Young agriculturists, Marielle Sison and Benson Chua launched SowFresh to help farmers from Malasiqui, Pangasinan increase their incomes by offering a variety of agri-products and to help aspiring ones start their farming ventures.
Their enterprise provides cost-friendly and sustainable solutions that aim to improve the Philippine agriculture industry.
One of their ongoing projects is their collaboration with the buri farmers and weavers in the province.
“It’s a commonplace in Pangasinan that wives of farmers would craft products like mats and bags out of buri in order to add more income for the household. And while most of their husbands were greatly affected by both African Swine Fever (ASF) and COVID-19, we thought of the possibility of using the same material in making face masks,” the duo said.
Because buri is abundant in the province, the group did not find it hard to source materials. There is also lesser effort in their production since buri is endemic in the country.
“Growing up, we have been familiar with the variety of buri products like bags, hats, to placemats, and even potholders. And seeing the abundance of buri, we saw the potential to make use of the material for its beauty,” they said.
The buri masks
The masks they produced are breathable because of the weaving pattern of its outer structure and it is not too close to the airways. The inner layer is pure linen made from neoprene, which is a common material used for sports and medical equipment.
Even if the mask is worn for long hours, it is still comfortable and hypoallergenic.
The two young entrepreneurs shared that they’ve been getting a lot of feedback from their female clients that the mask does not smudge their lipstick.
Reusable and eco-friendly, a mask costs P280 and has a pocket for an extra filter.
“A weaver can earn as much as P1000 a day. Some are even earning more than before the pandemic through our venture. As we are gaining international clients, we’re hiring more people to fulfill demand. And we’re proud that not only are we providing well-paying jobs, but also positioning the buri on the global stage as a Philippine-made product,” Sison and Sua explain.
SowFresh was able to create a new source livelihood for the farmers in Pangasinan.