Australia’s support empowers Filipino women in Guinayangan, Quezon amid the pandemic.
There was a time when Lara Gallardo worried about the next meal for her family. Like most mothers in the coastal municipality of Guinayangan in Quezon, Lara has little opportunity to be the provider. Fishing, the community’s primary source of income, is done mostly by men, which also makes them decision-makers in their families. Women, on the other hand, are expected to look after their children and household.
The lack of income and livelihood opportunities is exacerbated by the fact that the 54 barangays in Guinayangan are also vulnerable to natural disasters, being a typhoon and storm surge area.
To help address this challenge, Australia, in partnership with International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) and the local government of Guinayangan, established a community Crop Museum to help women grow vegetables from their own backyards.
The Crop Museum is a common source of indigenous vegetables, seeds, tools and trainings that are accessible to four barangays, serving as supplementary and emergency facility. As part of this project, Australia also provided families with home gardening kits containing seeds, tools, seedlings trays, potting materials and sprinklers, and trainings and learning materials on nutrition, food production, and COVID-19 safety.
“Thanks to the Crop Museum project, we never got hungry and fell short of nutritious food during the pandemic. Even though our mobility was restricted, we were able to eat healthy because we could harvest vegetables from our backyard, and even make money by selling our surplus products,” Lara said.
The assisted barangays of Dancalan Central 9 and 2, Dancalan Caimawan and Arbismen are in coastal areas where the soil tends to be acidic, and saline water is not suitable for growing vegetables. To address this, Australia’s program partner IIRR distributed planting materials from ‘kakawate’, a certain species of tree that absorbs nitrogen from the air and deposits it to the soil, making plants healthier and less attractive to insects and diseases. Nitrogen in the soil also enriches soil fertility, allowing women to produce more vegetables that are resilient to harsh conditions.
To promote backyard farming and access to nutritious food in neighbouring barangays, the project has partnered with Guinayangan’s municipal nutrition and health program which allows barangay nutrition scholars, day care workers and health workers to advocate nutrition and food production at a wider scale. Since they live within the communities, they also assist mothers and look after their nutrition.
“As a barangay nutrition scholar, I monitor 20 mothers and their vegetable gardens whenever possible. Based on my record, malnourished children from our barangay were reduced by two-thirds as they can now eat nutritious food,” barangay nutrition scholar Grace Cleofe added.
The support of the local government is critical in the success of projects like this and sustaining the advocacy. The Office of the Mayor of Guinayangan, Cesar J. Isaac III, has assigned a full-time caretaker of the Crop Museum, and outlined a plan to continue the improvements and expansion of the facility through the local department of agriculture office as well as support from the municipal health office. As a result, the Crop Museum continues to produce planting materials which are now being distributed to the 54 barangays of Guinayangan and beyond, benefitting approximately 25,430 people.