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FAITH Gardening: Strengthening food security, empowering women in Cotabato

Members of the Rural Improvement Clubs (RIC) in the First District of Cotabato prepare their vegetable beds as part of the "Food Always In The Home" or FAITH vegetable gardening training. These women participants are from the municipalities of Pikit, Aleosan, Midsayap, Libungan, Pigcawayan, and Alamada. (Photo: OPAg-LGU Cotabato province)

True to its tagline, ‘Serbisyong Totoo,’ the provincial government of Cotabato is bent on providing for the needs of its constituents, especially those that are considered as the most basic needs in society.

One of the major thrusts of the provincial government is food security, to ensure that every Cotabateño family eats three times a day. This is where "Food Always in the Home," known as FAITH vegetable gardening, became a significant initiative in the entire province.

Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said that FAITH intends to transform every backyard into a direct source of fresh food in support of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s call to boost food supplies in the country by training women in the province on organic vegetable gardening.

"I am optimistic that through the training, all families in the province will soon have enough supply of healthy and nutritious food for every meal," Governor Mendoza said, emphasizing the very purpose of the advocacy, which is to intensify food sufficiency even in homes by putting up vegetable gardens.

The governor is confident that this initiative is hitting two birds with one stone: strengthening food security and empowering women in the province.

She believes that this will not only boost the supplies of food in every barangay but also pave the way for residents' improved health and well-being.

Headed by groups of women who are also members of the rural improvement clubs (RIC) in their respective communities, the province-wide training initiative encourages women to go out and make a change in the communities by making some contributions through FAITH organic gardening.

The provincial government started the FAITH vegetable gardening training in the second week of August this year, gathering 50 RIC coordinators, federation presidents, and some members of the clubs in the municipalities of the second district: Antipas, Arakan, Magpet, Makilala, and President Roxas, as well as Kidapawan City.

This was followed by another batch of training on the third week of August, attended by another 50 women who are members of the RICs in the municipalities of Alamada, Aleosan, Libungan, Midsayap, Pigcawayan, and Pikit for the first district of the province.

The same training is also set to be conducted in the third district of Cotabato with 50 women from the towns of Tulunan, M’lang, Matalam, Kabacan, Carmen, and Banisilan.

Women from the towns of Antipas, Arakan, Magpet, Makilala, and President Roxas, as well as Kidapawan City belonging to the Second District of Cotabato, participate in the preparation of compost as part of the training on FAITH vegetable gardening. The training is spearheaded by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in partnership with the municipal local government units in the said district. (Photo: OPAg-LGU Cotabato province)

The FAITH vegetable gardening training is led by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAg).

Norberta Tahum, provincial RIC coordinator, is thankful to the provincial government for not only teaching the women how to make their FAITH vegetable gardens at home but also instilling in them their importance as food providers in their families.

"FAITH vegetable gardening is also a good strategy to ensure that the food being served in the family is safe and nutritious," Tahum added, noting that food and nutrition are two of the main concerns of rural improvement clubs in the province.

Tahum described the process of the training, where participants are trained on how to prepare their vegetable beds as well as their compost. According to the provincial RIC coordinator, composting is a good way to dispose of biodegradable waste in the surrounding area.

They are also taught the techniques for growing their seeds into plants in a sustainable manner.

"Through the FAITH vegetable gardening training, the women are also equipped with strategies or procedures to produce their own seeds, particularly open-pollinated seeds, with a high probability of growing into healthy plants," said Tahum.

After the training, participants are expected to relay the learnings they gained to their fellow RIC members as well as to their neighbors to spread the good news and heighten advocacy efforts in every household.

For those who want to avail themselves of the training, the OPAg will be happy to conduct it to increase the number of women advocates of organic gardening, believing that it would help make Cotabato a food-secure and food-safe province.

Meanwhile, Tiny Tamayo of Barangay Poblacion, Antipas, and one of the participants from the second district expressed joy for the opportunity given to them, saying that now, with their knowledge, they can grow healthy and organic vegetables just in their backyard, thus cutting down on food expenses.

"I thank all the partners who head this program because, as simple as it may seem, vegetable gardening is important since we can get the inputs just around our community while we produce safe and healthy vegetables," Tamayo said in vernacular.

She also commended the provincial government for initiating FAITH vegetable gardening training, referring to it as an avenue for people to realize that food, especially vegetables, is free if only they learn how to grow it by just putting up a mini-garden in their homes as a start.

"As a participant, I commit to replicate and share with my friends the simple technology I learned from the training," Tamayo added as she vowed to build a model farm at the nearby barangay of Magsaysay in their town.

The FAITH vegetable gardening training is also an intervention by the provincial government to promote the use of organic fertilizer now that synthetic fertilizers are sold at a high price. (SJDM – PIA Cotabato)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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