Philippines – Residents in poor areas in Manila plant vegetables in their backyards to save on food expenses
By Michaela Cabrera, Reuters, May 28, 2008 – With prices of food items reaching record-highs in Philippines, residents in poor areas in Manila plant vegetables in their backyards to save on food expenses and harvest enough to sell at a local market. See video story here.
For green thumbs living in Manila, urban farming is the answer to soaring food prices. It may seem impossible to grow lettuce and eggplant in a crowded, humid environment, but city living has not stopped farmers like Bernabe Atenta from cultivating greens. He and his wife Virgie literally pick out their lunch from their backyard.
“This helps a lot, in securing your family’s welfare. You don’t need to buy vegetables in the market. If all people here in Manila planted vegetables even in pots, it will ease some expenses,” Atenta said.
Not only can they save money, they even harvest enough vegetables to sell at a local market. This livelihood put their children through college. With prices of rice, bread and other basic food items reaching record-highs in the Philippines, farming is all the more important, says Atenta’s wife. “If you don’t have a job now, with such high prices of goods, you really need to farm.
For instance, you have nothing for lunch, but you’ve planted some vegetables, you can eat that, that’s enough,” Virgie Atenta said. In a few weeks time, their seeds blossom into eggplant, spinach, pechay (Chinese white cabbage) and onions. Bernabe Atenta also said the government must turn idle public land otherwise vulnerable to illegal settling into vegetable gardens.
David Ballila, an agriculturist who heads a government-funded farm, says no space is too small for planting. He gives weekly seminars on urban farming to residents of poor communities, and shows them that any crop — broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, you name it — can grow in any weather condition. “You don’t need a big area. Here in our vegetable garden, our designs are for urban spaces. Even if there’s water running through, even if it’s a cemented area, you can plant. There’s no reason not to plant,” Ballila said.
Ballila heads Gulayan at Bulaklakan (Vegetable and Flower Farm), a model community farm that grows a variety of vegetables using space-friendly techniques such as hanging sacks, recycled tyres, plastic bottles and bamboo containers. Food inflation has worsened living conditions for the poor in the Philippines. Three out of ten Filipinos in a population of 88.57 million people live below the government-defined poverty line of 6,274 pesos (149 U.S. dollars) a month per family of five.