From political science to human resources – here’s how Sharon found her calling with agriculture
Sharon Jean Gonzales – Gulmatico is a reminder that it is never too late to join the world of agriculture.
At the age of 40, she completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science, became a Masteral candidate in Psychology and took on a career in Marketing and Human Resources. However, after several years, Sharon decided to take her passion for sustainable and inclusive agro-forestry a step further by working with the UN. She says she finally responded to “the constant call of the mountains to return to the heartlands.”
Her passion and love for the environment wasn’t one that emerged in her adulthood. As a child, she grew up in a military camp in Baguio, a city deep in the pine mountains, North of the Philippines.
Her summer afternoons were spent playing with her siblings and neighbors. Their favorite activities included climbing trees, catching bugs in the vegetable patches and exploring the woods.
When the 6pm siren sounded to signal the end of the day and The Angelus was played, it felt like the world stood still. Before heading home, she was usually at her favorite spot at the top of the hill, witnessing nature at work, in awe. During those moments, she found herself very small yet significant, realizing that we live in a wonderful and beautiful world.
The pine trees became her constant companion. She would hug her favorite trees, finding comfort in their constancy and the green energy they radiate. Seeing her father, a retired general annually planting trees during his career in the military, she also wanted to follow suit. In high school, she joined protest actions to fight deforestation in her city. At a young age, she wanted to plant as many trees as she can. She and her team were given an opportunity when the worst storm hit the Philippines and she was contacted by the UN to respond to her calling 30 years later.
In 2014, Sharon became the Founder and CEO of Morination Agricultural Products Inc, a social enterprise. Inspired by her father as he feeds her sons moringa because of its benefits, Sharon wanted to plant a million moringa trees.
She believed that the moringa is a viable solution against hunger, poverty and deforestation in support of the UN SDGs. A few weeks into Morination’s operations, she received a call from the UN – asking if Morination would be keen in sending hundreds of thousands of seedlings to Haiyan-affected communities. Weeks later, Morination was in the Visayas assisting the UN in its rehabilitation efforts. In 7 years, the company has been with the UN in areas wrought by conflicts, disasters, and in their COVID-19 response efforts.
Morination focuses on value chain alignment, food systems integration and aiding rural communities, enabling them to attain sustainability and self-sufficiency. With the belief that “agriculture is the most viable solution towards stopping world hunger and providing livelihood for many,” Sharon leads Morination’s teams in driving rural empowerment and multi-stakeholder involvement in various initiatives.
Since its establishment, Morination has become a member of the UN-Business Group and the sustainable development arm of the ASEAN and the World Economic Forum’s Grow Asia – The Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA).
Morination is also a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact. Since 2019, the company has been committed to the UNGC’s corporate responsibility initiative and its principles in the areas of human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption. Locally, Sharon is a convenor for the Business Expert Group on People and the agri-value chain for the UNGC Philippine network.
When asked about the challenges she faces, Sharon explains that agriculture in the Philippines needs to evolve and that many farmers are lagging on a global scale which makes this a challenge in the deliverables.
The current trade imbalance is also a concern. This explains why many of the projects Morination is looking at are targeted in bringing local growers into the digital sphere and providing them opportunities to be productive and effective. Since fair trade is at the core of the business, market education is crucial for farmers to be able to price their products and to ensure the quality of their goods so that they are internationally competitive. She explained that there will always be challenges at every stage of the enterprise, but it is a matter of focusing on opportunities, growth and the tasks at hand to enable progress.
Sharon is noticing an increase in women representation across the value chain, “Our company is a majority women-owned organization and 90% of our agri-partners involved in our ecosystem are women. These mothers made us see that plants are living things existing to help us all. These are not just commodities.”
Her final message to women in agriculture: “Everyone is becoming more concerned about the future of our children and world, and when women see that they can make an impact in changing our future into the world we want, they will become more involved.”