IF EVERY man will plant a tree in his lifetime, it is an assurance that life will thrive forever in this world.

In 2013, the SM Foundation collaborated with a group of farmers in Suawan, Marilog, Davao City as part of the greening efforts of SM Grow A Million Trees. This project included 20 hectares of land which affected the lives of upland residents towards progress.

Providing and growing cacao and rubber tree seedlings to 20 families give them a better way of life and education for their children.

It is a sustaining livelihood for these families. As an example, in 2018 Maximino Gumop, a father of eight, is welcoming growth in his farming income. The farm which he owns, not rent, has 2,000 cacao trees and 50 rubber trees. Since 2014, he harvests as much as 50 kilos of dry cacao beans every harvest season. He sells this in a nearby buy-and-sell market at P120 per kilo.

He said that his colleagues in Kibangay United Farmers Association have changed their farming income for their families this way. Farming was tedious and challenging when they were planting rice and corn only. “We are motivated to plant more on plots which we own and keep harvesting our yield adding income for our family. Where before we could only send our children in grade school, now we can send them up to college level.”

This year, SM celebrates its 60th anniversary. They plan to have the program all over the country. In partnership with DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), SM employee volunteers come together with the aim of planting 60,000 trees all over the country.

The planting of trees will develop, guard and rehabilitate areas which were once exploited by illegal loggers. The SM program will run for five years and will grow a total of 12,000 trees in Davao City.

There is a plan to incorporate the inclusion of cacao development program in the country. This will encourage senior high school students to pursue farming amid the dwindling population of farmers in the country. The youth are partial to white collar jobs rather than soiling their hands in farming. It is so unusual when the Philippines is a mainly agricultural base for incomes of families.

The DTI, Deped and the Philippine National Cacao Industry Council organized themselves that they will work together to make a curriculum guide and learning materials for DepEd implementation. K to 12 students in their senior year are given projects like their own plots being planted by their supply of seeds. Their progress till harvesting time is monitored. Having experienced the farming of Cacao trees, they can start their own business and be assured of their own livelihood.

For us educators, we know how to successfully entice our graduates to opt for agricultural occupations rather than the blue collar jobs in air- conditioned offices.

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) is aware of the challenges that idle-income countries are facing. This can be solved with diversification, technological upgrading and innovation. Focus on the development of business pertinent to the country’s basic qualification of what it has. Agricultural lands are part of our nature’s patrimony, let us together enhance, enrich, and develop this to their optimum potential. How many regions in our country are lost to erosion? For me, the Ifugao Rice Terraces, cited as a World Heritage, is the best example. Tilling our lands is still the best option why we insist on farming and making our lands useful for our progress.

Source: SunStar