When planting season is over and sugarcane is left to grow, the tiempo muerto or dead season begins. It is during this time, which happens in the months of April to August, when work in the farms is very minimal and only entails weeding and tilling the soil. For sugarcane farmers and their families, especially in areas that are monocrop, tiempo muerto is hunger season. Income from farm work is very limited and families often resort to debts and loans to ensure that there’s food on the table at least once a day.
With six school-aged children, Mira and Joseph Jemina dread tiempo muerto. Their income is almost always insufficient for their basic needs and financing their brood’s schooling needs is a recurring problem. At the start of this school year, they are thankful for the school supplies provided by ABK3 LEAP to their two children who are beneficiaries of the project because it somehow helped relax their expenses.
Beyond providing school supplies, ABK3 LEAP also helps families by introducing other viable livelihoods options so they won’t have to borrow money with usurious rates. One of the interventions in livelihoods is the FAITH (Food Always In The Home).
At the start, families, in coordination with the LGU, identify a land in the community where a “communal garden” will be developed as a training ground for participating parents. It is here where they are trained in preparing the land, making compost baskets and trenches, planting, and using organic fertilizers. After this, trained parents are provided with gardening tools and seed packs of vegetables like eggplant, bitter gourd, different varieties of beans, squash, okra, peas, cucumber, and white squash. It is expected that parents will also build their own backyard vegetable gardens.
Mira’s family is part of ABK3 LEAP’s treatment households for income diversification. Through FAITH gardening, parents are trained to grow food in their own backyards. This way, they won’t have to worry about what to put on the table every day. If the harvest is good, the extra yield can even be a source of additional income for families.
At present, communal gardens are being set up in the communities. In Mira’s village, the seeds she and other parents in their neighborhood planted last May are now bearing fruit. Last week’s harvest was bountiful.
Usually after harvest, parents set up a stall in front of the communal garden to sell their produce while some parents go to the barangay market to sell them. The communal garden is becoming popular in the neighborhood that people would often drop by to buy vegetables. For Mira’s group, the income from selling the vegetables harvested from the communal garden is saved for a business they are planning to put up.
Now, even during tiempo muerto, parents like Mira and Joseph won’t have to worry about their children going hungry. The harvest from their backyard garden not only provides healthy meals for the family but also helps them earn additional income by selling their produce in the market. With this, ABK3 LEAP aims to empower and capacitate parents to provide a better life for their children.
“I am hopeful for a brighter future ahead because even though I wasn’t able to acquire higher levels of education, I am very positive that the knowledge I’m getting from ABK3 LEAP’s trainings will be very useful in our future endeavors,” says Mira. She appreciates the training on FAITH and looks forward for more opportunities of learning.