Participants and organizers of the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers’ Training Program at the demonstration farm in Brgy. Olaycon.

MONKAYO, Compostela Valley – “Itong programa ay tamang proseso sa pag-debrief. Mao ni ang sinugdanan sa akong bag-ong bidlisiw sa akong kinabuhi. Sa paglabay sa panahon sulod sa training center, hinayhinay na nakong nadawat ang epekto sa bagyo. Puring-puri ko po. Natulungan po ako na makabangon. Muling nanumbalik ang aking lakas at tiwala sa sarili (This program is a right process of debriefing. This is the beginning of the new sunrise in my life. At the training center, I have learned to accept my fate. I am impressed. I have been helped and I regained my strength and self-confidence),” revealed Louie James Espanola, a farmer.

Pasalamat gyud mi naa nami idea sa backyard gardening. Ang inputs sa lecturer nindot jud kaayo  –from land preparation to post harvest. Item per item pag explain, morag nag thesis writing. Nag prepare mi og ROI. Fortunate kaayo mi (We are thankful to have learned about backyard gardening. The inputs are valuable and were explained thoroughly. We prepared ROI. We are fortunate),” Pancracio T. Visaya, a principal in Barangay Poblacion gratefully shared.

“Buong init na tinanggap ng mag participants ang programa, ang teknolohiya ng pagsasaka lalo na sa gulay. Sila ay naging tulay at sila rin ang nagturo sa ibang barangay para mabigyan ng panibagong buhay at saya ang mga taga Monkayo (The participants eagerly welcomed the technology. The organizers became our link and they also taught others to start anew),” shared Olaycon Barangay Chair and ABC President Janet B. Diel.

Espanola, Visaya and Diel are part of 154 professional and non-professional farmer-beneficiaries from 16 barangays here who recently graduated from SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan  (KSK) Farmers’ Training Program. This program has been initiated by SM Foundation, Inc. in partnership with DA, DSWD, LGU Monkayo and Harbest Agri-business Corp. All participants are typhoon victims whose livelihood was heavily affected.

According to SM Foundation Assistant Vice President for Livelihood Outreach Program Cristie S. Angeles, the program is implemented throughout the country in regions with SM Malls. She said this is the 48th batch and they have selected Monkayo to help out farmers recover from the devastation brought by Typhoon Pablo by learning new skills for high-value crop production.

From February to May, the vegetable production course ran for 12 Tuesdays and covered one module per meeting. Celestino Alla of Harbest Agri-business Corp. conducted the lectures in the morning while afternoons were slated for hands on sessions. Among the topics discussed were Nursery Preparation, Seed Sowing, Land Preparation, Caring & Nursing of Seedling, Pruning, Trellis Preparation, Fruit Selection and Fruit Thinning, Pest and Disease Control, Irrigation & Drainage, and Postharvest Technology.

Arlene L. Morpus, Regional Coordinator of DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program explained, “Integrated in the training course is the orientation on the DSWD Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) focused on Community Driven Enterprise Development approach which covers Self Awareness, Time Management, Financial Literacy, Product Management, Participatory Livelihood Issue Analysis, and Value Chain Analysis. DSWD and DA also taught participants Cost Analysis and Return of Investment Analysis.”

She said this is the first time that DSWD-SLP engages with Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan of SM Foundation, Department of Agriculture and Harbest Agri-business Corp.

Visaya said Monkayo is the first municipality in ComVal to have undergone such training. Participants who are Pantawid Pamilya and non-Pantawid Pamilya grantees, and mostly non-professionals were all enthusiastic as they really wanted to learn, Visaya said.

Former ComVal Board Member and now Monkayo Mayor-elect Joselito Brillantes has lent his one hectare lot in Brgy. Olaycon as demonstration farm for the vegetable production.

Having completed the 12-day course, participants received their certificates at SM Lanang Premier, bringing along with them their first class produce and their infectious optimism. They grow vegetables and fruits like cucumber, tomato, squash, ampalaya, honeydew and Ilocos gourd. They consume their produce at home while the rest they sell to neighbors and in the local market. Once production is heightened, this will then be marketed at SM malls through existing SM vegetables and fruits suppliers.

After the typhoon, Diel recalled their lives were so murky but it became brighter because of the donors and supporters.  She said what they learned will be replicated in other barangays.

Espanola admitted they called on God and they have overcome the tragedy. He thought it was the end of the world but they made it alive. He is grateful to the organizers of the program who have helped them rise up again. “Tungod sa ilaha, dali ta nakabakod, dali ta nakalihok (Through them, we recovered fast).”

SM Foundation’s Angeles stressed to the graduates, “When you said yes to the opportunity, you said yes to a new life. Keep that cooperation among your group. You are blessed with a prosperous area and good health.”

Morpus urged them, “With your active participation, we can do a lot more. This training is very useful. With this technology, we can do it. Let’s plant good variety of vegetables. We have a sure market with SM. This could not have happened without hard work and discipline.”

The group’s wish is to be able to live again with respect and dignity after Typhoon Pablo. To date, the group has already been organized to undertake the DSWD-SLP.

DSWD Project Development Officer Rene Villafuerte said they are now preparing the documents for the livelihood assistance to be extended by the department in collaboration with DA and LGU Monkayo. Meantime, graduates are now cultivating their own backyard garden they could sustain. DSWD