Nestled in the mountains of Kapalong, Davao del Norte, this indigenous Ata Manobo settlement is named after the river Mangkay, which needs to be crossed to reach the village. Here one can find four makeshift classrooms as the center of learning where children need to kneel on the floor to write.
When Jessie, our field officer, reported that the people of Mangkay till the soil with old tools that badly need replacement, and that its farmers have identified rambutan, lanzones, mangosteen, coconuts, ampalaya, eggplants, monggo, sitaw, and pechay as better to improve their lives, we knew that our engagement in this community could not rest on merely providing first level nutritional support through Mingo Meals for their children or a one-time turnover of Love Bags with school supplies for the kids in school.
Knowing that helping small farmers is the key to food security, we set forth to craft a program for the 160 farmers of this village, which aims to provide them with basic tools and updated farming techniques, crop planning and support, market linkages, and ultimately the establishment of village-level processing units that will increase the value of the harvests leaving the village–resulting in increased economic opportunities for its people. We call this the Farmers of Hope project.
Three and a half months after Jessie discovered Mangkay, we launched our program with its farmers. We thank our partners PeacePond (the power couple Jet and Checcs Orbida who have a wealth of experience in small farm management as well as working with the Indigenous Peoples), the local government units of Kapalong and Davao del Norte and their agricultural offices, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of Education, as well as our friends who have linked us with some of these partners. Of course those who gave us the funds to jumpstart the program are most precious. And we will always be grateful to Ma’am Sarah Cubar whose passion for the IP’s within the district she served in DepEd, was what inspired us to seek these highlands 1,000 km away from our home province.
With the turnover of farmers’ tools and initial training on good agricultural practices and natural fertilizer production, we have broken ground. We have big dreams for this little place and we’ve only just began.