn the field near a small river. Sometimes, when they get hungry while working on the field, Cecilia grabs a pepper and eats it under the shade of a palm tree. They also have other fields with staple food like cassava, peanuts, corn and different type of beans.
She is no taller than 1 meter and a half, has a wide smile that she loves flashing, she laughs easily, and she is always dressed with a colorful capulana around her waist and another one on her head. Her children’s education is of the utmost importance to Cecilia. Miro and Momede both go to secondary school in Nametoria, which is 20 km away from their home.
Providing nutritious food for her family is Cecilia’s main concern. “When a family doesn’t have enough food, the children loose their schooling years and women have to suffer at home, knowing that there isn’t enough food,” she said. Quantity of food takes priority at home because her main concern is “filling her children’s bellies,” but she does worry about the nutritional content of the food she is serving them. After having mastered the concepts of conservation agriculture that she learned through the FFS, she now wants to learn how to cook the food she is producing to ensure the best nutrition for her children.
“Knowledge is important because it helps me give food to my family and helps me get money to help my children study,” she said. With the money she gets from selling some of the produce, she buys school uniforms and notebooks for Miro and Momede.
Her husband is also very proud of her hard work. When asked what he thought about women getting involved in agriculture he responded that before, he would be the only provider for the family, and that didn’t go very far. Now they both manage to provide for the family and they are living better. The lessons she learned through the FFS have helped her family increase their yields, which is in turn putting more food on their plates and has even given them a surplus to sell and earn extra money. Marcelino is even rebuilding their house, replacing local materials with cement blocks.