Amid rising inflation and as food insecurity rises due to the impact of the pandemic, Deputy Speaker and Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar is encouraging Filipinos to grow their own food toward a pandemic-proof living.
Urban agriculture—also known as urban farming, indoor farming, home or backyard gardening and vertical farming—saw a boom during the pandemic as most people stay indoors and seek fresher produce not otherwise available in markets or groceries.
“Food security is very important. We can grow our own food in our own backyards [through] urban gardening. We can help feed our families at healthy pa ‘yan para sa ating mga anak,” Villar said.
In her message to an online forum in celebration of the International Women’s Day on Monday, March 8, the lawmaker urged people to get more involved in urban farming toward a sustainable livelihood, especially since the pandemic disrupted food supplies.
“The pandemic has really disrupted the lives of people especially the vulnerable. Maraming hamon ang dumating. Mayroong nawalan ng trabaho, lumiit ang kita, at talagang maraming dinaanang pagsubok,” Villar said.
For the lawmaker, Filipinos can venture into backyard farming to help them cope with the crisis.
“Puwede rin itong pagkakitaan at hindi kailangang malaki ang kapital para magsimula. Puwede mo itong gawin sa labas ng bahay and it doesn’t require a very big space, nakakatulong ka pa sa environment at nakakaganda ng kapaligiran,” Villar told the participants via her message streamed online.
In the House of Representatives, House Bill No. 8385 or the proposed Integrated Urban Agriculture Act co-authored by Villar seeks to turn idle or abandoned lands, buildings and open spaces into urban gardens and one that is suitable for raising poultry, livestock and aquaculture. The measure has been approved on third and final reading by the House last month.
Once passed into law, local governments have the responsibility to identify and develop idle state-owned and private lands and buildings for conversion to community gardens to support food security and community nutrition. National government agencies, meanwhile, have separate roles as regards information dissemination, integration of urban farming in education, and strengthening the national feeding program.
Urban farming is not a new concept. But interest into this initiative has grown exponentially when the global pandemic hit—from potted vegetables, backyard plots, rooftop gardens, community gardens, up to those growing food on a commercial scale. People felt the need to produce their own nutritious food and help build a stronger community.
In Las Piñas City, urban gardening projects were first conceptualized in 2013 by Sen. Cynthia Villar and the Villar SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) Foundation as part of the annual food festival competition. While backyard gardens were initially put up to showcase the gardening and farming skills of Las Piñeros, the initiative has then evolved into an excellent source of livelihood and nutritious food supply of families. The Villars have been working together to distribute starter kits containing seedlings and fertilizers to depressed communities in the city.