The town of Sta. Praxedes, a 5th class municipality which is the smallest in province of Cagayan, boast a total of 10 barangays with a total of 1,134 families and a population of 4,436 as of 2017.

The municipality has been no exception to the ravages of past typhoons, floods and erosions that has afflicted other areas in the region. Families living below the poverty threshold are the most affected because their houses are made mostly of light materials that are easily destroyed by strong winds.

Past disasters have caused damages to numerous houses and other infrastructures, including rice fields, crops, and other agriculture and fishery facilities.

Abridging Difficulties

Elizabeth C. Salino, 51, from Purok 1, Barangay Salungsong, has experienced her fair share of calamities in her town. She says that though disasters often bring challenges that take time to resolve, she, with the help of interventions given by National Government Agencies (NGA) and the local government unit (LGU), comes through the difficulties better equipped to handle future adversities.

Elizabeth and her husband, a farmer and an occasional driver, helped raised their five children through sheer will and determination.

The major challenge that was faced by the couple which was recounted by Elizabeth was the struggle to ensure that there was food on the table for their family to partake. The seasonal nature of her husband’s trade made it all the more daunting for them to make ends meet.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 02 (DSWD FO2) through its Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CCAM) thru Cash for Work (CFW) was introduced in the area in 2018 as part of the agency’s program along disaster response to help affected families and individuals.

The program offers provisional employment and provides income augmentation to affected families and individuals to keep them from migrating or abandoning their communities in search of new sources of income by participating or undertaking preparedness, mitigation, relief, rehabilitation or risk reduction projects and activities in their communities or evacuation centers.

As part of the agency’s partnership with LGUs, the latter chose the CFW area/program with the help of the identified community.

Sta. Praxedes Communal Garden

With the health, well-being, food security and the spirit of volunteerism of community members being priorities, communal gardening was identified as the chosen CFW of the municipality.

Elizabeth became one of 400 identified participants of the endeavor. She was elated when informed of the opportunity because, as she recalls, looking for work opportunities was a challenge especially in rural areas like her town. Looking back to her experience, she considers being a part of the program a turning point in their constant struggle to put food in their table.

Ayaw naming masira itong oportunidad na ibinigay sa amin ng DSWD dahil para rin naman ito sa amin at kami rin ang makikinabang dito (We do not want to waste the opportunity given to us by DSWD because we know that we will benefit from this), Elizabeth says.

Masayang maging parte nitong programa, lalong-lalo na sa mga katulad kong magulang… para meron po kaming pinagkaka-abalahan (I am elated to be a part of the program especially for parents like us to have something to be busy with), Elizabeth adds.

The town boasts 3 communal gardens across Barangay Centro 1, Centro 2 Day Care Center and Capacuan Elementary School wherein beneficiaries plant a variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits and spices in the available spaces in garden patches but also in pockets, pots and vertical walls. All vegetables also come with their name tags for easy identification.

Mr. Franco G. Lopez, head of the Disaster Response Management Division (DRMD), visited the communal gardens last August 15, 2018 and observed the innovativeness of the beneficiaries, using recyclable materials such as empty bottles, cans, basins, pails, trays, sacks, tires, bags and other disposable containers coupled with the use of organic materials for gardening and to ensure protection of the environment.

The beneficiaries also use grass cuttings, rotten leaves, fruit peelings, animal manure and other degradable materials to aid in their gardening task.

Turning Point

For Elizabeth, being given the opportunity to work in the community garden has seen her be able to provide nutritious food for her family, a task that she has embraced since starting her one of her own.

Sa luwag noong aming community garden kapag namunga na mga halaman, napupunan hindi lamang mga pangangailangan namin pero para na rin sa mga kasama kong nagta-trabaho doon (With the wide area of the community garden, when the plants start bearing produce, our food needs and those of my fellow workers are met), Elizabeth mentions.

She says that she’s more confident now knowing that there’s a constant source of food for her family. Elizabeth adds that the opportunity provided to her has taught her the value of maximizing the resources given to her.

The Road Forward

The community gardens in Sta. Praxedes, Cagayan, for the short period of time that it has been implemented, has seen a reduction in food insecurity in the area as well as improved vegetable intake for the beneficiaries and their families as well as strengthened family ties.

Elizabeth for her part is thankful for the opportunity given to her and looks to a future where she is more equipped with skills to take on life’s many challenges.

Malaki pong pasasalamat sa DSWD na binigyan niyo kami ng ganitong opportunidad (I thank DSWD for this opportunity that was given to us), Elizabeth ends. ### With a report from: Mia Edsel Carbonell, Disaster Response and Management Division Information Officer