IN A SunStar Philippines report on July 22, 2019, a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that Filipino families experiencing "involuntary" hunger increased to an estimated 10 percent in the second quarter of 2019. This is roughly equivalent to 2.5 million, higher than the 2.3 million or 9.5 percent in March 2019.
The survey showed that the rise in the hunger incidence happened only among self-rated poor (16.2 percent or estimated 1.8 million families from 11.9 percent or estimated 1.1 million families) and self-rated food poor (17.3 percent or estimated 1.5 million families from 14.2 percent or estimated 959,000 families).
The increasing population of the Filipinos and the demand for food is also straining food production in the country. In a recent report by the Philippine Statistics Authority, agriculture and fisheries have grown by only 0.6 percent in the second quarter of 2019.
However, there may be a strategy that the government and non-government organizations can do to reduce the number of Filipinos who are becoming hungry -- growing our food in our communities. This strategy, while not new, may also address the looming food security problem in the future.
Urban container gardening (UCG) or house farm may be our answer to attaining food security in the country. Agriculturist Jojo Rom said UCG is a food production system established in a limited space to serve as the nutrition garden of the household. In UCG, families reuse common household implements and wastes, as well as shifting of some habits to grow crops in small spaces.
Rom, who has a house farm of his own, said his family has access to vegetables all year round. This resulted in them not getting any kind of sickness in the last ten years. He said they were also able to save P12,000 a month in food because of the house garden.
He is currently one of the known advocates in Davao City of the UCG.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Agriculture (DA) also have a food program that follows certain principles in UCG.
Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP), a joint partnership program of Deped and DA, mandates public elementary and secondary public schools in the country to participate in the program, which aims to address malnutrition and provide health awareness by letting the students plant vegetables through organic methods.
Here in Davao City, San Roque Central Elementary School was able to effectively implement this program that it became a role model to other schools in the country.
According to DepEd-Davao Region’s data in the school year 2017-2018, 1,624 out of the 1,669 elementary schools have vegetable gardens, while 628 out of the 645 secondary schools have gardens. However, the sustainability rate for these gardens combined is only 40 percent.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has also implemented a communal gardening project among partner-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
"Communal gardening is one of the projects of the Department to empower communities and promote good health among poor Filipino families. It aims to help address the nutrition concerns of beneficiaries by encouraging families to use indigenous seeds and organic fertilizer to grow vegetables within their communities or households," DSWD said in a statement.
The government has several projects that encourage Filipinos to grow their food at the comfort of their homes or within their community. However, it is also clear that this is not being practiced by many.
We may not know why not many are trying to grow their food. We could only make guesses. But it could because some find the process of growing food too taxing; maybe some do not have time for it; others are too impatient to grow their food, or they just do not know how to start a UCG.
Probably one way the government or non-government organizations could do to encourage more Filipinos to grow their food is intensifying their information and education campaign. They can also provide Filipinos better access to information on growing their food. It could also establish training centers on house farming.
Let us not wait for more Filipinos to go hungry before we act. While we can, let us promote growing food at the comfort of homes a lifestyle among Filipinos. Maybe through this, more Filipinos will have access to food and worry less about where they will get their food.