Initializing urban farming

October 23, 2021

by Xandra Liza C. Bisenio

These past two weekends, IBON and the Asuncion Perez Memorial Center Inc. have been setting up urban farms in Metro Manila. These community gardens in the city are inspired by the rural Bungkalan. Bungkalan pertains to farmers’ collective land cultivation efforts that pool labor power for common benefit while asserting the right to till the land, produce, and organize for food security, while pushing to change policies that harm our local food systems.

The urban farming areas are in an informal settler community along the municipality’s factory zone and on church land. These were formerly community pantry areas of Asuncion Perez. According to its executive director Liza Cortez, their pursuit of urban farming is the church partners’ and their communities’ way of standing by the holy ministry of feeding one another. They look forward to the sustainable prospect of urban farming in the bigger frame of People Economics or an alternative “economy for the many” agenda.

The prospects of an urban farm gives hope especially in the time of pandemic when steady livelihoods are scarce and incomes are falling amid rising prices. Earning only enough to eat once or twice a day has become more commonplace among lower-income families.

Prices have been rising fastest for the poorest 30% of the population, especially in food items and in terms of household, gas, water and electricity expenses. Health and education services, and not just ayuda, are also sorely lacking as most of us have probably felt. Anything that adds to their daily subsistence, such as from the urban farms, which allow them to plant, harvest and sell the fruits of their labor, is a big boon.

A boon to say the least but also more of an undertaking. It is not just a solution to the tight situation that ordinary households find themselves in. It is also an opportunity to expand the benefits of the whole production process steered by many hands and minds rather than individual effort alone.

The effort starts with the agroecological exercise of becoming familiar with the area, identifying the soil type and layout, noting what endemic plants are suited and already thriving, understanding the socioeconomic background of the stakeholders, and listing needs. These are all important to ensure a pointed, specific plan.

Next step, gather the tools. Let the planting begin!

This is part of IBON’s documentation of the Bungkalan and Bagsakan experience of urban communities where the collective cultivation of farms in the city setting blooms in the time of pandemic. It is a pushback versus government’s glaring neglect of the agriculture sector and agrarian reform, and worsening food insecurity.