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Secretary Arthur Yap of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has told erstwhile informal settlers along the banks of the Pasig River who now live in a new resettlement site that there’s money in backyard vegetable farming.

Speaking during the launching of a vegetable farming project for resettlers in Calauan, Laguna, Yap said that planting vegetables can become a source of livelihood for them, with the cost of investment low and the returns high.

For instance, he said, the cost of producing a kilo of pechay is only P10, but the crop sells for P30 a kilo in retail markets.

One needs only to shell out P20 to produce a kilo of tomato, but the grower can earn P60 from selling it, Yap said.

He said the DA, which has teamed up with the social arm of the trimedia giant ABS-CBN in setting up vegetable gardens and fishponds at the resettlement site, will help new residents by providing them with farm inputs, shredders, vermicomposting units and other facilities.

This initiative, which the DA is implementing with the ABS-CBN Foundation (AFI) under the latter's Bayan ni Juan and Kapit Bisig Para sa Ilog Pasig Project, is expected to benefit 1,000 affected families each year in the resettlement site located at Barangay Dayap in Calauan.

Residents of this resettlement site were relocated from the banks of the Pasig River .

“Ang punto po dito pwede pong pagkakitaan yan hindi lang po pangsariling gamit (The point here is that these vegetable gardens can be sources of income for you and not just to provide for your personal requirements),” Yap told the resettlers.

Besides planting veggies, he told the residents that can also earn money from culturing high value species in fishponds to be set up at the site, and from the compost that will be processed at the vermicomposting units to be provided by the DA.

Yap said he was glad to learn that a bagsakan center (small trading post for agricultural produce) has already been set up by the local government of Calauan so that residents in the resettlement site will have a ready market for their vegetables and other products once they start producing them in commercial quantities.

Under a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by Yap and AFI president Regina Lopez, the Department will set up home gardens at the resettlement site; train the beneficiaries on vegetable farming and teach them environment-friendly technologies to increase their production; and provide them with farm inputs in the form of assorted vegetable seeds, fish tank /fingerlings, shredder and vermicomposting units.

For its part, the AFI will be responsible for identifying and providing an area in the site for the home gardens and fish culture and in providing counterpart personnel to help speed up the implementation of the project.

AFI will also be responsible for identifying the beneficiaries of the various training programs to be provided by the DA's Bureaus of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and of Soils Water Management (BSWM).

Earlier, the DA and the private sector-led Gawad Kalinga set up a partnership to establish more than 400 backyard vegetable gardens in low-cost housing projects across the country until March 2010.

Through its Ginintuang Masaganang Ani-High Value Commercial Crops (GMA-HVCC) Program, the DA has already poured over P28 million into this vegetable growing venture—dubbed the Bayan-Anihan or National Harvest Project—for the provision of such inputs as seeds, fertilizer and weighing scales plus the training of representatives from state universities and colleges or SUCs and the beneficiaries.

Backyard vegetable plots have so far been established in 107 GK sites all over Luzon since the first roll out or phase of this joint project was soft-launched in March and additional plots will be put up in 393 GK sites in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao as part of the second roll out, which was formally launched last August.

About 66 metric tons of vegetables—including okra, stringbeans, kangkong, ampalaya, eggplant, tomato and pechay—have been harvested thus far from the 107 project sites that were put up during the first roll out last March.

For the first roll out, the DA had provided P2.96 million-worth of inputs such as vegetable seeds (stringbean and okra), vegetable seedlings (eggplant, ampalaya, kangkong, pechay and tomato), organic fertilizers, weighing scales, fruit trees (calamansi, guava and papaya, banana) and culinary and medicinal plants like basil, lagundi, lemon, oregano and sambong.

To sustain the production of vegetables, the DA provided another 3,480 seed packets to the program beneficiaries for the second cycle of planting in the 107 sites covered by the first roll out.

As for the second roll out, the DA had allocated P5.46 million-worth of inputs for the 393 GK sites, of which 205 are in Luzon, another 92 in the Visayas and 96 more in Mindanao .

Some P20 million of the DA funds allotted for Bayan-Anihan was set aside for training programs to be participated by the GK, DA SUCs and the beneficiaries.

These initial plots set up under Bayan-Anihan are already producing an additional one kilo of vegetables every two days for each family-beneficiary—equivalent to three kilos per week or 10 to 12 kilos per month. ### (DA Press Office)

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