Bangsamoro Region

Filipinos urged to go ‘survival’ gardening vs. food shortage in prolonged COVID-19 crisis

By Ali G. Macabalang

COTABATO CITY: Different sectors have renewed calls for Filipinos to go “survival gardening” in preparation for possible rice shortage in prolonged lockdowns stemming from the global fight against coronavirus (COVID-19).

Tablighs (Islamic preachers) leading some Maranao evacuees from war-torn Marawi City in tending a backyard vegetable farm in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur that helped them earn money and sustain household consumption in their moments of displacement since 2017.(Courtesy of Moro Scribe Nash Maulana)

Advocates of backyard gardening took cue from the recent Presidential pronouncement that the public health crisis stemming from the COVID-19 could last for two years if a vaccine is not discovered soon.

President Duterte, who just extended the state of public health emergency from April 14 up to the end of this month, believed that only a vaccine could put an end to the pandemic that has already infected more than 1.6 million people and caused 96,791 deaths across the globe as of April 10.

Momentarily, local government units have embarked on rationing relief foods, while national line agencies allotted various forms of cash assistance amounting to billions of pesos for Filipinos affected in the lockdowns.

But how long the country’s rice supplies can last, and what would be use of cash in a situation characterized by lack of ample staple commodities are questions disturbing farming and economic experts.

‘Survival gardening’

For some quarters in the south, including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the “most potential” answer to the questions is backyard farming or “survival gardening.”

BARMM’s Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) Mohammad Yacob said his ministry has been distributing seeds of tomato, lettuce, cucumber, eggplant, squash, string beans, okra, bitter gourd, and Chinese kangkong alongside packed relief foods for pandemic-affected farmers in the autonomous region.

Yacod also launched lately the distribution of hybrid palay seeds supplied from local and foreign entities coordinated by Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chairman Manny Piñol, a former agriculture secretary.

The hybrid rice seeds called Rc204H (Mestizo 20) and TH-82 (Tatag Hybrid-82) varieties, have posted record yields of up to eight to 10 metric tons in un-irrigated and rain-fed areas and be planted in irrigated paddy fields with yields surpassing 10 metric tons making it a versatile variety of rice seeds, according to Sec. Piñol.

Before his transfer from the Agriculture Department to MinDA last year, Piñol had crafted an agriculture roadmap for BARMM containing various mechanisms of enhancing productivity in the poverty-gripped autonomous region. The plan encompassed regular farming and fishing methods as well as backyard gardening alongside poultry-raising.

Marawi IDPs’ model backyard farming

Yacob said the BARMM government, through the MAFAR supports partner groups promoting sustainable production for consumption, by providing them free seeds of vegetables and other crops during the period of pandemic.

He cited as example a group of Tabligh (Islamic preaching movement) members that had led many evacuees from the Marawi City siege in 2017 into backyard gardening in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur

The vegetable farms in Saguiaran town, which shelters many Maranao evacuees, started with few plots of backyard garden. Now, the farmers’ products there have been a favorite choice in national agri-business and food-fair markets, according to Moro scribe Nash Maulana, who had documented parts of the backyard farms.

Backyard farming has also been strongly advocated by now Maguindanao (2nd District) Rep. Esmael Mangudadatu, whose family took inspiration from narratives about Japanese lucrative households’ gardening.  

In a press conference at the sidelight of his launch of backyard gardening in 2016, Mangudadatu, then a governor, confessed that he was afraid of the future when “people will kill one another because of lack of food.” (AGM/RSP)

1 reply »

  1. How we wish na meron talagang ganyan dito for real. Credits to the owner of the picture pero di ba po that was more than 2 years ago i think, di ko lang sure. Wala po akong masamang intention. That picture kasi, sa amin yan na lugar. Tapat pa mismo ng bahay namin and kakaharvest lang jan ng ube crops. I’m just curious lang po ba’t ngayon lang yan napost and the intention. Sana nga totoong may binibigay na mga seedlings and some food packs. And sana wag lang po IDPs from marawi siege ang iprioritize, how about us na natural residents ng ibang province na tumanggap ng mga IPDs? Kumakain di naman po kami, nagugutom din.


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