By Mike U. Crismundo

BUTUAN CITY – With its goal to strengthen the food sufficiency and security in households amidst the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, residents from Purok 12-A Employees Village, Libertad, Butuan City has been actively involved with the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Plant, Plant, Plant or Agri-4P’s initiative through their communal garden.

Hanawi Alauya, an employee of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR- Caraga Region 13), and a resident of the said village, together with seven other families, started a 400-square-meter communal garden on second week of April this year for the reason that this will be a good support to the hampered livelihood of his neighbors affected by the community quarantine.

“As a public servant, working under the umbrella of DA, I felt the need to support my affected neighbors and told them that, to sustain our needs during these times, we have to plant. I acquired seedlings from the regional office of DA 13, cultivated my vacant lot and we started to plant here,” he said.

Since the quarantine, Alauya and his neighbors work tirelessly every weekend to plant more, inspect the vegetables and develop their garden located just beside their homes while practicing social distancing measures.

Lyn Montes, one of the workers of the communal garden, who benefited from this initiative, expressed her gratitude to Alauya and the Department of DA-Caraga who somehow sustained her and other family’s financial burden through vegetable gardening.

“I am a tricycle driver and my husband is a construction worker, our jobs were greatly affected during the current community quarantine. I’m thankful that we have this communal garden because we don’t have that financial capacity to buy groceries instead, we just get our foods in the garden. It doesn’t matter if we only eat vegetables all day since this will boost our immune system to fight the virus,” Montes said.

She also added that gardening did not just elevate their financial burden but also improved the relationship between her and her children.

“At their young age, I really teach my children the importance of gardening, I answer all their queries and the dos and don’ts in terms of planting. At 4:00 in the afternoon, they always volunteered to water the plants,” Montes said.

Vegetables planted in the communal garden includes pechay, mustasa, okra, opo, alugbati, and talong.

Moreover, an estimated 300-square-meter new communal garden located 2 blocks away from the original location is currently made to expand their vegetable production. The neighborhood also eye this expansion for corn production through the Project Maisan sa Nataran or Pro-Mais Movement, the latest food production initiative by the DA-Caraga Corn Program.

“Plant, Plant, Plant Program” or “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Laban sa Covid-19 program is initiated by the Department of Agriculture to increase the country’s food sufficiency level during the emergency situation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This program also ensures that urban agriculture or farming in metropolitan areas will be introduced. (with report of Kent Warren H. Fugoso/DA13-RAFIS)