Green wins

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Thursday, March 13, 2014


IN THE near future, Davao residents will enjoy food organically grown and produced within the neighborhood. Mountains will be green with forest trees teeming with wildlife – wild deer and pigs, tarsiers (yes we have them here) and birds. Rivers will supply our potable drinking water. The city will be renowned for its organic fruits for export to other cities and nations. Youth and students will eagerly explore its forests and mountains to go hiking, bird watching and enjoy communing with nature rather than their tablets and cellphones.

At the rate we are going right now, I would not be surprised if these become a reality in the next decade.

Last weekend provided me a fresh perspective on various initiatives and projects of our local organizations, businesses and individuals on how to make a difference in this world. Despite of the commercialization of agriculture, education and food industry, there are growing pockets of resistance of people who believe that we should work with nature rather than against it. Exploitation of resources is a no no but harnessing our resources towards its sustainable use is a definite yes.

Allow me to share with you some individuals and groups who are working hard on making sustainable development a reality and not just an abstract idea.

The region is a powerhouse in supplying about 10 percent of the world’s banana needs. To keep up with the demand, companies embark on producing bananas at an industrial scale spanning tens of thousands of hectares all over the island. On the other hand, a cooperative in Sibulan has embarked on producing export quality organic bananas for Japan. Rather than use expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides, they produce their own fertilizers using organic wastes from the market places and their own farms. Pesticides using microorganisms and natural chemicals are made to maintain the balance of nature in the area. The result is an environmentally and economically sustainable organic banana enterprise that has transformed the lives of their cooperative members who now enjoy the benefits by purchasing motorcycles and better housing materials to better their lives.

A farmer in Tamayong showed us his agroforestry farm which was planted with durian and cacao which he fertilizes with manure from his goats. He has an almost closed farming ecosystem where the wastes of one product become the inputs of another. We were amazed to learn from him that he even chops the rind of durian (after chopping off the thorns of course) and cacao so he can add these to the grass his goats feed on. His goats on the other hand, produce the manure is mixed with other farm wastes to feed to his “pet” worms and produce vermi compost and tea.

In the urban poor areas we visited small gardens, what was inspiring was that these were borne out of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) financial aid that they received from the government. With the financial aid, poor families transformed vacant lots to productive land by planting pechay, tomatoes, eggplants, alugbati, kamote, etc. Their kitchen wastes they made into compost for fertilizer. Now by selling some vegetables they earn a few extra pesos to provide their children much needed school supplies as well as cook nutritious meals for their families.

When entrepreneurs enter the agriculture scene we expect them to see the needs of the growing middle class of the society. The in-thing now for the middle-class is healthy living so that includes healthy foods. We visited two individuals who are now sharing their passion for healthy living with their fellow city dwellers. They grow organic vegetables and livestock which they then serve fresh as well as freshly cooked to customers. Imagine eating freshly picked organic vegetables and herbs as well as chemical and antibiotics-free chicken and pork here in the city. Forget those burgers and pizza that transformed the middle class of developed countries into size XXXL people. I think that time has come that our middle class learn from our rural folks on what real food is.

The youth of today have a better perspective on world issues that we had decades ago. Before, we used to concentrate our energies on breaking down the imperialist clutches on our third world economy (it still exists in some form – look at the ambitious imperialist expansion of China into Africa, Africa and Philippines for example) and we viewed environmentalists as weaklings. Now, climate change and disaster risk reduction are key development issues affecting the whole world both rich and poor nations. The youth of today know that each one of us must do our share to create an impact in this dog-eat-dog world. Thus their activism in protecting our natural resources especially our watershed is very commendable. From the Bagobo youth monitoring our rivers to the high school students of Ateneo undertaking recycling activities, they are passionately doing their share to ensure that future generations will enjoy nature as we see it today.

After two days of visiting more than a dozen projects of our citizens on how to promote a green Davao, I have earned a year’s worth of inspiration on what we can do to restore our environment as well as provide solutions to poverty as well as lessons that we should integrate into our urban planning.

1. Organic bananas although catering as of now to a niche market will eventually become the demand abroad owing to the organic food movement. Our farmers and companies must now gradually shift towards this trend to lessen chemicals on our land as well as enter the trend.

2. Agri-forestry really works. A one-hectare durian-cacao-goat farm if properly managed will provide a rural household enough income to rise above poverty. I hope the City Agriculturist will put passion on making this work in the thousands of hectares of underutilized agriculture and forest lands of the city.

3. Urban Agriculture is a strategy to uplift the conditions of our urban poor. We have a hundred of hectares of vacant lands in the downtown area and its periphery, if a system can be worked out for landowners to lease these lands to the urban poor organizations, not to build structures, but to build urban gardens then we can perhaps improve the food security of our poor households.

4. The middle class is hungry for organic food. We would like to eat organic sagbot mixed with exotic herbs and spices. I hope organic farmers can create sosyal marketplaces and food stalls where the rich and middle class can access these healthy sagbot.

5. Advocacy for the environment should start with the youth. They have creative energy to stubbornly advocate sustainable development to hard-headed old politicians and companies.

Do you want to meet Davao City’s heroes and heroines of the environment? Your opportunity is tonight (6 pm, March 13) at the Matina Town Square when we will be publicly recognizing their inspiring achievements. No less than Lumad sa Syudad, Joey Ayala will be there to rouse within us the spirit of Gaia and do our part in creating a Green Davao. rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 13, 2014.

Opinion

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