Wednesday July 18, 2018

Bukid Amya: Empowering the unskilled

GIVE Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime." This is what Amya Foundation founder, Dr. Aurea Mercado y Adrias, had in mind when she established the Bukid Amya in 2015.

Bukid Amya is a subsidiary of the Amya Foundation, a non-profit organization. The word Amya derived from the founder's initials.

The idea of establishing Bukid Amya was conceived when the founder saw that there were homeless in Davao City who took the streets as their home. She bought a 15-hectare land at Sitio Titugop, Barangay Malamba in Marilog District where she envisioned her home for the aged and street children would be built. But then, she realized that not all good-intentioned projects are easy to make. Her ideas were not approved by the agencies tasked to clear, approve and monitor these kind of projects.

She then changed the idea and established a farm instead, thus, the Bukid Amya.

Bukid Amya envisions to be a farmers' training center, a vegetable farm and an agro-tourism resort. The gist of the founder's original concept though is still there: to help the marginalized.

The sole purpose of Bukid Amya is to "provide comprehensive development services that will empower the marginalized youth through livelihood capabilities, and engage the elderly in meaningful preoccupations for a better quality of life."

True enough, Bukid Amya caters to two classes of beneficiaries: The poor but deserving students (in scholarship form) and the rural poor, of which majority are IPs.

Ricardo Jimenez Jr., Amya Foundation, Inc. administrator, said Bukid Amya has already produced almost 200 IP graduates in their farm-training. This IPs were trained the proper agricultural farming and management, including the best pre- and post-harvest practices for their produce so that they won't have just food on their tables, but can generate decent income from their harvest as well.

"The training center is envisioned to help the lumads who have vast land but don't know how to till it. That's why they are always gutom," Jimenez said.

He added that they train farmers for several weeks depending on their needs of know-how, especially on organic farming method.

The foundation espouses the motto of "bilis aral, bilis asenso, daig mo pang nag-empleyo," to emphasize that the rural poor who haven't have college degrees can still earn their own keep through proper farming.

Bukid Amya also receives students from agricultural schools who want to be trained on proper farming techniques. Just recently, 12 students from Marilog High School of Agriculture graduated in their 35-day training. These students were given P100/day as allowance, with free uncooked meals, and free board and lodging at the farm's dormitory.

Joriz Klenz Sabete, farm manager, said the assistance of Bukid Amya does not just end there. They also buy the produce of their trainees to ensure that they will not be duped by middle men who always prey on IP farmers.

The markets of their products include, but not limited to big restaurants, fast-food and hotels, specifically Marco Polo-Davao, Pizza Hut, Shakey's and Bon Chon. They also supply to department stores to cater to consumers of organic vegetables.

Some of their most in demand products are different varieties of lettuce, salad tomatoes, eggplants, sweet bell pepper and even herbs like dill. They also grow various fruits like durian, rambotan and mango.

Since there is no electricity in the farm yet, Bukid Amya innovated a technology for preserving its produce. This innovation has been copied by several organic farm owners because of its effectiveness and it's also economical. The farm workers call it lawak-pabugnawan or evaporative cooler. It is a double-walled room, wherein the spaces between the walls are filled with moist charcoal. This makes the inside of the room significantly cooler than outside temperature.

This helps Bukid Amya to earn more and spend less, which is necessary for it to continue its objective of sending more scholars and helping more IPs, especially in providing for their farming needs and buying their produce.

As of present, there are 18 employees of Bukid Amya, of which 14 of them come from different tribes in Davao. And the number will surely increase once the Bukid Amya as Agro-Tourism Facility is full-blown.

Come November 9, in time of the death anniversary of its founder, Bukid Amya will formally open as Agro-Tourism Resort. As of the moment, they are constructing its Amphitheater, bonfire pit where groups who want to stay overnight can enjoy their fresh picked vegetable barbecued, and putting up of additional cottages, among others.

"Number 1 natabang sa Bukid Amya sa akoa ang paghatag nila ug knowledge sa pang-agrikultura, kung wala pa ni basin nagmantenir lang gihapon mi sa traditional farming, gamay ug income," Junjun, an Ubo-Manuvo employee of Bukid Amya, ended.