Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Zamboanga youth convert idle lands into productive ‘Food Gardens’

ZAMBOANGA CITY - Local youth groups have effectively turned idle lands into productive food gardens with the help of the advocacy group called “Kids Who Farm.” 

Hydroponics lettuce and pechay production in Barangay Santa Maria.

The Kids Who Farm, founded by Moncini Hinay and daughter Raaina Hinay, aims to inspire future farmers by educating the youth on the importance and value of food and farming.

The food gardens were implemented by the Sangguniang Kabataan Councils of each barangay as part of their efforts to improve food security in their communities. Referred to as Youth Food Gardens, each garden will be managed and maintained by the community youth. 

Helping with the construction of these food gardens are the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Zamboanga City, the Zamboanga City Agriculturist Office, Rotary Club of Zamboanga City West, Rotary Club of Zamboanga City Central, JCI Zamboanga Inc., Seedbank Project, I Can Make A Difference Inc., Crimsonvironment, El Cosechas Soilless Gardening Solution and the Coca Cola Zamboanga City Plant.

Food gardens were built in the Barangays Tumaga, Santa Maria, Divisoria and San Jose Gusu. The food garden in Tumaga was constructed behind the Barangay Government Center, to replace a 33-square meter waste disposal area that had sat idle for many years. The same was done in Santa Maria, Divisoria and San Jose Gusu, in vacant lots owned by the Barangay Government.

Sanguniang Kabataan members harvest vegetable in their garden in Barangay Tumaga.

Boasting hydroponics system and containerized production that can host a wide variety of crops in a small area, the food gardens are aimed to address the cities’ food security problems. By bringing farmland into the city, each garden brings food within reach of those who would otherwise have a hard time accessing their local markets.

The founders said they also intend for the food gardens to serve as an educational tool to help future generations grow an appreciation for farming.

“The truth is we’re running out of farmers. There aren’t enough young people interested in tending to the fields. Through these food gardens, we’re hoping the next generation will learn to grow their own food, for their sakes and for the sake of their communities,” the elder Hinay said.

The food gardens are part of the broader Youth Food Garden Project. Led by Kids Who Farm, the project looks to convert idle land into food gardens across Zamboanga City.

Kids Who Farm core teammates Amina Shayne Halil, Khen Lexter Torres, Munir Akil, Abdulnasir Pandangan Jr. and Odessa Julienne Rebaya.

The father and daughter tandem are working to make sure the people of Zamboanga get enough to eat, while raising the next generation of small farmers. With the help of the Kids Who Farm core teammates Amina Shayne Halil, Khen Lexter Torres, Munir Akil, Abdulnasir Pandangan Jr. and Odessa Julienne Rebaya, they work with communities and with youth groups on efforts like the Youth Food Garden Project.

The elder Hinay stressed the importance of transforming idle land into productive spaces. The food gardens, he said, are proof of what can be done with land that is not being used.

“There’s no such thing as idle land. Every bit of land can be made to serve the people living around it. These gardens bring nature into the city, provide food for those living around them, and make for a nice, cool space to spend time in,” he explained.

The food gardens have already established gardens in Barangays Tulungatung, and Pasonanca, along with the new plots in Tumaga, Santa Maria, Divisoria and San Jose Gusu. Preparations are in place for similar gardens in Barangays Malagutay, Mercedes, Sinunuc, Santa Catalina and Lumbangan.

The Kids Who Farm and its partners are committed to building a food secure future for cities like Zamboanga. By inspiring young people to take to the farms and to turn idle land into prosperous gardens, Kids Who Farm is raising the next generation of agriculturalists so that everyone may have access to good food.

Food Security

The advocacy virtually complemented the local government’s food security plan.

Mayor Beng Climaco said the local government has increased its investment and budget allocation amid the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure food security and sustainable agriculture.

“We also looked into the provision of relief, emergency assistance and support to the most vulnerable population,” Climaco said as she underscored the need to adopt a convergence of resources program to revive the economy of Zamboanga City and to provide economic amelioration support in the form of livelihood assistance to sectors directly and indirectly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. 

She said this measure will also encourage the affected and displaced workers to work from home in ventures initiated by the City Government and encourage linkage with private sector and people’s organizations in rendering livelihood and other assistance to affected sectors, and to rebuild consumer and business confidence and eventually resume a new normal state of economic activity. 

The mayor also cited the importance of the “Kadiwa on Wheels,” a mobile market that supported the local farmers and fisherfolks and provided consumers access to basic needs in their respective barangays and at the same time allowed sellers and micro enterprises to earn. 

She said the Office of the City Agriculturist also initiated the Home Gardening Project and provided assorted vegetable seeds to more than 20,000 families and households aimed at providing alternative activity and income. “It allowed our household to produce their own organic vegetables for their own consumption and as an alternative source of income during the lockdown. The project also aided in the local production of vegetables that resulted ample supply in the local market, especially at this time of the pandemic,” she said. (With additional reporting by the Zamboanga Post)

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