A Woman’s Work: Amenah’s Quest for Peace, One Farm at a Time

Amenah S. Taratingan

Field work is no fun, but for this peerless and fierce female, doing extension services in the field is more of a dedication and vocation. Here, Mamie Amenah and company coming from the ATI-Central Office is off to Munai, Lanao del Norte to interview some "From Arms to Farms" rebel-returnee beneficiaries.

As a champion in attaining world peace and justice, Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana, is known for deflecting bullets using her unbreakable bracelets and Lasso of Truth to combat criminals and fight evil doers. Her contribution to the Justice League, a group of superheroes doing good for mankind makes her an invaluable member. What Diana can do, Amenah S. Taratingan can also deliver. The difference is that the latter fights for peace with a different kind of approach---farming.

Amazing Amenah

Fondly called “Mamie Amenah” by her peers and colleagues, Amenah is no stranger to dealing with people from all walks of life. Hailing from Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, she is fully aware that the divisiveness in her homebase is a constant issue. Families are displaced and homes ravaged due to the constant conflict of ideologies and principles.

Being half-Maranao and half-Tausug, Mamie has an upperhand when coordinating with the rest of her Muslim brothers and sisters since she can speak several dialects---a skill she puts to good use and advantage in bridging communication barriers. It is also her advantage that she has a famous uncle named Nur Misuari, whose claim to fame was ushering Muslims as capable to contribute in terms of development and nation building.

With a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy and a Masters in Public Administration under her belt, it is not surprising that she was once a corn specialist who then became a cooperative specialist. In her 32 years as a civil servant, she aspires for the people of Kauswagan and its neighboring municipalities to attain a peaceful co-existence free from conflict and political strife. A steadfast feminist, Amenah is also a member of Gabriela, a political group known for promoting and supporting equal rights for women and safeguarding children’s welfare.

Insurmountable Odds

Since the inception of the “From Arms to Farms” in 2012, Amenah was already involved in guiding and assisting rebel-returnees who intended to turn their life around and embrace organic farming. “From Arms to Farms” is an initiative of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) which helps rebel-returnees engage in organic farming, build up their livelihood and ultimately improve the quality of their lives.

For years, she has conducted trainings on Farmers Field School (FFS) on corn, upland rice, peanuts, and vegetables during the duration of mentoring the rebel-returnees. One of the problems encountered during the whole training process was the communication barrier among the 68 rebel returnees along with their four commanders. It is no easy task but Amenah acted as the mediator between parties whose lives were about to change for the better.

Struck with the desire to help and attain food security, some members of the Philippine Army also joined during the four months of season-long training. “It was a daunting task and a big challenge for me at first since when they came here, there was no passion or love for farming. I have to hard-sell the idea and instill in their being that farming can be a source of livelihood and income,” she confessed.

Despite the imminent danger, it never crossed her mind to quit and abandon the rebel returnees whom she has grown attached with and look forward to meeting every time there is a scheduled training.

Lasting Legacy

A recipient of an Outstanding Employee Award given by the Department of Agriculture, Amenah didn’t let the recognition go to her head. In fact, she confessed that a sincere thank you will do to merit the efforts she continue to do to uplift the lives and farming conditions in her municipality. A gesture she felt necessary with the support of Kauswagan Mayor Rommel Arnado who happens to be an advocate of the project also.

When personally asked about the cause of insurgencies and divisiveness in Lanao, she said that clash of culture, land conflict, and discrimination are among the top three causes why there is still political unrest. Her efforts in promoting organic farming and instilling the love of farming among the rebel-returnees is her best bet to help them turn their lives around and live a decent life. She wants to be remembered as a woman whose commitment and passion in farming is unparalleled.

As a farm technician, she is most proud of the achievement attained by farmers Sakar Pendatu and Aga Dimakuta, since she witnessed how they developed their respective farms and improved their lives. At the moment, she intends to introduce Farm Business School (FBS) in Lanao in addition to value-adding and processing of farm products. “Finish what you have started, but most importantly, do it with a heart,” were Amenah’s parting words as we wrapped up the interview. Her work with the rebel-returnees by engaging them one farm at a time may not have been finished but surely, she serves it with all her heart.

Truth be told, Diana may be the first female founding member of the Justice League, but certainly, she will not be the last. Her influence and impact to the women (and men) around the world breaks barriers and boundaries. She is timeless since she transcends generations of admirers. Just like Diana, Amenah’s voice may be singular but it has a pluralizing effect. Her continuous effort in ushering farming to the rebel-returnees is commendable, but this woman’s work in attaining peace through farming in her hometown Lanao del Norte is far from being done. Not just yet.