Partners in Farming Hope

KSK Batch 156 graduates with Mayor Edwin Santiago and Vice-Mayor Jimmy Lazatin in San Fernando, Pampanga.

SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) Farmers’ Training Program is gaining a groundswell with government as it capped two batches in San Fernando, Pampanga and Dinalupihan, Bataan in April. The Foundation worked with the local government units, Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

BDO Foundation, together with BDO Unibank rural subsidiary, One Network Bank, also participated in KSK to impart financial skills that would help the farmers with their business plans. The KSK trainees were taught how to manage their finances, including how to earn more, how to save, and how to budget their money to grow their livelihood.

Prioritizing agriculture in Pampanga 

Launched on January 24, KSK Batch 156 helped farmers improve their skills in organic farming thru a season-long training in Barangay Maimpis, San Fernando, Pampanga. In a span of 12 weeks, the 84 graduates were taught modern methods and technologies for productive backyard farming by the Foundation’s program partner, Harbest Agribusiness Corporation. They were instructed on the how-to’s of planting and harvesting high quality farm produce such as eggplants, watermelon, honeydew, chili and cucumber, which they can either sell to SM’s suppliers or through direct selling in markets near them.

During the Harvest Festival, Mayor Edwin Santiago emphasized that it is essential that the graduates know about effective farming practices to achieve sustainable agriculture, which is a priority of the city. He encouraged the Fernandinos to enhance their production to contribute to the city’s food security. He also advised them to keep their land instead of succumbing to the temptation of earning quick money by selling their property.

“Farmers form the backbone of our food sector. Support from non-government organizations is something that the city welcomes for our farmers,” San Fernando City Vice-Mayor Jimmy Lazatin said as he commended SM Foundation for teaching farmers new techniques in planting and harvesting. He added that KSK is a great boost to the city’s declining population of farmers. 

City Agriculture and Veterinary Officer Cristina Sangumay conveyed her appreciation to SM Foundation for conducting the second KSK training in their community.

The farmer-beneficiaries are from eight barangays of San Fernando and its neighboring areas. Five of them are employees of the City Agriculture and Veterinary Office of San Fernando while many are under 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program).

A KSK-trained farmer happy with his harvest!

Jason Garcia, a backyard farmer and one of the  beneficiaries of KSK Batch 156, said he is now  ready to expand his livelihood. Selling vegetables  in front of his house along the road, he foresees  a boost in production and improvement in the quality of his produce after the KSK training.

Modern agropolis in Bataan

The Batch 157 Harvest Festival in Barangay Payangan, Dinalupihan in Bataan saw a fullcourt of government agencies now participating in SM Foundation’s KSK, together with the active local government headed by the dynamic Mayor Gila Garcia, who is steering the province into her vision of a modern agropolis by 2022.

Director Gemma B. Gabuya of DSWD  Field Office attended the harvest festival and  was delighted to see how everyone’s efforts  paid off. “Congratulations sa napakasaya at  napakasuccessful na kwento ng karanasan na  ito sa ating buhay. Mahalaga na makita natin  ang pagbabago sa ating sarili at magkaroon ng  pagbabago sa pananaw ng ating mga sarili, na  kayang-kaya nating harapin ang mga hamon ng  buhay,” she said.

The Department of Trade and Industry is assisting the farmers in marketing their produce by empowering them and bridging them to the food chain. According to DTI Provincial Director Nelin Cabahug, a program such as KSK supports inclusive growth for the country by involving all sectors, the indigenous peoples especially, in development efforts through productive projects like high value crop farming. 

The participants were also taught business planning and project proposal writing by Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) Implementing Project Development Officer Khristine Fernandez.

1.  KSK Batch 157 learned how to farm uplands in Dinalupihan, Bataan.    |  2.   Farmer-graduates with Mayor Gila Garcia. 

“Hindi ito ang pagtatapos kundi simula pa lamang ng pag-abot ng pangarap ng mga pamilya,” Mayor Garcia declared as she expressed her gratitude to SM Foundation for giving their constituents the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. She committed to provide each of the “production groups” with a capital of P100,000 to ensure the sustainability of the projects, as she prodded them to bring pride to Dinalupihan in their quest to become a modern agropolis.

KSK Batch 157 is composed of 216 new and longtime farmers, beneficiaries of 4Ps and tribal Aetas from 20 barangays in Dinalupihan. From January 26, they attended the hands-on training every Friday for 12 weeks. The Aetas used to plant rootcrops and vegetables only during rainy season as water is very scarce in the highlands. The greenhouse farming technology will help them plant even during the dry season. After the KSK training, they proudly announced their plans to plant the same high-value crops within their respective upland barangays and teach their neighbors their newly -acquired skills on what and how to farm year-round.

Barangay Bayan-bayanan Chieftain Reggie Paule, 43 years old with six kids, had been farming all his life following his father’s footsteps. He has 24 members in their association, who are all upland farmers. He said he is happy to obtain more knowledge in modern farming.

Paule, together with Maritess Sarte, Rosa David and Sam Panganiban, voiced their disdain for begging by their peers. They said they have lots of upland ancestral lands to till and would rather work than beg.

“Dati rati, kumukuha ang traders ng kamote, sitao, papaya at gabi sa amin. Ang baba ng kita namin, napupunta lang sa pamasahe ng tricycle. Kahit ganun, hindi kami nagpapalimos,” said Sarte, who has been planting for more than 10 years. “Sa KSK, natutunan namin ang organic farming at paano mag fertilize nang tama. Dati, basta nagtanim ako, hinahayaan ko na lang sa ulan. Ngayon, mas alam ko na paano mag-alaga ng pananim,”she added.

Tribal dance performed by the Aetas

David, 70 years old and a beneficiary of the government’s 4Ps, disclosed competition was high -- they all sold at the same time in the same market, hence, many of them had a hard time finding buyers for their produce and had to return home with no revenues. “Sayang ang pagod namin,” she admitted. She is hopeful that with the help of Mayor Garcia and the SM Group, they will have additional market for their produce. 

One of their group mates, Roman Perez, has been seeking the help of the Department of Agriculture for 10 years to teach him other technologies to usein his eight hectare farm. He used to plant cassava and papaya only during the rainy season. Grateful to be part of KSK, he said, “I wanted to learn more skills and plant in the uplands. Kasi wala kaming tubig kung hindi ulan. Mabuti ngayon sinali ako sa KSK ng SM Foundation. Now I know we can plant even without the rains.” 

Merly Gonzales, 62 years old, has been farming since 1987. She is the breadwinner in their family as her husband is sick. Though diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2014, she said her illness never stopped her from doing what she loves. “Prayer, gratitude and farming, masaya na ako,” she revealed. Used to planting mangoes, she was glad to learn how to plant watermelon, melon, eggplant, okra and other crops. Moreover, she was pleased to learn new techniques using readily available materials, claiming “Dito ko lang natutunan gamitin ang mga dahon. Na-realize ko na nasa paligid lang pala ang mga kailangan ko.” 

The participants enjoyed harvesting their crops, which they used as ingredients in the cooking contest featuring their original recipes. The remaining produce were sold.                                                   

Other memorable highlights of the day included the boodle fight and intermission numbers from the various groups, including a tribal dance from the Aetas.                                                                   
In the next harvest season, produce would be sold by their association to sell to the local market and to the bulk suppliers of the SM Group who will put up a Buyer’s Station in markets during their harvest season. 

Amidst the scorching heat during the harvest festivals was the robust fervor of the newly-trained farmers and their supporters in government and the SM Group.