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“Several times a year, the church invites farmers to “field days” at its model farm. There they can practice grafting fruit trees, become acquainted with resistant varieties of grain and talk to colleagues who enrich soil with manure from their own livestock.”

I read this section in an article on the EED website and it struck me that something similar is going on here in General Santos. Pasali starts an off-project project with the area government of the Fatima – “off” because its technically not the main project but legitimate project nonetheless because its everything that hte organisation stands for.

SUSTAINABLE URBAN GARDENING

The idea is not new but utterly brilliant: plant an organic garden in the neighbourhood with use of a crop-house system for high-value cro ps (in the Philippines that means e.g. salad) and gardening methods that do little harm to the environment, an let it be planted by vigorous elderly folk who otherwise have no means of support AND a handful of problem teenagers who would otherwise be engaged in drugs, gangs, and criminal activity. PASALI teaches and mentors the new gardeners and they and their neighbour have ownership over their garden. And apparently the crop house will be made from biodegrable materials and other measures will be taken to be extremely careful with nature.

High-value seedlings: Salads in old crates

PASALI already has plenty of in-house gardening knowledgeand, its own organic fertilizer and rather than the expensive carabow that the local government was thinking of, they can take a  pick  out the selection of manual and machine-driven gardening tools PASALI developed with farmers in Palimbang, Mindanao. Head gardening (and trainer) Kaka Kusain says they will even plant sections with herbal medicines and teach participants how these can lower blood pressure, increase immunity, and contra a vareity of ails.

Head gardener Kaka Kusain explains the value of organic farming

 

The scheme covers food security, livelihoods for those with no income, job and skill training for out-of-school-youth, good response to climate change, ecological sustainability, and so on. – all these miracle terms that the entire development world loves to parade with, they’re all here. And to top it off, it isn’t even a PASALI initiated project, its a local government move. So in this instance, PASALI is basically a service provider. Its spot on the concept of ownership and sustainability.

But of all things brilliant, there are plenty of buts.

But no.1: The patch of ground is a former garbage dump

THE OWNERSHIP ISSUE

PASALI started out this weekend with the tedious job of removing stones and plowing through to remove plastic from the soil a meter deep (apparently the only plot available for now is the no one wants, the garbage dump. This isn’t all, I am assure, more land is alotted but those are already planted for this cropping around. PASALI staff and youth technicians pitch in, but no elder or former delinquents (children in conflict with the law, as they properly call them) is to be  seen. After I  asked, I was told that the local government official who was assigned didn’t understand what their barangay captain negociated for. “I explained it several times, with pictures and drawings and what not and still I don’t know if it landed,” quietly moaned one PASALI staff. I asked another staff member responsible for organising the youth participants why they weren’t present at the groundbreaking. “” Because the general assembly isn’t until tomorrow,” I am told.

But no.2: The site is covered with stones

The issue is, if the beneficiaries are not present during the most labour ardous period, will they even consider it theirs when its handed to them on a  silver platter? If nobody really understands what this is for, and its even unclear who has real ownership, what happens when the harvest is ready to be sold and the price is as high as we expect? How do you prevent the scrambling to get the profit? And how do you see to it that they will continue after that, when the project is officially turned over?

Classic NGO organisation.

PICTURE PERFECT (ALMOST)

PASALI's designed rotary weeder is excellent at aerating the soil (then it was easier to spot the plastics)

The head gardener and two of his prospect youth students

The beginnings of a crop house


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