FOOD AND LIVELIHOOD SECURITY THROUGH SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Under the BEC-Based Integral Evangelization Program, the Social Action Center (SAC) of Ozamis has provided substantial benefits to not more than 50 percent of the targeted Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC) members. This is in spite of the many challenges they had to face in the course of the program.
SAC Ozamis joined the BEC-Based Integral Evangelization Program in 2002. The main focus of the program is to develop the capacity of BECs in terms of sustainable agriculture, health, microcredit, human rights and good governance towards empowerment and sustainable development.
The promotion and practice of sustainable agriculture is one of the key strategies employed by SAC Ozamis in providing livelihood opportunities to the marginalized and resource-poor members of the BECs who are mostly farmers. Several activities were organized to facilitate the appreciation of sustainable agriculture among the farmers: Basic orientation-seminar s on sustainable agriculture (BOSSA); Archdiocesan Farmers’ Assembly; field exposures; establishment of trial farms; trainings on bio-fertilizer and pesticide making, backyard gardening, alternative pest management (APM), seed propagation and collection; and seminar on globalization, patenting and generic engineering.
Concrete assistance in the form of chicken dung for compost-making and farm tools were also provided to help farmers during the period of transition from chemical to organic farming system.
As a result, 90 BEC farmers have fully adopted organic farming using bio-organic fertilizers and applying APM techniques. One BEC with 35 members processed and marketed compost and liquid fertilizers, while one pilot are produced its own line of organic seeds. Six BEC members now market of their organic products.
With the increased knowledge on SA technologies, BEC farmers are less dependent on chemicals for their farming. This allows them to save on expenses while earning additional income from selling their produce.
Under the program, BEC members are required to establish backyard gardens for their own food security. Because of this, farmers now eat healthy food from their own organic garden or farm and are not anymore dependent on external sources for their nutritional requirements.
ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF INCOME
An additional source of income for the BEC members is the livestock dispersal introduced by SAC Ozamis. In this system, swine and goat were distributed in four of the five pilot parishes with the BECs managing the dispersal schemes. One pilot parish opted to venture into seaweed production. In addition, backyard gardens guarantee food security.
MILESTONES IN OTHER COMPONENTS OF THE BEC PROGRAM
Aside from sustainable agriculture, SAC Ozamis also conducted activities on alternative health and nutrition, good governance and participatory politics, microcredit and project management. Initiatives on alternative health and nutrition have resulted in BEC members’ reduced dependence on conventional medicines. Instead, they are using herbal medications such as liniment oil and herbal teas. With the training they acquired and targeted. The challenge now is on sustaining the success of the project and transferring the knowledge and experiences to other parishes outside of the pilot areas-a tough but very feasible task given the committed support of the implementers, good management and dynamic cooperation among the partner BECs.
Reference: National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace Annual Report 2007, p32-33