Learning outside the classroom

By Marife Magbanua | 

When its first batch of students graduated in 2008, Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development or ALCADEV was looking forward to organizing and providing its alumni a venue for sharing their experiences in their communities. Only two years after, this plan already bore fruit.

During its sixth foundation day on July 21 to 25, 2010, ALCADEV successfully launched the first Inter-Provincial Assembly of Agricultural Extension Workers (AEW) which is comprised of the  three batches of ALCADEV graduates. This assembly became a grand reunion of former students of the school who are now engaged in different yet interrelated community development work.

The homecoming activity was attended by 50 participants who were all from the three batches of ALCADEV graduates. The liveliest portion of the activity was the workshop where the alumni shared their experiences in incorporating agricultural development in the different aspects of their work. The workshop was facilitated by Reynaldo Campos, field supervisor of the food security project of ALCADEV.

Lito Sanchez, one of ALCADEV’s first batch of graduates, applied and got accepted as one of the food security staff of ALCADEV. He was oriented to the comprehensive program of the Food Security Project. He was very involved in conducting formal community trainings. The first time he handled a leadership training, he felt awkward because the participants whom he know called him “sir.” But with the constant trainings, it became normal to him in the process.

Aside from food security project staff, Lito handles an Agriculture subject in Year II in the school. Though shy, he is very diligent to things related to preparing his topic before the trainings and even to his Agriculture lesson plan. When there are no community schedules, he accompanied students in farm work. He assists them in analyzing problems they encounter with their farms. In this way, he both share and learn things to and from the students. He was elected chairperson of the Inter-Province Assembly of Agricultural Extension Workers.

Complementing the food security programs in the communities

 Meanwhile, Ritchie Duhac, a second batch graduate of ALCADEV, is now an a community teacher of Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao of del Sur (TRIFPSS) assigned in Kabulohan community in 2009. Kabulohan is one of the communities covered by the Food Security Project (FSP) of ALCADEV supported by Belgian development organization New World.

Ritchie believes that agricultural values must be inculcated to each and every family member at an early stage to instill consciousness in agricultural production when they grow up. He started teaching his students agronomy as an introduction to agriculture. It was a difficult process for him as the children at Level 3 and 4 are still playful. He showed the students the right way of cultivating a vegetable garden by tilling the vacant area at the back of their school for vegetable.

After making the soil loose, he put shallow trench on the ground with his plow. He planted peanuts, okra, string beans, squash and eggplants with native onions alternately in rows after the other while lemon grass and cosmos plants at the sides and corners. Ritchie also taught the students that animal manure could be used for making organic fertilizer. Every agriculture time, they gathered animal manure. When the students’ parents saw what they were doing, they were reminded by the trainings conducted by FSP staff in the area. In his own little way, Ritchie hopes he had contributed in the food securityy project in Kabulohan.

Kabulohan suffered setbacks in their agricultural development in 2007 because of the evacuation due to the intesifying military operations in the area. Through the agriculture trainings conducted in 2008 by the FSP staff, the community recovered. When they evacuated again in 2009, they were more prepared. They were able to plant more resilient crops like corn and some vegetables before the evacuation. They were able to harvest upon returning to their homes. New World intern Joachim Sohie and volunteer Lynn Heye  visited the community in 2009.

Last June 2010, Ritchie was transferred to Manluy-a community which is still covered by the MAPASU organization and the FSP. Their school is surrounded by steep and rocky terrain which is not favorable for gardening. Individual farms were two to three kilometers away from the community center. Ritchie was amazed to see one of the farms in  high slopes but still they manage to plant camote.

Every weekend, Ritchie and Noel Galdiano, one of ALCADEV’s first batch of graduates who lives in Manluy-a, assisted the youth in their “Hungosay activity” (cooperative labor) and communal farms schedule.

“There I enjoyed since it’s easy for us to discuss things to carry out agriculture development plans. The community youth are very active. They are composed of ALCADEV students who went home for the weekend. They are also implementing the community development plans of Anyagan Sumisilat Student Organization (ASSO, the student organization at ALCADEV). Also out of school youth and the TRIFPSS learners were organized to join this activity. With our presence, we were able to link the plans of ALCADEV students to our plan in the community. I am optimistic we can develop the agriculture consciousness of the people in our own little ways,” Ritchie said.

In the past decades, agriculture was sometimes treated as a secondary economic activity by the Lumads in these areas. When logging activities became rampant in the 1960s, some Lumads were enticed to work for small-time logging contractors. Up to the recent years, they were dependent on gathering of rattan and wild abacas that are now vanishing deep in the forest. Ritchie and Noel explained to the community members the negative effects of these activities and they related it to the food security campaign.

The FSP started the formal trainings in Manluy-a community in 2009. The community has already shown efforts to realizing what they have learned. The youth activities also help in motivating their other family members to develop their farms.

Preparing the grounds

 Like his batchmate Ritchie, Jhonmar Neneil is also a community teacher of TRIFPSS in Sitio Lamesa, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur which is very far from his home community.

“I was assigned in the remote and impoverished Manobo community of Sitio Lamesa, San Miguel Surigao del Sur. With the meager allowance we received, we live in accordance to life of community people where we were assigned. It was difficult, I almost quit during my first week of work assignment .We have no classroom yet. During classes hours, I almost fainted in front of my pupils because of hunger. I knew we’re both  hungry. The students’ absorption of my lessons was very poor even how much I motivated them everyday. I taught them how to spell “camote” (sweet potatoes) but in reality there’s hardly any camote we could eat. Often times, our learners were absent and when asked for reasons, they always answered they had nothing to eat for breakfast and lunch.” Jhonmar said.

Sitio Lamesa is one of the communities ALCADEV is targeting to be covered by its Food Security Program for 2011-2013. In preparation for the program, the community teachers are now motivating them to improve their farming system and encourage them to be united.

“We have already started a bit, hoping when the food security project of ALCADEV reaches this area next year, the implementation will be easier since the people’s mindset was already mind set and. We wish for them to undergo formal agricultural trainings just like what MAPASU areas are experiencing in the previous years,” Jhonmar said.

The challenge and inspirations

 Hearing all those experiences during the workshop, Sister Edita Eslopor of the Benedictine Sisters Missionaries stood up and lauded the alumni.

“You are young missionaries sent into a mission. You are also prophets because you bring good news in delevoping your communities, in nurturing your land for the next generation,” Sister Edith said.

Mr. Jalandoni Campos, chairperson of MAPASU organization is proud that through ALCADEV, MAPASU organization was able to send youth to other Lumad areas where TRIFPSS are also extending services in the form of children’s literacy. He reminded the alumni working as community teachers, health workers and organizers the importance of agriculture for Lumads that is rooted to their right to their ancestral land.

Dionel Campos, an officer of MAPASU also challenged the alumni to inculcate agricultural disciplines in every Lumad community.

“We are always preoccupied with our daily problems instead of valuing every minute of our time to become productive. Every family should have comprehensive economic planning, should maximize opportunities and should be frugal with the scarce resources we have. If these methods are instyilled in the minds of every members of the family with full understanding, then there will be no hunger. Now, you former students of ALCADEV, upon going back to your communities, adhere to these disciplines and spread this to your service areas. Next year, Food security project of ALCADEV will be expanding outside MAPASU area and even outside province. We cannot do this alone without you. We are very thankful to support given by New World. This gathering is a favorable venue for you to be more rooted to the vision and mission of your alma mater,” Dionel Campos said.

Other local officials in the municipal level as well as in the provincial level who attended the foundation day expressed there admiration and gratitude to ALCADEV. Impressed and humbled by ALCADEV’s feat, officials led by Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel committed their services to ALCADEV and the communities served by ALCADEV.

Formation of Inter-Provincial Agricultural Extension Workers

 After the workshop, the AEWs came up with a comprehensive plan for the incorporation of food security project to different area assignment of ALCADEV alumni, whether they are as community development worker of TRIFPSS, health workers of the community-based health program, or even those who proceed with higher education in college and those who decided to stay in their own communities.

The coordination of the plans of undergraduate students of ALCADEV led by the school’s student organization ASSO in relation to food security activities was also clarified. The assembly was also united in their pledge to have regular gatherings of AEW which will be held once a year.

The establishment of the inter-province assembly of agricultural extension workers ushered a new phase in the development programs of ALCADEV as it caters to the educational, economic and welfare of the Lumads not only of Surigao del Sur, but in the whole of the Caraga region. It proves that secondary alternative form of education with agricultural thrust facilitated Lumads into the logic of economic development.

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