Bitter gourd for a better life

FOR most Filipinos, the mention of Lanao del Norte immediately leads to the idea of armed conflict. Truth is, the province has long experienced peace, even before the infamous Marawi siege.

Of the 22 municipalities of Lanao del Norte is Baroy, whose name was derived from Baloy, a plant commonly found in the community used for mat weaving. From Baloy, it was changed to Baroy by the local inhabitants after the plant became extinct.

Being an agricultural area, people from the community are primary engaged into coconut and rice production. Yet despite these teeming produce, Baroy belongs to a province with high poverty incidence and magnitude of poor.

In 2014, the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) was introduced to the Pantawid household members of Barangay Pendulonan, Baroy.

Soon after, they were organized into an association where each member received P10,000 as seed capital fund for their individual projects.

Arcelie A. Calago, the group's treasurer, used the money to purchase three matured hogs and two sacks of feeds. The project went on for at least one year and had earned an average of P10,950 every quarter.

Together with her husband, Feliciano Calago, Arcelie decided to shift to vegetable gardening when Aracelie's aunt offered to utilize her three hectares of uncultivated land.

They initially planted bitter gourd (ampalaya) and eggplant. An opportunity to undergo a 96-hour training on Good Agricultural Practices initiated by the Eastwest Company then came.

They were introduced to new gardening techniques that could help improve the quality and quantity of their produce. It included effective planting and growing of carrots, watermelon, sweet corn, and string beans.

Another learning opportunity came to them through the Gardening and Poultry Program of the Agricultural Training Institute where they received gardening materials worth P40,000. These contributed to the increase of their harvest income to as much as P150,000 per month.

Like any other ventures, their chosen livelihood project also has it shares of challenges. With unpredictable weather due to climate change, rapid shift from sunlight to heavy rains are making the soil loose and causing damage to the produce resulting to small yield.

As vegetable gardeners, they have to be one step ahead always in applying strategies to lessen the impact of heavy rainfall by placing nets over the garden patch, ensuring strong bamboo plant support as taught from their trainings, and collecting matured seeds for planting to replace those that did not germinate.

Added to this, they also fall short of manpower to help them in the field at times. Hence, they simply work with what they can and have, as they say.

Both Arcelie and Feliciano are grateful for this bountiful blessing for their family. They hope that their vegetable gardening will last long enough until their children finish schooling and save enough for their own future.

They continue in striving to be economically productive as long as there is peace and economic stability within the province.


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