Each Friday since February, 216 farmers beneficiaries would leave their far away upland barangays to toil and nurture their plants using the greenhouse farming technology taught them by Harbest Agribusiness Inc., learn new business and financial skills under Banco de Oro and its rural bank, One Network.
Part of the training was organizing them into dynamic groups and empower them into productive earning units to enable them to eventually sell their crops in the local markets as well as to the suppliers of the SM Group’s retail chains.
The program saw the participation of important government agencies like the Departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Social Welfare and Development but for the most part, it was motivated by the dynamism of Dinalupihan Mayor Gila Garcia, who vowed to provide each production group a capital of P100,000 to sustain the program and help the province attain its goal of being the modern agropolis of Central Luzon by 2022.
Indigenous tribal members were among those ‘graduating farmers’ in the SM Foundation Inc.’s 157th Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan training program that held its harvest festival last Thursday. The dark-skinned Aetas of the highlands were among the happiest of the harvesters as they learned new farming technologies and skills that would otherwise have eluded them had they not joined the 157th KSK program of the Foundation
Before the KSK program, the Aetas planted vegetables and root crops only during the rainy season as the uplands are devoid of water sources, except during rains. But with the greenhouse technology that was taught to them they were able to plant high value crops like water dew honey melon, bitter gourd, upo, kondol, sili, squash and many more since February until the harvest last Thursday.
SMFI Trustee and Corporate Affairs head, Chito Macapagal said the training program was unique as it was undertaken in a highland, sloping terrain involving a tribal community and it saw the entire SM Group (including SAVEMORE Dinalupihan & SM City Olongapo) directly being involved in the program. He assured the trainees that this was evidence that even after their graduation, the retail chains would be there to assist them.
As the DTI provincial director, Nelin Cabahug said “this is the fruition of our vision for an inclusive growth for the country, by involving all sectors, the indigenous tribes especially, in our development efforts through productive projects like high value crop farming, even as DTI will continue building their capacity to gain value for their produce through processing to get more revenues from their efforts.”
The DSWD for its part gave 43 beneficiaries of its 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program) to the program. These beneficiaries, recipients of its Conditional Cash Transfer program, has contributed in improving their health and education needs.
The visitors in the festival had their feel of trudging through the slopes of the hilly barangay just to get a first-hand experience of what it takes to plant in the rugged terrain, which for the most part of the year is dry. Yet the farmers, who were taught the greenhouse technology, were able to have an abundant yield of honey dew melon, gourd, upo, sili, squash and a lot more even with the scorching heat and dry terrain.
The participants themselves had a field day harvesting their crops, which were weighed and sold to their visitors. In the next harvest season, produce would be sold by their association (as they would be organized into groups) to sell to the local market & hopefully to the bulk suppliers of the SM Group who will put up a Buyer’s Station in markets during their harvest season. Sustainability plans of each association group was presented hoping that the plan would be realized under the guidance of the involved government agencies & the SM Foundation group.
The town “Dinalupihan” comes from the festival nights of Aeta pygmies to commemorate their idol ‘indianalo’, the goddess of hunting and bountiful harvest and combining it with the Sanskrit word ‘jann’ (meaning paradise) completes the term ‘indianalopijann’ later renamed Dinalupihan.
Dinalupihan has 46 barangays with a population of 106,371 as of 2015 in a total land area of 35.72 square miles.