To provide hope and livelihood opportunities to persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) sealed a partnership to implement the “Bagong Buhay sa Gulay” project, complementing a DA-BuCor urban agriculture initiative that started in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative, part of DAR’s “Buhay sa Gulay” project, aims to empower PDLs to be productive and self-sufficient in preparation for their re-integration into society.
The four agencies signed a memorandum of agreement at the NBP in Muntinlupa.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar enjoined the four agencies to sustain and expand the project that initially covers 2.5 hectares to continuously produce vegetables not only for the PDLs, but also for other residents in Muntinlupa, thus serving as source of livelihood and income.
“Let us upscale this project and make it big to create an impact here in Muntinlupa. It should focus not only on vegetables, but also include fruits and ornamental plants, as well as raising small ruminants like goats and sheep, and chicken,” Dar said.
Under the project, the DA through the BPI will provide quality seeds, planting materials, and other inputs, while DAR serves as the lead project implementer and funder, and TESDA will conduct training for PDLs who will tend and sustain the vegetable gardens.
“When COVID came, we elevated our game at the Department and utilized half a billion pesos from the Bayanihan Fund to support urban agriculture.”
The agriculture chief said that early on — in January 2020, during the anniversary of the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) — he directed the BPI to take the lead in promoting urban agriculture in Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas in the country.
“When COVID came, we elevated our game at the Department, and utilized half a billion pesos from the Bayanihan Fund to support urban agriculture,” the agriculture head said.
Initial talks between the DA and BuCor started in the latter part of January 2020, and the urban agriculture project took off in May, said BPI Assistant Director Glenn Panganiban, who was recently designated by Dar to lead the DA’s National Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Program (NUPAP).
Panganiban said the DA-BuCor urban agri project now covers 10 hectares planted to eggplant, tomato, chili pepper, coffee, banana, and pili. Plans are underway to expand the project up to 100 hectares, with the help of the private sector that will continue to provide seedlings, pest management, and technical assistance.
Dar committed to replicate the NBP-Muntinlupa project in other BuCor facilities nationwide.
The NUPAP is one of the key strategies of the DA to address the challenges brought by the pandemic to Filipino families in Metro Manila and other urban areas nationwide, he said.
“It aims to ensure that there will always be food in the home and that every family will have access to safe and nutritious food.”
“It aims to ensure that there will always be food in the home and that every family will have access to safe and nutritious food,” said Dar, adding that it is simply called FAITH or “Food Always In The Home”.
He added that about 15 to 20 percent of the national food supply could come from urban agriculture, thus addressing challenges during community lockdowns and calamities that adversely impact on supply logistics and transportation from traditional production areas to consumption centers like Metro Manila.
The partnership among the DA, DAR, TESDA, and BuCor is an example of the “whole-of-government” approach of the Duterte administration to attain food sustainability and security, Dar said.
In his recorded message, TESDA Director General Isidro Lapeña vowed to support the project to give PDLs hope to pursue a new life through vegetable farming. He added that TESDA will also be providing training to the employees of BuCor.
BuCor Assistant Secretary Gabriel Chaclag emphasized that the project, which is line with their twin objectives of safekeeping and reformation, is a celebration of life.
Chaclag pledged to support the program by encouraging and capacitating the PDLs a
nd the BuCor staff to take active participation in various collaborations on agriculture and food production.
DAR Undersecretary Virginia Orogo thanked the project partners for their support of the undertaking, which was conceptualized last year.
“Nakita ko po dito sa Bilibid na maraming pang space na maaaring pagtamnan, at kayang-kayang ma-sustain ang pagkain ng mga nasa loob,” Orogo said.
She added that Filipinos must be vigilant and work towards food sustainability, while taking care of the lands to make them more productive.