Ligao City ––From lowland to upland areas of the third district of Albay, a new breed of young farmers is producing crops and a variety of organic vegetables from idle land to plate employing climate smart agriculture during the course of yearlong coronavirus pandemic here.

Jezilyn Orlanda, 24, of Barangay Oma-Oma, some 35 kilometers away or so is a leader of the upland young farmers planting variety of root crops and vegetables in more than one-hectare land area here under the Taranuman sa Barangay (Planting in the Barangay) program of neophyte Rep. Fernando Cabredo of the 3rd District of Albay.

Jezilyn is a graduate of Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry (BUCAF) in 2018 and is leading some 20 young farmers happily toiling the earth for food production in their respective area while in the middle of a pandemic.

As a graduate of BUCAF, Jeszilyn is sharing her knowledge in agriculture along with her fellow young farmers to apply science based and climate smart farming methods here.

She was assisted by three other young farmers trained under the six-month Integrated Diversified Organic Farming (IDOF) of the city government of Ligao spearheaded by city agriculture officer Dexter Mendoza.

Barangay Oma-Oma is the highest mountain range in Ligao City wherein the out-of-school-youth, students and young professionals are working together planting indigenous root crops like ube (Dioscorea alata), sweet potatoes, cassava and 12 variety of vegetables such as squash; winged beans; radish; cucumber; string beans, okra, pechay, eggplant and among others.

Jezilyn said that the vegetables they are producing are purely organic without synthetic fertilizer application. “We developed our own natural fertilizer from the indigenous materials applying traditional and science-based methods to produce organic vegetables,” she said.

Reymart Pielago, 24, also of Oma-Oma village, an IDOF trained farmer for six-month of the city government of Ligao said that the transfer of technology through climate smart farming methods among their fellow youth farmers boost the vegetable and crop production that supply food requirements of the villagers.

According to him, the organic fertilizer application and proper farming technique for every crop helped them produce safe and healthy vegetables in the middle of a pandemic which sustains food in the upland village of this city.

“The advantage is easy to plant with scientific and technical know-how. We are employing a combination of traditional and scientific methods with less or no utilization of synthetic fertilizer. The goal is to zero in the use of synthetic fertilizer to heal our land and produce healthy foods, specifically that we are experiencing the pandemic,” Raymart said. 

From the farm, Jezilyn and Raymart’s group are supplying fresh vegetables to the villagers of Oma-Oma at affordable prices. The young farmers are personally delivering their harvest to the villagers for them to stay home.      

“We’re happy that we were able to produce enough food and vegetables even with the pandemic through the help of Congressman Fernando Cabredo who provided us tools, vegetable seeds and seedlings for farming. Pandemic also helped us unite and intensify food production for our food sustainability,” he said.

These young and new breeds of farmers in Albay are also using mobile gadgets and the internet to learn new farming techniques and educating out of school youth to adapt and learn new available digital tools and technologies for farming.

The creation of young farmers here started during the lockdown in a form of competition to plant and produce better and healthy vegetables to provide and address malnutrition transforming the idle lands in the entire third district of Albay into a real Farmville while promoting physical and mental health through the farming initiative of Cabredo.

Cabredo tapped the youth to be involved in farming through the “Taranuman sa Barangay” (Planting in the village) initiative. He even encouraged the new breed of farmers to compete among other youth across the district to produce more vegetables and crops and so compose a local music based on farming activities and to be uploaded on Facebook and Youtube.

The scheme won the hearts and minds of the youth as more out of school youth including displaced employees, young professionals and students joined the “Taranuman sa Barangay”. Cabredo also urged the youth to use their gadgets to access available digital tools and technologies on the internet that could guide them to learn from agri-support sites online to be productive in farming.

To strengthen the Taranuman sa Barangay project among the youth in Albay 3rd congressional district, Cabredo partnered with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to employ the youth in farming industry through the Government Internship Program (GIP) rather than staying in offices for clerical job. Cabredo wants that the GIP will be focused on farming activities to strengthen the agriculture sector in the countryside.

Cabrado tapped the youth to integrate agriculture production through the DOLE (GIP) tupad program in a bid to produce more food on the table in the countryside in the middle of the pandemic.

The beneficiaries of the program should also share 40 percent of their produce vegetables to the community specifically to senior citizens, pregnant women, and children for nutritional requirements as part of their social responsibility. While 60 percent of the harvest will be sold to the market at the lowest price.

Grace Santua, 21, of Barangay Busac this city, a BEED graduate at   Ligao community college in 2019 is one of the recipients of Cabredo’s Taranuman sa Barangay and DOLE’s tupad program.

She passed the Licensure Examination for Teacher (LET) of the same year. She is about to apply for a teaching job when the pandemic occurs.

Santua said that she joined the Taranuman sa Barangay under the DOLE’s tupad program to learn new techniques on farming while undergoing ranking procedure of DepEd before being admitted for teaching. 

“I’m grateful for the Taranuman sa Barangay initiative of Cong. Didi Cabredo and DOLE’s GIP Tupad program because more youth get involved and show their interest in farming with the blend of science,” she said.

Jeremy Bronia, 20, of Tuburan village one of the out of school youth who finished his grade 12 in 2019 and is planning to pursue a criminology course in June said that farming through the Taranuman sa Barangay helped him to learn and innovate new knowledge of farming aside from generating money.

“Farming is tiring but fun,” he said. The young farmers undergoing the series of Taranuman sa Barangay and DOLE’s GIP Tupad program are receiving P310 daily cover for three months.

Jeremy is the second batch of the partnership inked between Rep. Cabredo and of the Department of Labor and Employment. The DOLE’s GIP program in partnership with Cabredo employs 298 out-of-school-youth, students, displaced workers due to pandemic including jobless and young professionals here.

The taranuman program, according to Cabredo, has been empowering the youth to play its role in agriculture. 

“This young individual made an impact to the community by harvesting there produce goods and selling it in a lower price to help and give the opportunity to afford by the community, now they are looking forward to their 2nd harvest in order to give them to the indigent senior citizen and malnourished children,” Cabredo told The Manila Times.

“It is the first in the country that the Government Internship Program (GIP) is integrated in agriculture production. Through the active participation of the “kabataan” in Ligao City, it proved that the young generation plays an important role in food production and that it would bring a new generation of farmers,” he said.

Most of these kabataan are raised by farmers and well cultured in farming. In this program, we find the opportunity to impart the value of sustainable agriculture to the youth, Cabredo said.

According to the lawmaker the upland barangays of the 3rd District have vast lands that are ideal for cultivating crops. “People in the countryside are dependent on agriculture as this is the primary source of living. Amidst the global pandemic and series of typhoons, many people lost their jobs and livelihoods, and even prices of basic commodities are getting higher,” Cabredo said.

“We find planting vegetables and crops in the community an ideal solution to resolve hunger and malnutrition during these difficult times. Locals can save more money by growing their own food in their own communities or households. This would help students gain a deeper understanding on the value of agriculture, immense in field work and provide livelihood opportunities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmaker said.

Cabredo lauded and expressed gratitude to DOLE Bicol for the continuous support in implementing various livelihood programs in the 3rd District of Albay, specifically the taranuman project here.

The program, according to the lawmaker, directly benefited thousands of his constituents. “We are hoping more beneficiaries will be catered by DOLE’s livelihood programs in this new normal through the taranuman involving the youth as our new breed of farmers in the country particularly in Albay,” he said.

Zenaida Campita DOLE Bicol regional director said that since 2020, the implementation of tupad and Government Internship Program and its integration with the taranuman project has been a tremendous success here.

Campita, who is also an advocate of agriculture development, said that the department will continue to provide livelihood programs to the Bicolanos, specifically the youth toiling on the earth for food production in the countryside.

Both Cabredo and Campita believe that the living conditions in the countryside will be improved in the middle of the pandemic through the interventions and support given by the national government agencies. (By: Raneza Sabina Barcebal)

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