BALO-I, Lanao del Norte—Displaced residents of Marawi City are now better trained in sustainable vegetable farming.
A total of 221 evacuees from Ground Zero of the battle-worn city recently completed the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers’ Training Program of SM Foundation in ceremonies held in Barangay Nangka here.
The graduates comprised Batch 155 of the program that has been helping small farmers to be self-sufficient in food, with a goal to end hunger in every farmer’s home.
The ceremony was attended by Lanao del Norte Gov. Imelda Dimaporo; Balo-I Mayor Ellias Ali; Lanao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo; Lanao del Sur Rep. Al-Arief Mangata; Evelyn Madrio from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Region X; Leticia Ditucalan, Provincial Agriculturist of Lanao del Norte; and Arsenio “Toto” Barcelona from Harbest Agribusiness.
Some of the evacuees of Marawi are now discovering how difficult it is to till the land for their subsistence and eventual affluence if they persist in doing so.
Even a thin, fragile-looking lady of 103 years old continues to try learning different farming methods from what she grew up with in rice and root crops when she “graduated” recently from the two-month KSK program of SM Foundation Inc. in partnership with Harbest. Her children who are also actively farming, were with her in the training program.
Some of the evacuees were well-off but stared at poverty in the eye when they evacuated to Iligan and Lanao del Norte and depended solely on the generosity of government and donor agencies.
Undoubtedly, many of the “graduates” came from humble origins and different religions, mostly Christians and Muslims, brought together in one evacuation center and forced to learn new skills together. Their graduation showed just how old wounds and discriminations can be reduced, if not completely erased.
The graduates from Marawi city proper, were taught high-value crops farming for two months but could not harvest the fruits of their labor, as the day-long rain did not allow them.
But they had fun all day, from the games and food shared by SM Foundation and the inspiring talks of the local government officials along with SMFI Director for Livelihood Cristy Angeles and Harbest’s Barcelona gave them. They all urged them to move on with their lives and not depend on other people for their subsistence.
They planted marketable and in-demand crops like lettuce, bell pepper, okra, eggplants, honey dew melon, water melon and several others that their families could eat and could earn from once sold in the markets.
They were urged to be mentors and propagators of “balik-farming” in Marawi so their recovery process will be shortened, and they would not have a dole-out mindset.
The graduates expressed gratitude to SMFI and the local officials for providing them the opportunity to learn another source of income (outside of planting rice, corn and root crops and depending on the bounty of the sea) through the 500 sq. m. techno- pilot farm lent by Gov. Dimaporo and for SMFI the funding for the project with the seeds bought from Harbest Agriculture.
The DA municipal office also provided technical support for planting.
This farming program will also be replicated eventually in Ground Zero later February, as soon as the military clears the area for the residents to return to their properties.
Rep. Dimaporo told the graduates that when their production is more than enough to meet their personal and neighbors’ needs, they can form a cooperative so that they can sell to retail outlets like the SM mall in Cagayan de Oro City, some two hours away from their lands.