So I thought I should describe a little bit what it is exactly that i ‘do’ in the Philippines. So here goes.
I volunteer for a University as a project coordinator for their urban agriculture programme. Technically, this programme doesn’t really exist yet…it’s being drafted…It’s me and one other person working on the initial drafting stages and we’re working on putting a team together. I’ll spare you the details on how the programme will be run, mainly because…ahem… I don’t fully understand it myself…But here is the background story:
For the past 13 years, a project on urban and peri-urban agriculture “conducted research, capacity building, implementation and policy advocacy activities related to food production and natural resources management in urban and periurban areas”. This project closed down on 31 July 2010 (for various reasons, some of them elude me). However, the unit hosting the project decided to continue its urban agriculture involvement and to develop a new programme that would pick up where PUVeP left off. Several meetings took place already (prior to my arrival) to try to decide on a direction for the programme, but no action has been taken so far.
As it could take a while for the ‘Urban Agriculture Programme’ to take off, as I’m only here for a limited amount of time, and as sitting in meeting after meeting didn’t give me a sense of ‘doing something’, I asked if I could start work on a more “concrete” project that would eventually feed into the overall programme.So I proposed a project that could start immediately and that’s how I’m finding myself coordinating the rehabilitation of the St Ignatius vegetable garden.
The garden was the main allotment garden of the previous project but since it closed, with lack of funding and staff, the garden has fallen by the wayside. The goal is to bring it back to full capacity (when I started it was running at about 30% capacity), make it financially self-sufficient, and turn it (again) into a demonstration and learning center. The project is planned to last a year. It’s a steep learning curve but I’m enjoying the challenge. We’re still waiting for a budget to really get started but we’ve already taken some preliminary steps, like cleaning the garden, restarting the compost, digging up parts of the garden, propagating herbs to sell and raise money…For the moment it’s only me (as coordinator) and one agricultural technician (who’s been there for more than 4 years) working on it. Hopefully, we’ll get volunteers to help, and if we manage to grow and sell enough produce, then we’ll hire more staff.
So that’s what I’m working on. Here are some photos of the space. I see them as a ‘before’ moment. I’ll post more regularly so people (and I) can see the (hopefully positive) evolution.
Most importantly it will be set up in a sustainable way so that it can continue being productive whoever comes in and replaces me once I have left.