By Zac B. Sarian
MARAWI EVACUEES FINISH VEGGIE TRAINING – A total of 221 evacuees from Marawi’s Ground Zero underwent a two-month training on growing high-value vegetables and other crops at a demo farm in the town of Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. The training was under the auspices of SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers Training Program in collaboration with Harbest Agribusiness, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the provincial government of Lanao del Norte and the Department of Agriculture.
DEMO FARM IN BALO-I – Photo shows the demo farm in Balo-I where 221 evacuees from Marawi City’s Ground Zero trained on growing high-value vegetables and other crops. Photo was taken during the early stage of development of the vegetables. Among the vegetables planted are lettuce, sweet pepper, eggplant, okra, watermelon, honeydew melon and several others.
KANGKONG AS CASH CROP – Upland kangkong is one of the vegetables being recommended because it can be harvested in just 21 to 25 days after planting. It is also one of the favorite vegetables of consumers. Hence it is a good candidate for growing as a cash crop.
WATGERMELON AS HIGH-VALUE FRUIT CROP – In many places in the Philippines, trainees under the KSK program are taught how to grow watermelon which is a crop that commands a high price in the market. Photo shows ripe Diana watermelon ready for harvesting in a demo farm under the auspices of the KSK Farmers Training Program.
PUMPKINS AS MONEY-MAKER – Several varieties of pumpkins are being distributed by Harbest Agribusiness which are easy to produce. The fruits are nutritious and are used in cooking Filipino recipes. Aside from the fruits, the tops or shoots as well as the flowers are cooked as vegetable in dishes like bulanglang and other soupy preparations.
EGGPLANT AS FAVORITE VEGGIE – In practically all its training programs, the KSK always includes the production of hybrid eggplant because it is a favorite of consumers all over the country. The hybrid varieties are recommended for planting like the one in photo because they are high-yielding. The fruits are prepared in different ways that include pinakbet, omelet, grilled and other preparations.
It seems there’s no stopping for SM Foundation in its pursuit of training farmers and even non-farmers on growing high-value vegetables and other crops. From its first batch in Bacolod City several years back, it continues to sponsor the training of people in producing vegetables for their own consumption as well as for sale as a source of income.
The latest batch, its 155th, was held in Balo-I, Lanao del Norte where a total of 221 evacuees from Marawi’s Ground Zero underwent two-months of lectures and hands-on training in a demo farm provided by Gov. Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo and her husband Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo.
The vegetables that they grew in the demo farm included lettuce, bell pepper, okra, eggplant, honey dew melon, watermelon and several others. It is hoped that when they go back to their homes, they will be able to produce the crops not only for their own consumption but also for sale in the market.
Their graduation, after two months of honing their skills in high-value crops production, was attended by Evelyn Madrio from DSWD Region X; Alicia Ditucalan, provincial agriculturist of Lanao del Norte; Rep. Al-Arief Mangata of Lanao del Sur; Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness; Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Quibranza Dimaporo; Mayor Ellias Ali of Balo-i; and Lanao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo.
Some of the evacuee-trainees came from families with financial means while many others are of more modest financial status. All of them had to learn to coax the good earth to yield the all important food, i.e., vegetables and other high-value crops.
A thin, fargile-looking, 103-year-old lady was among the participants in the training, bringing along with her her children who are farmers who have been planting rice and rootcrops.
The graduates of the training consisted of individuals of different religions – Muslims and Christians who had to work together in the demo farm. Somehow, the training had also resulted in better understanding of each other, paving the way to mutual respect for one’s beliefs.
The SM Foundation, in collaboration with Harbest Agribusiness, has also undertaken vegetable training for victims of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City. But of course, it is not only in disaster areas where the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers Training Program has been undertaken.
Aside from the towns and cities in Negros Occidental where the program started, the KSK program has been undertaken in many places all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Several batches have been trained in Central Luzon such as in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Bataan. Trainings have also been held in several places in Pangasinan, La Union, Baguio, Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon.
As a result of the trainings, many of the graduates have become successful vegetable growers. Some have formed their groups to supply high-quality harvests to supermarkets like those of SM and other outlets.
Besides Harbest Agribusiness, SM Foundation has been collaborating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Agriculture and local government units.