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(Feature) Muslim-Christian women embark on bottled sardines making in Zambo Norte

ZAMBOANGA CITY, March 15 -– A group of women from Barangay Sta. Maria, Siocon municipality in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, bordering this city are now engaged in bottled sardines-making as their livelihood.

These women, who are mostly wives of small fishermen, were fresh fish and dried fish vendors before undergoing training on bottled sardines processing conducted for free by the Dipolog School of Fisheries (DSF) with funding assistance from the TVI Resource Development Phils., a mining firm operating in Sitio Canatuan, Barangay Tabayo of Siocon.

Manuela Canonayon, 48, president of Sta. Maria Women’s Association (SMWA), said some 50 women had participated in the training, but presently only 15 of them are directly involved in the processing and production of bottled sardines.

Canonayon recalled that her group, which is composed of Christian and Muslim women, never thought of embarking on bottled sardines making as they lacked training and some capital to start with.

Nahala Salman, 50, SMWA vice president and member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) also said the group was incapable of procuring cooking utensils and other equipment to be used in processing bottled sardines. But all these were met through the help of TVI.

TVI shouldered the training expenses and bought the group cooking utensils and equipment neede. The company also shelled out more than P100,000 for this project.

Canonayon said that the pressure cooker alone bought by TVI for the group amounted to P32,000. Her group was also given other cooking utensils like stainless strainer, big basins, weighing scales and others.

The group labeled its Spanish-style sardines in oil as “Mananam,” a Tausug word which means delicious. It processed 142 bottles during its first production and another 177 bottles lately.

When asked why TVI has been extending help to SMWA, Julma Esmali-Villanueva of TVI’s Community Relations and Development Office (CREDO) said “it is part of the social development management program of the company to provide sustainable livelihood to the host community particularly the marginal groups.

Aside from the Sta. Maria Women’s Association, TVI has also extended assistance to the fishermen of Sitio Busikong in Sta. Maria, the Subanens at Sitio Canatuan in Barangay Tabayo by providing scholarship grants to poor but deserving students.

“Giving the women livelihood opportunities is one way of empowering them,” said Villanueva. "They really lived a- hand- to- mouth existence but are now hopeful that their living condition will get better in the coming days." (PNA) DCT/LOR/FMS/utb

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