A group of 28 fathers in North Cotabato is inspiring other members of their community to combat food insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, through natural farming system.
“It all started in July 2019,” said Richard. He was then the lead of the village’s committee on agriculture. Knowing the capacity of the men in his community and their potential as a team, he passed a resolution supporting community gardening groups. The first to be organised was the group of 28 fathers called Gulayan sa Amahan.
“Most of those who answered to the call were fathers of World Vison-assisted children and members of CoMSCA groups. A lot of us were trained by the organisation on natural farming system,” adds Richard.
CoMSCA is a savings mechanism that allows a group of people to manage their own savings and credit system. It was first introduced by World Vision in South Cotabato and has since grown into a financial institution nationwide, with more than 200,000 savers, to date.
The group started small until a generous land owner allowed them to use his 1-hectare land. Soon, they were planting different vegetables like broccoli, cauli flower, ampalaya, eggplant, string beans, lettuce and more. To keep their group running, for every kilo of produce, they set aside a peso for the association. Aside from putting fresh foods on their tables, the fathers are also earning at least Php2000 each in a month.
Crisis within a crisis and the spirit of bayanihan
“When multiple earthquakes hit our province, we were already getting bountiful harvest from the garden. Our group decided to donate a portion of our produce to several evacuation centres,” recalls Richard.
Families in their community have barely recovered from the impact of the earthquake when COVID-19 pandemic happened. Community lockdowns were enforced, jobs were disrupted, affecting parents’ capacity to provide for the basic needs of their children. During those times, the Gulayan sa Amahan community garden was the group’s saving grace. It was then that the group turned to their garden, not only as a source of income but also as means to cope mentally and emotionally, while helping their neighbours.
“Since most of the members’ regular jobs were disrupted, we all spent most of our time cultivating the land, planting more vegetables. In no time, we were again getting good harvest. A portion goes to the land owner and the rest of our income goes to us, members. But knowing how our other neighbours were also struggling, we decided to donate some of our produce.”
To support the group’s initiative, World Vision has also provided seedlings and gardening tools.
The impact that the group was making in their community has inspired other groups to do the same. To date, the village’s youth council has also started their own garden while a group of mothers is also doing the same. The initiative has also caught the attention of their local government, resulting to more support in expanding the group’s work. Through the department of agriculture and their local government, they are able to provide households interested on backyard gardening, with seedlings. Their group also paved way for more people in the community to get training on Good Agricultural Practice and organic vegetable production.
“We’re happy with how this initiative has gone. It was initially just meant for the group but it has inspired even the young people to do the same. As fathers, that’s an affirmation to us. With the right motivation and support, it is possible for a community to be food secure, especially in times of crisis” says Richard.