A Man's Farming Challenge on Facebook Pushed People to Take Food Security Into Their Own Hands
One of the problems people faced during the lockdown was ensuring a good supply of fresh food—a vital part of the daily diet that helps ensure good health.
For 32-year-old Nasrudin Buisan, encouraging people to use whatever space they have available for farming was a mission. He started what is called the TipidTanim Challenge.
"This is an advocacy to encourage households to save money on food expenses by planting their own food," said Buisan, a faculty member of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College.
"Gardeners, agriculturists, and farming system advocates came up with this idea on March 16 to make backyard gardening to save on food bills into a challenge. This is similar to the usual Facebook and Youtube challenges, but this one is more productive."
As of this writing, Buisan said that they have distributed a total of 4,500 packs of seedlings to around seven cities and 20 municipalities across Mindanao.
He said the goal of the TipidTanim Challenge is to help extend the food reserves of families by encouraging them to save money and increase their access to fresh food without leaving their homes.
TipidTanim Challenge works solely over social media, from the campaign concept, fund- and seed-raising, and distribution to the sharing of gardening experiences and monitoring. The seeds and funds providers are mostly people whom the team did not know personally before the challenge. The team also does not personally know the Tipid Tanim challenge-takers.
Buisan, who finished his master’s degree in farming systems, said that right after the COVID-19 lockdown, he saw that ample food supply would be one of the problems under quarantine conditions, especially with the ban on public transport.
“Being a sustainable development graduate student, and as an agriculturist, I anticipated that the lockdown would last several weeks, and that the transport and availability of food may become problematic for each family, especially the poor. It could be that there is food, but it may not reach the affected families, or that there could be a food shortage due to food production disruptions," he said.
“After the declaration of the pandemic, I immediately thought that, if the situation worsens, the Philippines could be hard hit, since we are a top rice importer. So our campaign was designed to enhance local food production
"Now, as an individual advocate, the most feasible way to do this is through home gardening, which does not require people to leave their homes too often—and people have been staying home.
"Home gardening is also easy to manage. Families have become productive, and they have rediscovered their love for farming. The youth have also been given an opportunity to go back into farming, or gardening.”
Buisan added that there must be food self-sufficiency within the locality that can provide a viable food supply even across several months: “We cannot rely entirely on external resources. There was news in the early days of the lockdown that Vietnam would halt their exports, then that Bukidnon and South Cotabato would secure their own products.
“It is a good thing that many of our leaders and local government units (LGUs) began to enhance their local food production. But I think these actions should have been taken earlier.”
For now, each household has an important role to play in the conversation on food security. When a locality has good food production, we can ensure stability in the prices of goods.
“It was amazing," Buisan said of how people received the challenge. "Most of those who took the challenge are now advocates themselves. They convinced their friends and neighbors to do the same. The beauty of this is that there is a replication of this challenge in other areas, where seeds are now being distributed.”
Buisan said there are now local leaders who advocate for gardening who were influenced by the campaign in some way.
"Now we're seeing several harvests, and the people who took part in the challenge have expressed many thanks," he added. "One of the things we have been pushing for is for them to share their extra harvests, if ever. So we've also seen this sharing of harvests over social media."
Buisan added that in Maguindanao and Cotabato City alone, they are seeing many posts of harvests, rather than posts of people seeking seedlings.
Mindanao is one of the country’s agricultural hubs, and is often touted as the Philippines' food basket. There have been government efforts to encourage people to farm and make use of their idle lands—and, in times like this pandemic, these efforts do make a difference to food security at the community level.