IN Talisay City, organic farming is seen as the next big livelihood.
Instead of letting job- order employees sit and do nothing, Talisay City Mayor Johnny V. de los Reyes hired 60 to 70 of them to plant organic vegetables on the vacant lot fronting the City Hall.
De los Reyes, who is a businessman, said “teaching people to fish” will help them become productive individuals and turn into entrepreneurs someday.
Organic farming is part of de los Reyes’ Green Valley Program, a project that aims to make Talisay City the vegetable basket in the south.
“I believe that planting vegetables is not only a big help for nutrition, one good thing about farming is that it can lead to the creation of livelihood for people living in the area,” said de los Reyes.
To jumpstart the Green Valley Program, de los Reyes made use of the half-a-hectare vacant lot fronting the City Hall to plant squash, eggplant, okra, string beans, carrots, and pechay, among others. He sought the help of the Department of Agriculture to make vegetable seedlings available for the project.
“What I wanted to see in this area is a thriving vegetable farm where people can harvest what they planted and buy them at a cheaper price. We will also set up a restaurant here where all ingredients of the dishes are harvested from here,” said de los Reyes.
He said the project is like “hitting two birds with one stone,” by making organic vegetables available in Talisay at same time providing livelihood.
Susan Pacaña, 57, who worked as a city aid for nine years, said she took the mayor’s offer because it was attractive. For one, she said, she would learn organic farming that she can duplicate in her own backyard. She is paid the same rate as a city aid at P300 per day and she gets to work only for eight hours five times a week from Monday to Friday.
Pacaña, a widow and a mother of four, said working under the sun is “bearable” as sacrifice for her family. She said she is excited to see the vegetables grow.
De los Reyes said he appointed Talisay City agriculturist Rene Galado to supervise the farming project and to disseminate information at the barangay level for project expansion.
“We intend to make this project big. In fact, we have already eyed a lot of potential locations for this project. Talisay City still has a lot of idle lots which we can make use to generate income and livelihood,” he said.
The mayor also plans to create a bagsakan or drop-off center of farm produce where people from Talisay and neighboring municipalities can buy at cheaper prices.
“If managed well, this farming project would really go a long way, employment would double, triple, and people would have sustainable source of income,” he said. De los Reyes said part of the long-term plan is to supply organic vegetables to high-end restaurants and to open the farm site for tourism.
Private landowners have also expressed support for the Green Valley Program, according to de los Reyes.
He said some offered their idle lots to be converted into farms, for the meantime, on the condition that the five percent tax they used to pay be waived and that one to two of their children be allowed to work in the farm. De los Reyes said they already prepared a memorandum of agreement with the landowners.
The mayor expects the first harvest in February or March.
The city is also planning to showcase their harvest during the Nutrition Month this July to encourage children to eat healthy vegetables and for parents to consider farming as a sustainable livelihood.
“Talisay City in the past was abundant in vegetable production until it was slowly converted into commercial use. It is my dream to revive agriculture because this is one of the industries that can help Talisay City thrive,” said De los Reyes.