UrbanAg – update

Haven’t posted in quite a while… here is a little update. 
I’m still volunteering for a University where I coordinate the rehabilitation of a demonstration urban vegetable garden, which is part of a being-drafted-at-the-moment urban agriculture program (the development for which I am also working). All this is is pretty good except that it could all stop within a couple of months…
On the garden rehabilitation front, I think things are moving in the right direction (albeit too slowly). We restarted composting, we propagated more herbs, prepared more beds, ordered a great selection of herb seeds (still waiting for the 1st packages (sent from France 1 month ago) …), prepared a crop rotation system, contacted restaurants to sell to them, started a website, etc. So this is going fairly well.

But there are two big issues.

First, the funding I was told would be given for the rehabilitation project didn’t materialize, and it won’t. It turns out that the foundation that reviewed the project proposal doesn’t actually fund projects…any projects. Why send a project proposal to them in the first place you ask? Bah, such silly questions. Here it’s simply called a
 misunderstanding… Me, I would tend to call it a pretty f***ing big misunderstanding (this foundation is actually part of the University and the person who told me they fund projects sits on the board of the foundation…)
. So no funding. A bummer, but it is what it is. So I thought I’d “bootstrap” the project instead of relying on funding.  We’ll
 reduce expenses to a bare minimum, try to increase sales as fast as possible and use the income from these sales to buy seeds as we go. Increasing the variety of crops one step at a time. Quite an interesting, if challenging, way to run a project like this, but it’s also a way to grow a project or business that I rather like (as opposed to, for example, getting funding/investment from the outset). It’s a good learning experience in any case. Well, it can be a good learning experience if I’m allow to carry on the project…which brings me to the second issue. 
It has been decided that the urban agriculture programme will be transferred from one unit of the University to 
another. I could try to explained the hows and whys this move came about and what it will mean but 1) I only know a small part of the hows and whys, 2) I have no idea about the consequences it will have, and 3) it would be way too long and complicated to describe. I tried to write it down a couple of times and it just end up being a mess of information.

It’s one of these cases where “it’s complicated” applies perfectly. It seems that I find myself in the middle of an 
imbroglio that stems from people with too much ego (and maybe too much time on their hands) who can’t work together. There is a heavy history and a lot of bad blood between various units around the previous urban agriculture program (which is now closed). I’m not entirely ‘au fait’ with the whole story as it was before my time but it seems that the people in charge of these units could not stand each other and the conflict got pretty nasty and personal. Today this translates into resentment, mistrust and bitterness.

This transfer means that there is a possibility that the programme will effectively be killed off before it has even 
started. The signals I have received and practices I have observed are not encouraging. I don’t want to give up right away because I’m not sure yet what direction the unit which is receiving the program wants to take. Openness and transparency are not their strong points and I’ve been kept out of the loop regarding their intentions so far. Meetings took place where I wasn’t asked to attend or even informed of because (and I quote) “we didn’t want to wash our dirty laundry in public”.
 I’m trying to see their perspective here. I’m new, and I’m a foreigner who nobody really knows. It takes time to establish trust. Fair enough. Perhaps this is another one of these occasions (there are plenty here) where I just have 
to be patient with how things are done.

Most annoying part is the not-knowing what is being discussed when you’re supposed to be fully part of the project. At least when one knows what is happening one can act accordingly. I keep telling myself that it is beyond my control and the only thing to do is wait.
 So hoping for the best, but ready for the worst. Worst being I decide to remove myself entirely from the program and 

A learning experience in many ways, this Philippines experience.

One thought on “UrbanAg – update

  1. Mom says:

    Your patience and the patience Ann has developed amaze me but perhaps thats what living in the Philippines has taught you both. It seems that your personal investment in seeds may be a total loss and for that I am very disheartened for you as your intentions and your hard work are not being recognized or celebrated. Quite a difficult lesson I would say; but perhaps you may want to try to formulate in your mind—exactly what is this teaching you that you don’t already know? It will truly be a loss for the university; too bad they don’t see it.

Leave a Reply