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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

GK villages to be food self-sufficient

By Patricia Esteves
Sunday, April 20, 2008

In the face of a looming food shortage and rice crisis, Gawad Kalinga unveiled plans to make every village food self-sufficient through its anti-hunger pro-gram that was recently launched in all 1,700 GK sites all over the country.

"The problem of hunger is more urgent and dangerous than land and houses. Children will cry when they are hungry and the parents will riot in the streets when there is no rice on the table," GK advocate Tony Meloto told students and faculty of the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) in Nueva Ecija during a public lecture recently.

"We need to find a response that is effective and sustainable. While palliative solutions like bigger rice importation, subsidies and efficient distribution may be necessary in the short term to avert the immediate threat of shortage and high prices, a widespread campaign must be launched for greater productivity, better technology, improved infrastructure and more business capital invested in food production, particularly rice and other staple agricultural products," Meloto said.

To address the issue of soaring prices of rice and other food commodities that GK residents may face, GK is going to build 100 farms all over the country in partnership with CLSU and UP Los Baños, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Farm Institutes of Shell, Del Monte, Globe and Ayala, not only to curb hunger but to make each community self-sufficient.

"We have a simple formula in GK: one hectare for 100 homes and two to five hectares for food production. Our goal is simple: to transform the attitude of poor communities from being consumers to producers, from survival to sufficiency, from sufficiency to abundance," Meloto said.

The farms will serve as training grounds for community-based agriculture with the help of the DA through Secretary Arthur Yap.

The DA is the first agricultural science department to work for GK communities and put technology to the ground.

GK will develop models of self-sufficiency following the principle "No idle hands, No idle lands" where beneficiaries are urged to plant more crops and maximize the land for more produce. In the provinces, GK sites have vast farms for their productivity and livelihood.

"The goal is to build a culture of productivity and hard work in each community. Every family should be self-reliant; every home should be self-sufficient with their limited area," Meloto said.

In GK sites, the residents are already planting five common vegetables for their basic needs according to regional taste and the most nutritious in the food groups like malunggay.

In sites with vast farmlands, the residents are urged to plant beneficial fruits and vegetables like guava, malunggay, calamansi, saging na saba, papaya and guyabano.

These crops are versatile in terms of nutritious value and livelihood. For instance, the saging na saba can be cooked into banana cue and guava eaten both as a snack fruit and used as herbal medicine. These five priority fruits and vegetables can also bear fruits in one year.

They are also teaching GK residents to process, preserve and produce food.

"Every GK community in the rural areas should also have communal and eventually, commercial lots for integrated farming. This should include fruit trees and vegetables, poultry, livestock, and aquaculture, " Meloto said.

GK is also putting in a system that will observe the best ecological practices where the waste of one process will be food for the next operation.

"Our goal is to build community productivity templates in each town and use them as training centers and replicate them in as many areas as possible including agrarian reform communities (ARC)," Meloto said.

Central to GK's anti-hunger campaign is the participation of agriculture- based universities like the CLSU and the UP Los Baños that will lend the science in the efficient planting and harvesting of the crops.

"We want to put the existing technology on the ground. The CLSU and the UP Los Baños have a lot of technology. We want to encourage the students and faculty to implement the technology and GK communities can be training grounds," GK head of productivity Marco Flores said.

"Most of these agri-based schools have very good technology but (which) is left only in the laboratory. But now with the partnership with GK, we can implement all existing good technologies. Now, students who are into environment and agricultural courses can practice what they learn in the GK farms," Flores said.

Meloto, for his part, urged CLSU and UPLB students to make every existing GK site productive and help open new ones.

GK will also join hands with 1,500 local government units for food sufficiency.

"We can imagine all this because the GK communities we have built in 362 towns so far have become platforms for development in partnership with the LGUs. What is emerging in GK is new politics that seeks to liberate the poor from the culture of dependence and exploitation. We have discovered that there are many outstanding local executives who have a genuine love for our country and a sincere concern for the poor," Meloto said.

"While every community will be a micro-development, our goal eventually is to create a macro-system nationwide for production, distribution and even export," he said.

Pro-active stance

Flores said GK decided to take a pro-active stance in finding a solution to the looming food shortage instead of merely complaining.

"With the hunger situation now, we know that GK residents are the first to be hit. We decided to take a pro-active stance and instead of complaining, we will do something about it," Flores said, adding that they are targeting 50-60 percent food sufficiency.

"If we make it a 50-60 percent self-sufficiency, even if the dollar fluctuates or goes up, the residents will not feel the pinch because they will produce everything they will need," Flores said.

In their goal to be self-sufficient, GK communities also want to plant organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Flores said organic is easier to sustain because you make your own fertilizers, aside from the fact that this is healthier because you don't use chemicals and other substances.

Planting more trees, he added, also helps in keeping the environment healthy because more trees mean more carbon dioxide emission.

"We envision a Philippines to be free of hunger through maximum use of natural resource. It has always been our dream that every Filipino has food on the table," Flores said.

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