SHeG communities join Farmers Congress Orientation Seminar in Gumaca

To start the 2-day Basic Orientation Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture (BOSSA), twenty-three participants from the Self-Help Group (SHeG) communities** of the Social Action Center of Diocese the Gumaca (Caritas SAC Gumaca) participated in the 10th Farmers Congress on 12 May 2014, held in the Gymnasium of the Diocese. The annual Congress is organized for the members of MASINOP (Magsasakang Sinusunod ang Organikong Pagsasaka) sector of MSK (Munting Sambayanang Kristyano or the local BEC) from 21 Barangays and guests from Calauag and other towns in the Diocese of Lucena, under programs related to Sustainable Agriculture and organic farming in the Diocese. This year, the topic is on the “new Coconut Industry”.

Co-sponsored by the Assisi Foundation HAPAG-ASA Integrated Nutrition Program, the Philippine Coconut Society (PCS) and the Diocese of Gumaca, the Coconut Farmers Orientation started with an opening prayer for coconut farmers (Panalingin ng mga Magniniyog) led by PCS; followed by introduction and welcome remarks by Fr. Antonio Aguilar, Director of SAC Gumaca. Mr. Victor Roca of Caritas SAC Gumaca then introduced the participants before Mr. Greg Mendez of Social Action Center of the Diocese of Lucena introduced the speaker, Mr. Jun Castillo, President of the PCS, after relating the support that Assisi Foundation and the PCS also offered to his Diocese.

The main meat of the Program was to introduce an alternative and sustainable way of earning from Coconuts, a product with is abundant and very common in Quezon Province. It can be seen as alternative way for women in the community to earn from the coconuts from their family’s farms while the men in the family continues with the usual way of selling copra which is labor intensive. Mr. Castillo and his team led the participants to see the potential of not only ripe coconuts, but also young coconuts, in addition to copra which is described as the “Old Coconut Industry”. Participants actively participated in the interactive practical input/ lecture. The “Young Coconut Industry” focuses on using all the parts of coconuts to make by products, as well as the economies of scale, linked to cooperation and community spirit, in order to make the most economic profit that will benefit the farmers’ families.

During the lecture, there was a demonstration on how to make 1 liter of coconut sauce from 20 liters of coconut water (around 70 matured coconuts) and common tools like big cooking pan and coconut husks as fuels.

The program ended with a synthesis by Mr. Ernesto V. Porfura of Caritas SAC Gumaca; and next steps and closing remarks by Fr. Tony. Caritas SAC Gumaca will discuss further with the PCS on possible collaboration to make the Seminar more than just talk, but make it a reality by starting where the Diocese can support the farmer communities.

Day 2 of the BOSSA continues on 13 May which will have inputs on the spirituality of creation and sustainable agriculture, with practical ways to practise it, starting with making organic fertilizers.

** the SHeG communities are local/ Diocesan partners of the project “Empowering Women in Agriculture through Social Enterprise and Self-Help Group (SHeG) Approach” under the Sustainable Agriculture Program of CBCP-NASSA, which started in May 2013. The project aims to empower women in 9 Dioceses to be able to have their own source of livelihood. Activities include capacity building; organizational development and values formation; livelihood support; and advocacy and campaigns.

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