Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (MPIF) celebrated the one-year anniversary of Bayan Tanim!, its backyard gardening project that champions sustainable living and self-sufficient food security amid the food scarcity resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since its launch last year, Bayan Tanim has aided 32 communities in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, distributing almost 3,000 planting kits to support over 3,100 disadvantaged families.

Planting the Seed of Food Security

Due to the adverse effects of the lockdown, MPIF recognized the difficulties encountered by several families and communities across the country. Many Filipinos have lost their sources of income, and in effect, their ability to provide sustenance for themselves. The Foundation wanted to develop a program that not only addresses the current need for immediate food sources, but also provide a long-term solution that may help them in the coming months or even years.

With the idea of recovery in mind, MPIF President Melody del Rosario said, “MPIF intended to go beyond giving relief packs and focus on a more sustainable program for its beneficiaries. Through Bayan Tanim!, communities and individuals are provided with planting kits that contain the basic items needed to start their own backyard garden.” “The program was intended to not only promote food security during the pandemic, but also offer the recipients possible alternative livelihood opportunities by growing their own produce,” she added.

In its “seed” stages, Bayan Tanim! was a pay-it-forward chain initiative, encouraging donors to purchase crates that they can donate to their chosen beneficiary, who will also purchase crates for another recipient. Company donors were given the option to donate crates to their stakeholder and fenceline communities.

Tilling the Partnership Soils

Partnerships were key in ensuring Bayan Tanim’s success. The program generated interest primarily from MPIF’s kapatid companies under the MVP Group of Companies, the conglomerate chaired by Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan. Through the initial donation from First Pacific Co. Ltd. and Light Rail Manila Corporation, MPIF was able to distribute 400 planting kits to four beneficiary communities, including Brgy.128 Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila, and Epiphany of the Lord Parish in Caloocan.

Following its strong start, MPIF signed a tri-partite agreement with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Agrea Agricultural System International Inc., to further strengthen their shared advocacy for food sustainability in the Philippines. The MOU was signed respectively by DA Sec. William Dar, MPIF President Melody del Rosario, and Agrea President and Founding Farmer Cherrie Atilano.

The DA, through the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), provided 1,000 agricultural starter kits containing seedlings of common vegetables and other needed materials. They also committed to spearheading capability building activities including online courses, leading the advocacy campaign for Integrated Urban Agriculture, and providing information, education, and communication materials on Urban Agriculture techniques.

Similarly, the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), contributed seedlings of commonly grown vegetables, provide trainings on Urban Agriculture techniques, and provide technical assistance to MPIF-identified community gardens. The BPI also committed to conducting regular and semestral monitoring of these gardens.

This year, Maynilad Water Services Inc. and CAVITEX, a Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation subsidiary, helped MPIF go beyond its goal of 1,000 kits by donating over 900 kits to 18 barangays: 201 kits from Maynilad for Brgy. Poblacion, Muntinlupa and Brgy. Anabu 2-C, Imus Cavite, and 700 kits from CAVITEX for 16 barangays in Paranaque City.

Individual donors were also integral in achieving Bayan Tanim’s initial goals. Aside from MPIC group executives and employees, MPIF also launched a DSWD-credited public fundraising via its social media platforms.

Reaping the (Literal) Fruits of their Labor

MPIF has closely monitored the progress of all community gardens with some beneficiary communities regularly providing updates on their produce. To further encourage them to continue the responsible work they have put in, MPIF launched a Bayan Tanim! Anniversary photo contest for all beneficiary communities. Beneficiaries were asked to post photos of their progress with #BayanTanim, for a chance to receive sacks of rice and proper gardening tools for their communities.

Three of the earliest beneficiaries, the Parish of Immaculate Conception, Epiphany of the Lord Parish, and Brgy. 128 Smokey Mountain were lauded for their program outcome.

Fr. Joel Saballa of the Parish of Immaculate Conception in Novaliches, shared photos of their thriving parish garden and encouraged others to take part in backyard gardening as well. “Sa tulong ng Bayan Tanim program ng MPIF, tayo ay nahikayat na ipagpatuloy ang programa para mas marami tayong mahikayat na magtanim sa kanya-kanyang bakuran,” said Fr. Joel, “Ito ay para may maani tayong gulay na masustansya na pantawid gutom sa hikahos na bayan.”

Ms. Lenilia Declaro of the Epiphany of the Lord Parish expressed her gratitude for the program. “We are very grateful for the support we got from MPIF. I’m happy to inform you that the seedlings were already transplanted to their respective crates and are now being cultivated,” said Ms. Declaro. “Many of our parishioners are now into gardening in their respective pamayanan. We are now planning to share some seedlings to other leaders who want to adopt this project.”

With plans to continue the program until next year, MPIF is steadfast in helping the disadvantaged and vulnerable Filipino communities become self-sufficient and responsible for their own food security. MPIF’s Bayan Tanim program is aligned with MPIC’s efforts to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly SDG 2 Zero Hunger, 3 Good Health and Well-Being, 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth, 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities, and 17 Partnerships for the Goals.  

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