By Jennelyn Madriaga and Aubregyn Ancheta

“Agriculture is the most healthful, most useful, and most noble employment of man.”
– George Washington

APEC’s PBB (Plant Back Better) project focuses on helping vulnerable areas, this is to enhance capacity building and emergency preparedness counter measures through smarter and disaster-resilient vegetable plantation. At phases of disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness, its aim is also to build up a resilient community with local knowledge and efforts against natural disasters, and as disaster strike, it is to help them effectively and efficiently recover through the micro economic activities, vegetable plantation, and enough food supply.

PBB is aimed at developing disaster resilience and economics by introducing plantation of better vegetables and flowers. PBB started a project in cooperation with the local government unit of Iloilo City, in partnership with Known You Seed Philippines, Inc., together with the demonstration channel, and the Tiu Cho Teg- Anaros Foundation Integrated School.

The project started on May 2019. The land preparation phase almost gave them the reason to reschedule the project due to the drought they were experiencing at that time. This did not come easy since they faced drought and typhoons at the beginning and end of the project; however, better choices of seeds and variety tolerance made all flowers survive. The demo farm consisted of five beautiful flowers: vinca, sunflower, gomphrena, zinnia, and celosia. Students and teachers of TCT worked full time to help start and maintain the plants. As the project continues, a few realizations dawned – what if it was only the TCT teachers and Known You representatives who were involved in the land preparation and maintenance? And how long will it take them to finish without the help of their students?

An aerial view of the before and after photo of the demo site during land preparation (left) and the flowering stage of assorted flowers (right).

They saw the importance of the students getting involved in this kind of agricultural project since they were all aware that the number of farmers are decreasing every year; it is clear that they need to attract more young people to appreciate agriculture. As far as they are concerned, the youth’s participation in the agriculture sector is becoming an important issue, as some of them have become unimpressed with it. The youth should understand that the sustainability of agriculture and food production relies on them, that their active involvement in agriculture is needed to help face future challenges.

This project in Tiu Cho Teg-Anaros Foundation Integrated School inspired many students to take care of the plants, as well as to give importance and value to farming. According to their teachers, Ann Catacutan and Joyce Nagnal, it was very hard for them to encourage some students to come and help them create a project inside the school since students find sports and art-related activities more appealing. When the PBB project started and students came to see the gradual transformation of the site, the number of students trying to volunteer to help maintain the flowers grew more than they expected. For them, it was such a success to see their students willing to try something new, spare their free time, even on weekends, and help develop and manage the demo site.

However, while doing the project, one question was raised; if it’s for disaster preparedness and food security purpose, why plant flowers and not vegetables?

From left: Teacher Ann Catacutan, Known You Western Visayas leader Eduard Dinero, TCT-IS principal Raymond Tolentino, and Teacher Joyce Nagal. (Facing page) Teachers and students among the Sunshine Green Center sunflower.

When they first posted the photos of the garden, at first it was beautiful, but when you look at the thread, people thought that the project was meant for food, so why come up with a flower garden? Since PBB’s theme was about recovering from a disaster, a flower park or garden can help people do so. The co-benefits of the flower garden for the school/community, tourism is a good source of income nowadays, and flower parks have become popular with people who love nature and colorful photos. A flower garden can generate income through imposed entrance fees, pick and pay programs, or photo opportunities. It is one way to help improve agriculture in the community by showing the benefits of the project, which not only revolves around income generation, but also involving the youth in an activity that they can do with passion and eagerness because they are enjoying it. In this project, the income generated was used to provide food for the students after working on weekends and buy seeds/materials that they used to support the selling of seedlings of flowers to visitors. The ways students and parents see it, the flower garden actually contributes directly in preparing the community to rise and start again.

Naomi Basay and Rodney Legazpi belong to the students who helped in and worked hard to make their flower farm more beautiful. Basay stated that ever since she got involved in this project, she dreamt of becoming an agriculturist someday. She also wants to be a good example to help encourage her classmates to do the same thing. Meanwhile, Legazpi thinks his family can live a better life through farming. He thinks he would be interested in learning new technologies for agriculture someday, and he believes that for existing and future generations, an increased access to basic education and training geared toward sustainable agriculture must become a priority.

The APEC’s PBB has become an important tool to open the eyes of these students to learn the importance of farming, and that there is a good opportunity of making a good living through farming. This young generation has the power to make the agriculture sector be recognized, and to help grow and provide enough food to feed the world, as well as an opportunity to hopefully end malnutrition.

Sunflower Orange Green Center and Yellow Black Center, Vinca Sunny Red, Zinnia Summertime series, and Celosia Flare series are product of Known You Seed Philippines, Inc. For inquiries, please call (0917) 320-1689 or (0998) 968-0630, or through their facebook page: www.facebook.com/kyp168.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s October 2019 issue.