DILIMAN, Quezon City—The number of individuals and groups getting behind the urban agriculture initiative is getting larger as the Department of Agriculture (DA) continues to lead the charge in household-level food production.
“During this lockdown, we saw the importance of food. We learned that it is no joke when it comes to the source of our food. Because of this, the interest in agriculture is starting to grow,” Senator Kiko Pangilinan said during the second episode of Agri Tayo streamed via Facebook last June 25, 2020.
Dubbed as “Meet Your (Urban) Garden”, this episode featured urban agriculture services provided by the different DA agencies and stories of well-known advocates of this initiative.
Celebrity mom and entrepreneur Neri Naig-Miranda shared how she started growing vegetables at home and how this helped feed their family during the lockdown.
“My husband appreciates gardening now. Before the quarantine, he thought it was just a hobby for me. Now, he saw its importance. When we couldn’t go out, we didn’t go hungry because we would just get vegetables from our garden,” Miranda, who lives in Cavite with her family, said.
Miranda added that gardening has become a good form of exercise for her and spending hours in their garden also relaxes her. The celebrity farmer stressed that growing vegetables at home gives her the assurance that the food they eat is safe and, at the same time, helps minimize their daily expenses.
Atty. JC Tejano, who works for a non-government organization in Quezon City, also talked about their community garden which was established in a vacant lot right when the community quarantine started.
“Urban farm can really address food security, and especially during the lockdown when we couldn’t go out to the market. But even without a crisis or pandemic, having an urban farm is very useful for one community. If every community in Metro Manila has an urban farm, I am sure that malnutrition will also be addressed,” he said.
Among the crops that Tejano’s group grows are string beans, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, okra, tomato, chili peppers, lettuce, papaya, oregano, and dill. Tejano stressed that both the young and the old can farm and that there is no need to be afraid of the trial-and-error process in farming.
Meanwhile, Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) senior agriculturist Nemielynn Pangilinan provided a brief background and some updates on the urban agriculture project under the DA’s “Plant, Plant, Plant” Program.
Since the intensified urban agri campaign in March, ATI has supported the establishment of nine community gardens in Quezon City and Caloocan where 3,288 starter kits were also provided. Meanwhile, some 11, 500 kits were distributed through ATI training centers across the different regions.
Twenty four online courses are also being accessed for free by urban agri practitioners through the ATI’s e-Learning program. Over 2,400 individuals have already completed their courses and received electronic certificates.
Aside from this, the Institute has sent text messages to around 1.8 million individuals on different urban farming tips through the Farmers’ Contact Center. Free reading materials reaching to a total of 273,500 copies were also distributed to broaden the access to knowledge and information on urban agriculture.
"In this new normal, we should recognize and give respect to our farmers and fishers because our food comes from them. When we take care of our agriculture and give it importance and the people behind it, we can be food-secure,” Pangilinan stressed.
Agri Tayo is a platform created by Sen. Pangilinan, in collaboration with the DA, that aims to pay tribute and recognize farmers as the heroes of agriculture. The said urban agri episode garnered around 49,000 views and interactions from hundreds of online followers.