PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan — After six months of training at the Palawan Agricultural Experiment Station (PAES), 239 program beneficiaries graduated as part of the 139th Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) Rural Farmers’ Training Program held at SM City Puerto Princesa Event Center recently.
Russell Fernandez, public relations officer of the newly-opened SM City Puerto Princesa, on Saturday said the farmers graduated on September 22.
They are composed of traditional farmers, members of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program(4Ps), and college students from 29 barangays in Puerto Princesa, as well as from the municipalities of Aborlan and Roxas.
He said KSK is a nationwide livelihood project of the SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI), which aims to empower local community members through proper training and guidance on handling and growing crops and other agricultural techniques applied to high-value fruits and vegetables.
On the other hand, Cristie Angeles, SMFI Assistant Vice President for Outreach Program, said it is an effort to enable farmers and other participants to be equipped with knowledge and skills on the latest technologies in farming and network their products to the SM Supermarket.
“This is a ‘win-win’ situation for the Foundation and the farmers as well as it creates a new breed of suppliers straight from their farms,” Angeles said.
Angeles further said that farmer empowerment is key to uplifting communities and the lives of the people through this income opportunity and “to keep the farming industry in Palawan lucrative.”
The said program further provides assistance in turning the knowledge and skills of the participants into a profitable and sustainable livelihood activity with the participation of Harbest Agribusiness Corporation, Department of Social Welfare Development, Department of Agriculture, and the city government of Puerto Princesa through the City Agriculturist Office.
“Huminto na ako dati sa pagtatanim. Pero dahil sa KSK, gusto ko na muling magsimula at gamitin ‘yong mga natutunan ko (I already stopped farming. But because of the KSK Program, I would like to start again and use what I learned there),” shared farmer Godofredo Morales during the KSK graduation ceremony.
Morales is hoping that with SMFI’s intervention, farmers in the city would have better livelihood opportunities, and agricultural development would be further developed.
The training program culminated with a two-day closing ceremony. The first was held in the Demo Farm in PAES, where participants and partner agencies celebrated the Harvest Festival with a farm yield mini-market, a showcase of talents in singing and dancing, a cook-off among participants, and some fun games.
The next day was the graduation rites for the participants who completed the program.
Immediately after the graduation ceremonies, KSK graduates organized themselves to form their farmers’ association that will represent and lead their batch in creating a cooperative for farmers.
The initiative to form an association gained support from SM Foundation and other partner agencies. In turn, the DSWD offered starting capital fund for them with no interest. The Department of Agriculture further offered sustaining support on needs in facilities, equipment, and other input materials. (PNA)