The following is an e-postcard from Zamil Akhtar, a GlobalGiving Representative in the Philippines.
It took two hours to arrive at the most remote place I’d ever been. A tiny dot in the middle of a vast valley, the village was constructed out of bamboo and wood. With the help of WAND Foundation, many of the pitfalls that befall these poor and remote communities have been averted. Thanks to WAND’s food garden initiative, they are more food secure, and with their eco-friendly latrine initiative, healthier and safer from disease. WAND has installed hundreds of these latrines in communities around Mindanao: made from a special concrete and using sawdust to cover waste, they naturally fight bacteria that cause water borne illness.
This reporting period we expanded our tree growing activities by making additional seedling nurseries and clearing-up new areas for tree planting. Twenty eight local farmers participated in the tree planting after they realized the economic value of trees and the possibility that the trees will control soil erosion in their farms. Soil erosion and the loss of top soil due to lack of roots of trees to hold it is one of the main problems in mountain areas here. The planted trees are fertilized with organic fertilizer coming from the waste collected in the ecosan or dry toilets that we have implemented. The farmers themselves build their dry toilets from local materials and then use this to fertilize their fields. This is indeed an innovative idea given that commercial fertilizers nowadays are very expensive and that poor farmers cannot afford it. Neighboring farmers are very interested to implement similar initiatives in their own farms and we have a lot of request for assistance.
This reporting period also, our initiative is given a big boost with the participation of Holcim - Philippines in providing additional timber and fruit tree seedlings for our tree growing activities. They provided a total of 16,500 seedlings and all these have been planted already.
Starting this month (May) is considered very critical in terms of the survival and food security of Typhoon Pablo survivors because by this time food aid is far and in between and the support of international aid is dwindling and limited only to maintenance of water and sanitation and some food supplies. This situation is unlike during the first weeks when Pablo struck and food aid was plentiful. This time the survivors especially those living in scattered communities or those who have returned to what is left of their homes are left largely to fend for themselves and raising food via agriculture is still at the starting stage since their priority is to secure their housing. During our visit to Monkayo in Compostela Valley we found out that all trees, bananas and vegetation were devoid of leaves and most are uprooted a testament to the fury of the typhoon’s heavy wind that lashed the area for 5 hours, according to local residents. This type of activity (vegetable gardening support) we have done with excellent results among survivors of Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan and Iligan City in 2011.
This time we were able to distribute 300 sets of basic gardening kits comprising small garden tools, vegetable seeds, organic fertilizer and simple gardening guide/manual (in Cebuano). The manual detail basic skills in organic home-gardening and using local resources available in the households. For example, sacks and plastic bags or bottles can be used for organic gardening and organic fertilizer is available from biodegradable household waste such as those from the kitchen. We trained the 300 beneficiaries how to do this.
This period we are able to use the human waste we collected from the dry, ecosan toilets to fertilize the crops grown by our farmers. Before using the fertilizer we ensure that it is safe and hygienic through laboratory testing. We found out that vegetables like eggplant, squash, bitter-gourd and moringa grows well when fertilized with human waste. Besides it is free and readily available and it is ecologically-appropriate. We will continue teaching our small-scale farmers to use human waste in this manner. Aside from saving on money to buy expensive fertilizer, the problem of health because of open defecation is minimized and the environment is safe for children to play because human waste is no longer present.
In this report, we focus our effort in promoting vegetable gardening using organic fertilizer found around the house, eg. kitchen waste, grasses, animal waste, human urine. Urine is considered sterile and is a good nitrogen fertilizer for the plants. We encouraged the mothers to do vegetable gardening as a hobby and to fill their vacant times. In so doing they are productive and gardening is also a form of relaxation and leisure for them. We provided the seeds and vegetable seedlings while they do the making of the organic fertilizer by piling a compost. There are mothers who excel in this and we ask them to be our "barefoot technicians" teaching those around them. In this report, we are able to reach out to 34 mothers. This initiative is crucial in the sense that most poor Filipinos lack micro-nutrients and that these can be remedied by having small vegetable gardens.
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Cagayan de Oro,
Cagayan de Oro,