157th farmers’ training program in Dinalupihan, Bataan
DINALUPIHAN, BATAAN – Dinalupihan has 46 barangays with a population of 106,371 as of 2015 in a total land area of 35.72 square miles. Each Friday since February, 216 farmerbeneficiaries leave their far-away upland barangays to toil and nurture their plants using the greenhouse farming technology taught them by Harbest Agribusiness Inc., then learn new business and financial skills under Banco de Oro Foundation 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 led by Dinalupihan Mayor Gila Garcia, who vowed to provide each production group with capital of R100,000 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 recently. 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 honeydew melon, bittergourd, upo, kondol, sili, squash, and many more. 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.
The visitors got to go 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 honeydew melon, bittergourd, upo, sili, squash and a lot more even with the scorching heat and dry terrain.
The participants themselves had a grand day harvesting their crops, weighed and sold to visitors. In the next harvest season, produce will be sold by their association (as they will be organized into groups) to sell to the local market and hopefully to the bulk suppliers of the SM Group, which will put up a Buyer’s Station in markets during their harvest season. Sustainability plans of each association group were presented hoping that the plan would be realized under the guidance of the involved government agencies and the SM Foundation group.