By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

During the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which was imposed on the whole of the Philippines from March 15 to May 31, the Department of Agriculture has been encouraging the public to grow their own food at the comfort of their homes. 

Other people, who have more than they need, exert efforts to share their blessings with families who have less or are displaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dalareich Polot, a social entrepreneur and chocolate maker in Bohol, has been doing so as she and her family distribute food packs and organically-produced vegetables to displaced workers in the province. 

Bohol’s tourism industry has been greatly affected because of the continuing crisis and concerns brought by the pandemic. It resulted in the sudden loss of jobs for some of Boholanos and a growing number of displaced workers.

“Those organically produced veggies were from the farming communities here in Bohol which we are linked to since our family business is associated with farmers, specifically cacao farmers, in the province of Bohol,” Polot said. 

As time passed, she became aware of the need for sustainability in helping out the families in their community. Thus, the Grow My Own Food-Bohol Backyard Garden Contest came into fruition. 

1 – Government institutions like the ATI Region 7 and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in Bohol provided participants with seedlings, seeds, and pamphlets to help them grow their produce.

Grow My Own Food-Bohol Backyard Garden Contest is a competition created through a partnership between public and private institutions that hopes to help families and communities in Bohol to achieve food and nutrition security during a crisis by encouraging them to grow their own food.

The contest was launched last May 26 when the Polot and her friends distributed seeds from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and some seedlings and other farm inputs from the Agricultural Training Institute Region 7 (ATI Region 7). 

Prior to the start of the competition, participants were called and gathered via social media as early as May 15. 

“We were supposed to start in two towns and one city only but when we started gathering the participants, a lot of people requested us to include their towns as well,” the social entrepreneur shared. 

After they received a signal from Bohol Governor Arthur Yap to launch it in other towns as well, the contest started accepting participants from the whole first district of Bohol which is composed of 15 towns.

How to join 

Displaced workers, and/or their families, residing in Bohol who have been displaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic are the target participants of the contest. However, they need to provide proof of their displacement such as a certificate from an employer or barangay endorsement. 

Existing farms and gardens owned by businesses are not qualified since it should be a backyard garden. 

To join, interested parties can send a personal message via Facebook Messenger to the contest’s social media page indicating their interest to join, the name of the participant/s, and the location of the garden. 

A Google form to be filled up will also be provided. 

When accepted, a notification will be sent via Messenger. If not accepted during the first round, there will be another chance to re-apply as there will be additional planting rounds. 

Participating gardens need to be 10 to 20 square meters in size. Vertical gardens are also encouraged; the area will be included in the total size computation. Participants may design their plot or garden based on their preference.

Natural and/or organic farming practices must be followed, and participants need to make use of recycled materials or containers in planting. 

Gardens must showcase garden practices in growing local “multi-crops” such as pechay, chili, string beans, ampalaya, and the likes. 

Organizers will sponsor the seeds, farm inputs, as well as assorted information, education, and communication materials. 

Participants will be given an orientation on urban and home gardening by the ATI and/or the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist. They may also enroll in free e-learning courses available at www.e-extension.gov.ph

Additionally, participants are required to publicly post photos of their garden every week on Facebook with the contest’s official hashtags: #BoholGrowMyOwnFood #BoholFoodGarden #BoholBackyardGardenContest. 

On the 15th, 30th, and 50th days, judges will visit the participating gardens to evaluate its progress.

Winners will receive cash prizes, more farming inputs, and many other surprises from corporate sponsors. They will also receive certification of completion from the ATI for all the webinars they participated in. 

After announcing winners of the first batch, another round for the second and third districts, composed of 14 and 19 towns respectively, of Bohol will be launched. 

Gaining government and private assistance

The contest, according to Polot, is a competition designed for displaced workers, youth and deserving families for them to showcase their food gardening skills and ability to grow their own food, organically and sustainably.

A garden of one of the contest’s participants.

She first presented the idea to two of her young entrepreneur friends who are also involved in food and farming. 

“Duke Minoza is a young coffee farmer and Joy Angeli Uy is managing a hotel in Tagbilaran. I asked them if they could help me on the implementation of the said project which they agreed to. In the past, we already worked together on our advocacies, so I was confident that this project will also work,” Polot said. 

Having smoothed out some of the logistics in the project, Polot and her friends’ next challenge is to get funding to better carry out their plan. 

Polot said that she personally contacted Governor Arthur Yap who is also supportive of the group’s advocacies. 

“I sent him the concept note and he said he will support and fund it personally. He also asked us to launch it immediately,” the social entrepreneur said. 

Additionally, the governor also wanted to make the contest continuous and sustainable which is why he asked Polot to add a twist to the prizes so they can hold the contest every 50 days. 

“We also coordinated and partnered with the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Bohol, the ATI Region 7, an organization of organic farmers in Bohol called KABoOM (Kapunungan sa Bol-anong Organikong Mag-uuma), and AGREA,” Polot said. 

“As we always said to our participants, this is not just a backyard gardening contest but a support group and one community working together,” Polot said.

For more information, visit Grow My Own Food Bohol on Facebook