Helen Camacho tends to her seedlings which she grows through Urban Container Gardening.  She attests that with her produce, she is able to put food on the table.

Bringing food on the table is a primary concern of every family,  more so for a poor family with little or no income at all to sustain nutritious meals.

To help address this, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) included the topic “Bio-Intensive Gardening (BIG)” in its enhanced modules for Family Development Sessions (FDS) regularly attended  by beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya.

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a human development program that invests in the health and education of poor families, primarily those with children aged 0-18. It provides cash grants to partner-beneficiaries who comply with the conditions of sending their children to school, bringing them to health centers for checkups, and attending the monthly FDS.

FDS is conducted monthly by DSWD and partners from non-government organizations, the private sector, and civil society organizations. It serves as a venue where topics on effective parenting, husband and wife relationships,  child development, laws affecting the Filipino family, gender and development, home management, active citizenship, and electoral education are discussed.

BIG teaches Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries to become food secure through backyard gardening since food grown at home is usually consumed by the family.

According to DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, achieving a well-fed and food-secure household would mean improving what people eat, in terms of quality, quantity, and variety.

This would require efforts related to increasing not only the available food supply, but also both physical and economic access to it.

Sec. Soliman encourages beneficiaries to engage in backyard gardening, specifically BIG, to provide fresh and higher quality vegetables with better nutritional values for the whole family.

Income generating hobby

For Helen Camacho,  a 43-year old Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary of Purok 13, Barangay Tibungco, Davao City, gardening is an income-generating hobby.

”Sa pirmiro nako nga pagtanom, nagsugod ko sa baynte ka semilya sa pechay. Nagakuha pud ko sa sementeryo og mga tetra pack aron matamnan (I started off with only 20 seedlings of Chinese cabbage. I also go to the nearby cemetery to gather and recycle tetra packs which I use as pots),” shared Helen.

From 20 pechay seedlings, Helen now has over 70 seedlings along with other crops that she cultivates in their house. To make soil containers, Helen personally sews the tetra packs that she gathers from the cemetery. She even builds her own makeshift racks.

“Dako kaayo og tabang ang urban container gardening sa amoang pagpamuyo. Busa magkugi gyud ko aron mas mapanindot pa ni (Urban container gardening is a huge help. I will really strive to improve my garden),” Helen said excitedly.

Helen has been cultivating her urban container garden since February 2013 and now has over 200 seedlings.

She narrated that her husband, 41-year old Alejandro, works as a tricycle driver and earns at most P300 a day. For additional income, Helen repacks the seedlings that she buys and sells it to  fellow Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries at P5 per piece. Helen also sells her produce to her neighbors or at the local market.

Her backyard garden also supplies her family’s food requirements, since they consume the vegetables which Helen harvests. This would result to savings which they could use to meet their other needs.

Urban Container Gardening magamit gyud ni namo kay dili lang kini makalingawan namo, usa pud kini ka pamaagi nga makakwarta kami (We can really use this Urban Container Gardening. It is more than a hobby but it is income generating as well),” explained Helen.

For those living in urban areas with little space for a backyard garden, urban container gardening is an initiative that hopes to help boost food security in the community.

Likewise, in Barangay Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, Pantawid Pamilya women-beneficiaries are growing high value crops such as strawberry,  lettuce,  and cauliflower,  among others. They are also engaged in backyard gardening and root crops production.

A mother of 13 children, Vercita Gawahan  is one of the more than  3,500 Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Manolo Fortich town.  She loves to just stay at home while her husband works in a farm as the sole provider of the family.

After learning about BIG through FDS, however, Vercita thought of engaging in backyard gardening to help her husband sustain the needs of their large family.

Vercita said that she and her husband can now begin to look forward to a brighter future for their family because aside from the educational grants for their three children, she can now help augment the family income through the profits she makes by selling her garden’s produce.

”Sa pamamagitan ng Family Development Sessions ng Pantawid Pamilya, natutunan ko kung paanong malagpasan ang aking mga kahinaan at mag-focus sa aking mga kalakasan, na naging daan upang magbago ang aming buhay (Through the Pantawid Pamilya’s Family Development Sessions, I learned how to overcome my weaknesses and focus on my strengths which paved the way to achieve change in our lives),” she emphasized. (DSWD)