ACDO calls on clergy to open parishes to community food gardening

Started just last February, the parish garden patch has started paying off with harvests of green leafy vegetables.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro is encouraging the establishment of household and community gardening for local food production during the COVID-19 quarantine and lockdowns to help sustain especially vulnerable residents in the informal sector, the unemployed, and those unable to be gainfully employed at this time.

In a statement released April 6 to all archdiocesan clergy and parishioners, Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J. called on all the clergy to open parish spaces to community food gardening and set up. nurseries to ensure a continuous supply of planting materials.

Ledesma said it is imperative that families and communities have access to locally produced food as the usual food chains from locked down areas like Bukidnon locally and rice sources like Vietnam and Thailand internationally tighten up.

Alugbati (Malabar spinach or basella alba), from the parish garden patch just has 19 calories per serving, but is filling, nutritious and easily grown.

“We need to produce nutritious food like vegetables, both leafy and protein sources (beans and legumes), and rice substitutes for carbohydrate, like sweet potatoes (camote) and bananas,” the cleric stressed.

“I am encouraging parishioners to set up their individual home gardens which can be container gardens for those within tight urban areas, but also help in the community gardens,” urged Ledesma, a former dean of the Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) College of Agriculture, and former director of the Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN), dedicated to the formation of socially committed and competent leaders in the struggle for poverty alleviation and holistic human development within the context of diverse cultural and religious traditions in AsiaPacific and Africa.

The Institute has 50 years experience of forming leaders and initiating innovative programs graduating over 2,000 rural leaders from 59 countries in Asia and Africa.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish vegetable garden at the parish church grounds in Bgy. Carmen.

Already, the staff of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Barangay Carmen is starting to harvest vegetables from its vegetable garden at the parish church grounds.

“We started gardening in our church grounds since the last week of February,” said Parish Priest Fr. Satur Lumba. “Many of our parishioners who are 4Ps beneficiaries have also already started gardening after they visited us to ask for advise on how to do it. All of this I learned from my past work as social action director, exposure to partners and others.”

“We have already started harvesting green leafy vegetables which is a great help for us, especially at this time,” he added.

In his circular, Ledesma urged for the intensification of local food production through individual household and community gardening to help especially the poor, the unemployed, and those unable to be gainfully employed at this time.

With sufficient local food supplies, the archbishop said not only is the family and the larger community assured of adequate meals, nutrition, and bolstered immune systems, but gardening can also prevent hunger-related crime; and improve mental health.

“I am encouraging parishioners to set up their individual home gardens which can be container gardens for those within tight urban areas, but also help in the community gardens.”

Students filling plastic bottles with soil to set up container gardening.
(Photo-Robert J. Holmer)

He appealed to those with idle land to open them up for use as community gardens and for those who have special skills in agriculture, organic gardening, and food preservation, to volunteer their skills.

Cagayan de Oro has pool of experienced agriculturists who have been pursuing local production of food through communal and backyard vegetable gardens. Among them are Xavier University College of Agriculture which implemented the The Periurban Vegetable Project (PUVeP) as part of the Research and Social Outreach Cluster;
In cooperation with the local government of Cagayan de Oro City as well as the municipality of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, barangay administrations, the

Department of Education and local communities, it has implemented ten allotment gardens, three of which are located inside public elementary schools, equipped with ecological sanitation toilets for about 100 urban poor families.

Col. Honorio Cervantes demonstrates the principles of Square Foot Garden at his demo farm in Bgy. Pagatpat, Cagayan de Oro City.

Another is the Square Foot and Vertical Garden espoused by former COCPO Chief Col. Honorio Cervantes (Ret.) at his farm in Bgy. Pagatpat, an Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Learning Site that is hailed for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). He is a leading advocate of organic farming through urban gardening and regularly conducts seminars and orientations at his 300sqm farm.

Not the least, Cagayan de Oro City’s “Urban Household Container Gardening” (UHCG) Project aims to combat rising problems of malnutrition, poverty and high drop-out rates among school age children in Cagayan de Oro.

At-risk communities are taught to feed themselves by planting their own vegetables with their own oftentimes limited space. For its second phase, the UHCG Project has added the integration of Solid Waste Management by recycling and re-integrating waste from the city into their container gardening projects.

DA-RFO 10 RTD Carlota Madriaga hands over vegetable seeds to CDO Agriculture’s Office, received by Joseph G. Borja, Urban Container Household Gardening program focal person. (UCHG)

Paul Douglas Calingin, the city government’s COVID-19 economic cluster head and acting city agriculturist, recently disclosed that the City Agricultural Productivity Office (APO) will be providing some 800 urban gardeners with seeds from the DA to immediately start planting to bolster the city’s local vegetable supply.

The UHCG Project is a joint program of the City Housing & Urban Development Department (CHUDD) HOA Federation, APO and City Social Welfare & Development Department. It was awarded third place in the “Food Justice: Projects that improve food access in underserved communities” Category of the 2016 International Network for Urban Agriculture (INUAg) Awards.

However, Ledesma cautioned parishioners to strictly observe the mandated physical distancing in community gardens, and disinfect commonly used garden tools and seed packs and containers to be distributed.

Ready for the table at the parish garden patch.

The ACDO’s Health/Ganda Natural Farming Ministry team headed by Ms. An-An Denuyo, and the archdiocese Social Action workers will be assisting parishes and communities willing to pursue local food production projects in collaboration with DA, LGUs, and other partners.

The Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro is an archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines. It is a metropolitan see on the island of Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Camiguin and the municipality of Malitbog, Bukidnon. It is headed by Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J and its seat is located at Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro City.

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