To combat the prevalence of undernutrition among Filipino children, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continues to expand the implementation of its communal gardening project among partner-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), an anti-poverty program of the government implemented by the Department.
Communal gardening is one of the projects of the Department to empower communities and promote good health among poor Filipino families. It aims to help address the nutrition concerns of beneficiaries by encouraging families to use indigenous seeds and organic fertilizer to grow vegetables within their own communities or households.
“The DSWD has always been strong in its stand to capacitate poor Filipino families towards self-reliance. This is why we continue to incorporate knowledge and skills enhancement training in the family development sessions (FDS) of 4Ps beneficiaries to enable them to become productive members of society and to provide them support for self-sufficiency,” said DSWD Officer-in-Charge Emmanuel A. Leyco.
Aside from its effectiveness in combating the prevalence of undernutrition among children, the social welfare officer also said that the project provides great opportunity for locals to organize and collectively work together for their community’s development and transformation.
Found in the mountainous region of Pamplona, Negros Oriental, a “Gulayan sa Barangay” was established through the own efforts of 4Ps partner-beneficiaries in Sitio Baliwon, Barangay Balayong to ensure that their families consume healthy and nutritious food at minimal costs — they can save money and time from traveling via ‘habal-habal’ to go to the marketplace.
“Gisiguro namu nga ang among ma-ani unya kay presko ug way kemikal kay kini ipakaon namu sa among pamilya labi na sa among mga anak (We ensure that our harvests are fresh and chemical-free because we feed these vegetables to our family especially to our children),” said parent-leader Adriana Reyes.
Reyes also emphasized the importance of community support in the success of their garden.
“Malipay pud mi nga magkatapok kay samtang ga-atiman mi sa mga tanom, kini nakapalig-on sa among panaghilagaay ug adunay pagtambayayong sa tanan (We are happy that we can bond together as a group because while we tend to our crops, it also strengthens friendship and camaraderie among the community residents, which is instrumental in cultivating the sense of genuine partnership among us),” she said.
From recycling to gardening
In coastal areas, the “Gulayan sa Barangay” was implemented through the use of plastic bottles, old cans, and other recyclable materials.
According to parent-leader Rosene Pahilga from Molo, Iloilo City, despite living almost 15 meters away from the coastline of Barangay Calumpang, she was able to maintain a garden in their backyard to augment their family income by selling the vegetables that they gather from their organic farm.
“On top of my husband’s salary, the garden gives additional income for us, that is why my husband and children also help me to maintain our vegetable garden during weekends as part of our family bonding,” Pahilga said.
Meanwhile, 4Ps beneficiary Marina Monton from Davao City collects empty tetra packs from cemeteries to be used as soil containers or plastic pots for her own vegetable garden.
“Ang naka nindot sa amoang gulayan kay nag ka unite mi mga beneficiaries nga bisan og naa mi sa daplin sa dagat dili rason nga dili mi maka tanom og mga gulay (It is interesting to note that as beneficiaries, we agreed that living near the seashore is not a hindrance to growing vegetables),” explained Monton.
From Monton’s small garden, the family earns an additional P1,500 every month which augments their family’s income, as well as, provides for their family’s vegetable requirements.
For locals residing in Barangay Sebod, Municipality of President Manuel A. Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte, being adept in organic gardening is a way to enhance the values of their youth and to promote discipline and healthy lifestyle among the members of their community.
Through the efforts of Subanen beneficiaries of the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Indigenous Peoples (MCCT-IP), they were able to set up a communal garden in Sebod Elementary School last year.
Part of the produce that they gathered was donated as additional ingredients for the Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) for IP children in the municipality. The organic vegetables were beneficial for them to achieve zero malnutrition status among the children in their barangay.
The MCCT-IP is a program of the DSWD specifically created to provide assistance to itinerant IPs and those in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) who are not covered by the regular Pantawid program.
As of March 2018, the MCCT-IP program currently has a total of 176,272 IP beneficiaries nationwide.
Meanwhile, the SFP, as part of the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) program of the government, provides additional food provision for children enrolled in day care and supervised neighbourhood play (SNP).
As of February 2018, a total of 1,758,946 day care children and 42,287 children under SNP has already been served nationwide.
Communal gardens in the city
Aside from the rural areas, communal gardens also cultivate a close-knit and cooperative environment among Pantawid beneficiaries in urbanized districts in Metro Manila.
For instance, 4Ps partner-beneficiaries in Welfareville Compound, Mandaluyong City transformed a once-filthy one-hectare area inside the DSWD-run Sanctuary Center into a rich communal garden where different kinds of vegetables, fruits, and herbal plants grow throughout the whole year.
The partner-beneficiaries also conduct seminars about herbal medicines, team building, prayer meetings and other forms of activities to strengthen the bond among family members and ensure the success of their communal garden.
At present, there are 40 Pantawid beneficiaries who plant and harvest different kinds of crops which they also share with mental health survivors and patients of the Sanctuary Center.
From being mere program recipients of the Pantawid, the DSWD, in collaboration with partners from local governments, non-government organizations and private institutions, hopes to capacitate more beneficiaries into empowered community leaders who are able to help in the development of the nation. ###