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Planting the SEED: Creating resilient, self-reliant farmers in Claveria

The old proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” could not be truer during our recent climb in Claveria, Misamis Oriental, for a two-day extension and farm immersion led by GreenMinds Incorporated and with volunteer farmer partners of the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center (ATI-RTC)-10 for the Sustainable Ecological and Economic Development (SEED) IV program.

The Indigenous Peoples (IP) farming community of Barangay Minalwang is the most recent beneficiary of the SEED program, which GreenMinds developed in 2011 in response to a request for a proposal from Tearfund New Zealand. As to implementation, the program was divided into phases with a 3–4-year duration, namely SEED I-SEED for the IP communities in the Philippines and Vanuatu, SEED II towards a green economy for the marginalized sectors, and SEED III, which intends to diversify, collaborate, sustain, and rebuild resilient communities.

Going to Minalwang is the first hurdle since it will take a 5-hour drive to get there. It makes travel all the more difficult due to its remote location, intermittent rains, rough and slippery roads, and zero telecommunication signal.

Also, Barangay Minalwang used to be a sprawling ground for rebels where basic social services were nonexistent and government interventions were hard to come by because of the insurgency.

As a gesture of support and to invoke the Bayanihan spirit, the volunteer group pooled their resources and shared their time, skills, and talent for community development.

A series of activities transpired, including the installation of water pipes for the construction of a concrete water storage tub, the buyback of herbs and stingless bee colonies (in bee boxes), soil painting sessions with the elementary learners of Barangay Minalwang, supplemental feeding, and other community development work.

Community development work with GreenMinds Incorporated and farmer volunteers with the Republic of Solomon Islands trainees Elisha Paza Pitanoe and James Tanavalu. (ATI-10)

Program impact

Elementary teachers Jovannie Sawitan and Clarisse Grace Makalisang of Minalwang Elementary School expressed their gratitude for the volunteers' time and commitment. The two teachers juggle schedules and teaching duties as they are the only teachers for grades 1-6. The next extension activity is the completion of the teacher’s cottage, intended for their welfare since they have to travel to the next barangay to rest or for a much-needed break.

Meanwhile, Anpas Farm’s April Malatamban, Fatima Engallado of Engallado Nature Farm, Melanie Garrucho of Garrucho’s Garden, Yeltsin Kaiser Mercader of Ilaya Farm, Candiisan Diversified Farm, Emmanuel Bangcong with wife Karylle Bangcong, and the team of Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm joined hands together to extend help and community development work as volunteer farmer partners, aside from being Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) owners and farm cooperators of the ATI-10 led by Center Director Maria Lydia A. Echavez. Six months prior, Fernie T. Tapay of Molann Diversified Farm installed the community’s first hydraulic ram pump.

The September 18 and 19 visit was also a buyback schedule by GreenMinds, where the Higaonon tribe of Sitio Kalhaan in Barangay Minalwang not only profited from their herbs, vegetables, ornamental plants, and stingless bee colonies but were also empowered and gained an indispensable sense of purpose, hope, and confidence.

Indeed, sustainable farming, as well as food entrepreneurship, is making an impact on their lives after being caught at the threshold of insurgency way back in 2021.

Aside from stingless beekeeping and vegetable production, herb farming is one of the income sources of the Higaonon tribe in Sitio Kalhaan, Barangay Minalwang, Claveria, Misamis Oriental. (ATI-10

Extending tech aid

Elisha Paza Pitanoe, Country Manager of Ola Fou Solomons, a development organization for the youth in the Solomon Islands, and Agricultural Field Officer James Tanavalu joined us for their exposure to the various farm sites and farming activities in Northern Mindanao, with lots of farming technologies, production, processing, and marketing through farm immersion that they can glean on, teach to their constituents, and apply in their community when they get back home.

“Our trip here in the Philippines is purposedly to come and see what GreenMinds has been doing with the different communities and learning sites since GreenMinds is a partner of Ola Fou, a program with Tearfund New Zealand and the Ministry of Food and Trade (MFAT) of the New Zealand Government.

“Ola Fou” is a Samoan language that means new life or new beginnings. As an organization, Ola Fou-Solomons is geared towards youth development and community development. Our focus is on youth development because we have a very young nation, and the challenge is with the youth, such as youth unemployment, social ills, and all these things.

Most of the time, these young people are at the crossroads of their lives and do not know the right decisions to make. We think that if young people are given the right opportunity, if these young people are being cared for the right way, then they can become better citizens of their own families, in their communities, and even the nation at large. That is the mission of our youth development program.

Also, we are seeing agriculture as an industry that has the potential to engage young people meaningfully. In the context of the Solomon Islands, every young person belongs to a family, and every family is part of a tribe, and every tribe owns land.

At the moment, the land is not fully utilized to its maximum, and that is why we want to engage young people in agriculture so that they can till the land, become self-sufficient and self-reliant, and be able to take care of their own needs as well as the needs of their family and even their communities. That is why our connection with GreenMinds is very important. Seeing the world with GreenMinds, we will replicate the farming technologies we have seen here in our communities.” Paza said.

True to its core belief, which is to sustainably continue doing good to the people and the environment while doing ethical agribusiness, GreenMinds Incorporated, a 23-year-old social enterprise organization, continues to bring rural and indigenous communities together by showcasing their farming skills and crafts and by giving them an active role in countryside development and mainstream society.

“When I came here, I learned a lot, especially about the farming system and from the farmers here who are producing herbs, which I can introduce in our country since there is a demand there, especially in the food business. When I go back, I will also encourage my community to go into herb farming," said James Tanavalu, Solomon Islands agricultural field officer.

He added that he learned a lot from the farmers, who are very passionate about producing food. Thus, he plans to plant more basil, chives, coriander, and dill. Tanavalu will also introduce more herbs, such as stevia, tarragon, and thyme, to our farming community when he returns.

"In our short stay here and from visiting other farm sites, I learned about organic farming, crop diversification, farm planning and designing, soil and water conservation, proper pruning of trees, and contour farming. When we visited the farming community in Kiabo, Malitbog in Bukidnon, I also learned from their banana and taro chip processing," Tanavalu said.

There are lots of bananas, cassava, and taro in the Solomon Islands, thus, they plan to establish more processing centers there, perhaps to produce cassava flour or taro flour, he added. 

The farmer members of the Kalhaan Kabahiyanan Association planted various herbs for cooking and drinking tea. (ATI-10)

GreenMinds Incorporated President and co-founder Reynaldo Gil “Datu Makadingding” Lomarda is joined by his wife Rose Mary Lomarda along with chef Archie Roy Christian Lomarda, Lonalyn Amper Sulatan, Ryan Besar, and Roro Besar in building and sustaining resilient farms and communities that will serve as catalysts and models of sustainable agricultural development.

With each climb and visit, GreenMinds Incorporated, through its SEED IV program, intends to establish more farms and communities that can survive and thrive in times of man-made and natural calamities, as well as play an active role in rural and agricultural development.

“Daghang salamat GreenMinds Incorporated ug sa mga nag-volunteer nga mga farm owners sa inyong oras, presensya, ug sa pagtabang. Sa inyong pag-anhi diri sa among barangay, among ginapakita pinaagi sa among mga harvest ug mga luna nga natikad nga wala nasayang ang inyong pagtabang [Many thanks to GreenMinds Incorporated and the volunteer farm owners for their time, presence, and help. When you come to our barangay, we show through our harvests and cultivated areas that your help was not wasted],” shared Kalhaan Kabahiyanan Association President Maria Tenila L. Pina-andel on behalf of the IP community farmers of Barangay Minalwang.

Partners in sustainable agri

Aside from the Department of Agriculture’s ATI-10, other partners that have joined the good cause include the Department of Trade and Industry-10, the Department of Tourism-10, and the Rotary Club of Cagayan de Oro. Partnerships and interventions may come in different forms, such as cost-sharing, logistics assistance, meals and accommodations, the provision of equipment, and the allotment of slots in training. All these are a labor of love and the effort to create a culture of paying it forward.

“The seeds we plant today will hopefully bring life and sustenance to our farming communities. After extending social services, we intend to establish an enterprise relationship with them. We are creating a culture of “paying it forward” rather than an “Ayuda culture." Through this, our communities have higher self-esteem, cultural dignity, and a strong sense of ownership over the outcomes. After all, we go beyond relief. Release from social, environmental, and economic difficulties is our ultimate goal," Datu Makadingding said.

As the SEED IV program takes root in Claveria, it aspires not only to cultivate fertile soil but to sow seeds of empowerment, ensuring that the community blossoms into a resilient and self-sustaining entity. GreenMinds and its partners are not just teaching the community how to farm; they are fostering a legacy of knowledge, sustainability, and economic independence that will thrive for generations to come. (ATI-10/PIA-10)

About the Author

Ruby Leonora Balistoy


Region 10

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