Dito sa Laguna (DSL), a development-oriented TV and online program produced by the Department of Development Broadcasting and Telecommunication-College of Development Communication (DDBT-CDC), has always strived to connect UPLB with the community. In its seventh year, DSL has used the Internet and cable TV to bridge gaps and establish links to help address needs at the grassroots.
Recently, DSL experienced a very fulfilling highlight in their broadcasting history when they became part of the catalyzing force that brought two initiatives together leading to livelihoods created and women empowered to rise above the challenges of the pandemic.
This story began on the fourth episode of DSL’s 26th season guesting Dr. Jea Agnes Buera, a faculty member at the Department of Humanities-College of Arts and Sciences, to talk about the contribution of women and mothers in responding to the pandemic, such as in UPLB’s program Oplan Kawingan and the off-shoot programs initiated by its volunteers, among them Hardin Kawingan (HK).
HK promotes organic farming to help families in practicing organic farming to raise their own supply of fresh and nutritious food. It was started by Dr. Rina de Luna, a faculty member at the College of Veterinary Medicine, in May 2020 after seeing how difficult it was to buy food, especially fresh vegetables, in the midst of the lockdowns that were imposed during the pandemic.
The project first engaged mothers in UPLB and the Los Baños community, teaching them about organic farming and supplying them with seeds and seedlings.
Two months later, HK’s supporters and beneficiaries had grown considerably, encouraging them to reach out to mothers in other communities to share their abundance of seeds and fresh produce.
Agents of change
It was opportune that Dr. Buera chanced upon Debbie Bartolo guesting on DSL’s seventh episode during that season, discussing the role of non-government organizations in the pandemic.
Bartolo, a UPLB alumna (BACA, 2014), is a member of several organizations who worked with various sectors and communities whose needs were often entangled in poverty and oppression. On DSL, she shared to the audience how advocacy workers can support these communities by helping them organize into groups and consolidating their concerns so they can be better heard and work together for a solution.
In that episode, Bartolo talked about their work in the communities, assisting orphaned children, families whose homes have been affected by extreme weather events, and those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
Bartolo mentioned a community in Cabuyao that needed relief goods and seedlings. Upon hearing this, Dr. Buera lost no time in contacting Bartolo about a possible partnership with HK. Further arrangements were made to organize HK’s first extension activity to the families of Cabuyao.
Bartolo connected HK to their partner community in Brgy. Banay-Banay, Cabuyao, who had then organized themselves into the community-led women’s organization Damayan ng mga Maralitang Pilipinong Api (DAMPA).
Making change happen
HK and DAMPA’s partnership became BINHI ng Pag-unlad. The support for it expanded with Dr. de Luna finding support from UPLB colleagues, namely: Dr. Buera, head of the International Student Relations-Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Eileen Lorena Mamino, assistant to the Chancellor and director for alumni relations; and Mark Lester Chico, faculty member at CDC, director for public relations of UPLB, and the DSL host and director on whose program the beginnings of the partnership first took root.
DAMPA is assisted by Bartolo and is represented by Cabuyao resident, Virginita Cairo, who leads the mothers of DAMPA.
BINHI started by gathering resources to provide seeds, seedlings, and rice to Brgy. Banay-Banay.
Their compassion-driven initiative to help communities pushed them to collaborate with agencies and government institutions. Further aid in terms of planting materials came from East West Seed Philippines and the Bureau of Plant Industry. This first phase benefited 130 families whose lives were made harder by the pandemic. By learning organic farming, these families found an alternative source of livelihood and were able to secure food for their community.
To make the program sustainable and ensure that the families of Brgy. Banay-Banay will still be able to support themselves in the future, BINHI and DAMPA decided to put up a community garden and presented their proposal to the Cabuyao local government that agreed to allocate them a plot of land at the Cabuyao Institute of Technology (CITECH).
BINHI’s initiatives continue to grow as they partnered with more organizations in the private and public sector, among them the Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Training Institute (DA-ATI), ABF Integrated Farms and Agribusiness Center Inc., and DA-CALABARZON. They also conducted more trainings for DAMPA members.
As a tribute to the team of mothers who brought this dream project into reality, they named their community garden Hardin ni Nanay.
BINHI ended the year by providing relief goods to 170 families and with the first harvest of their community garden. The abundance continued into 2021, when they began preparations for the second site of Hardin ni Nanay at Hongkong Village in Brgy. Banay-Banay.
BINHI’s impact has also reached communities beyond Cabuyao. They distributed seeds and seedlings to farmers in two barangays in San Pablo City, and there are on-going initiatives to assist DAMPA Bulacan Chapter in creating their own community garden.
One of BINHI’s recent milestones brought them to the international stage on Feb. 11, when Dr. de Luna was invited to share about BINHI at the online dialogue “Voices from the Grassroots” hosted by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation.
Currently, BINHI is planting seeds for the future and empowering its members by conducting leadership training, gender equality workshops, and formalizing partnerships with the UPLB administration, the Cabuyao LGU, and DAMPA. They have also established a vegetable nursery and will soon be selling seedlings.
Indeed, DSL, plus the passionate and dedicated change makers has shown the way. And lest we forget, a community that has collectively decided to act, collaborate, and make change happen.
(This article, written by Jessa Jael S. Arana, was first published in the UPLB Horizon Website )