Vegetable Harvest at DSB with SM Foundation
The sun was up as we walked towards the harvest area. I could hear the laughter from the distance. When I got to the site, I discovered what kept everyone upbeat and jolly. The farmers were harvesting the vegetables and the watermelons they planted. This is the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) Farmers’ Training Program for Sustainable Agriculture of SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI), in partnership with Harbest Agribusiness Corporation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the local government of Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental.
We were able to talk to Mr. Rodger Rebatado, president of the Don Salvador Benedicto Agro Forest farmers Association (DSBAFFA). It was in 2014 when they formed themselves in order to come up with livelihood to support their families. Then, through a partnership with SMFI, under its KSK program, Harbest provided them with training and seedlings to start their small organic farm in a half-hectare lot just off the highway of DSB. They plant corn, bitter gourd (ampalaya), sponge gourd (patola), onion, ginger, watermelon, lettuce, and other fruits and vegetables. Member-farmers, which now total to 50 individuals, oversee their plantations.
Mr. Rebatado shared that many members were able to send their children to school from the income they get through their organic farming. They are looking into selling their produce to SM Supermarkets but the DSBAFFA is still assessing if they will be able to provide the required volume in order to supply regularly in SM.
Present during the harvest was Barangay Kagawad (councilor) Societo M. Baya of Barangay Handumanan, Bacolod City. He belonged to the batch 2015 of the SMFI KSK program. They applied what they learned from the training and created a vegetable garden in a 347 square-meter lot in their locality. They entered their vegetable project in a competition that involved different barangays in Bacolod City and Barangay Handumanan was hailed the champion. Their produce are sold at their village market, while some are used for feeding programs in the local clinic and school.
While the farmers brought their harvest to DSB’s covered court, we crossed the highway and hiked uphill to the site of SMFI’s “Grow A Million Trees” project. The place was so green and mountainous areas at the backdrop add a relaxing ambiance to the whole scenery. Members of the DSBAFFA and volunteers of SMFI planted 10,000 hardwood and fruit-bearing trees. The local partners will grow these trees to ensure that they will last for years. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources monitors the site twice a year to check on the trees. Damaged ones, if there are any, are immediately replaced.
Overall, this is a wonderful endeavor that helps our environment and supports our farmers. Plus, it also promotes healthy food. Next time we drop by the grocery store, let us take a look at the fresh vegetable produce as they may be grown by our local farmers. The most we can do is to patronize their products so as to help them continue earn a living.
As we joined the farmers at the covered court, we watched the joy in their eyes. We also partook of their boodle fight and sampled a watermelon jam they created. It was something new they tried and they only experimented on it, but the result was delicious and very promising.
We left as the heavens poured down. The cold breeze and the rain seemed to assure us that nature will help the farmers in their endeavors. I look forward to more harvests for these farmers, more food on their table, and a brighter future for their children.