The fruits of their labor will give food on our tables

Community pantries buying directly from farmers

From dusk till dawn, farmers of San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan were busy preparing more than 2 tons of fresh produce ordered by donors and organizers of community pantries. Buying directly from farmers will directly benefit them. It will do away with middle persons or stingy traders who are buying farmers’ goods at low prices and selling them to market retailers at high prices.

Since Monday afternoon, farming families of Tungkong Mangga, Paradise 3, and Kaybanban villages in San Jose Del Monte harvested leafy vegetables and root crops. At night time, they weighed, bundled, and packed the products that are out for delivery today to several community pantries across Quezon City and Manila. Hundreds of kilos of banana, long string beans, banana heart, tomatoes, bottle gourd (upo), camote tops, taro leaves, and chilies will be food on the table for hundreds of families lining up at community pantries for their meal for the day.

However, the farmers’ harvest is not abundant as in previous years, according to Gemma Sala, a third-generation peasant woman whose family has been tilling a parcel of land in Tungkong Mangga since the 1970s. She said lack of aid, production support during the pandemic, and the damaging effects of successive typhoons have affected their production and farming. “Kami-kami lang talaga ang nagtutulungan sa pagsasaka. Hindi nakakarating sa amin ang tulong ng DA. Ang daming nire-require sa mga magsasaka bago makakuha ng ayuda. Karamihan sa mga magsasaka sa San Jose, walang natatanggap na ayuda galing sa gobyerno.”

“Mabuti nga na sumulpot itong mga community pantry, may bumibili na ulit sa amin. Nagkaroon kami ng kita,” Sala said, adding that the new quarantines within the NCR+ Bubble that include Bulacan, have taken a new toll on their livelihood. Noong Marso, nakaraang buwan, halos wala kaming kita dahil may lockdown, may curfew. Hindi kami makapagluwas ng kalakal.”

Sala said the harvest comes from their toiling and neverending assertion of their right to land. “Kapag tumigil kami sa pagsasaka, wala kaming kakainin. Kapag nawala kami sa lupa, hindi kami mabubuhay.” Sala said farmers are steadfast not to leave their farms because it is their only means of livelihood.

Sala’s family and neighbors are among the more than 300 farming families that will be affected by the sprawling developments and land-use conversion in San Jose Del Monte City. The city’s agricultural lands have shrunk over the years as a result of the local government’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. More than 200 subdivisions and real estate projects have sprung across SJDM that include the multibillion MRT-7 project that will bulldoze thousands of hectares of agricultural land in Tungkong Mangga. #

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