Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Saltan Farmer's Association

 For the past five days, the E-Care staff of EDNL have been in Saltan, Balbalan. We worked with community members to host three days of capacity building trainings for the newly formed Saltan Farmer's Association. The members of St. Timothy's Episcopal church revived the organization at the end of the last year to serve as a channel for church members to partner with NGO and local government to develop the community. The first project SFA decided to take on was a partnership with E-Care for small scale livelihood assistance and organic farming systems.

We arrived on Saturday night and attended the early mass on Sunday. Afterwards we had breakfast and coffee and went right into the days trainings. We had sessions on gender empowerment, bookkeeping, savings and loans, and leadership. The members then had their first official meeting where they set up procedures, rules, regulations, and finally voted in their very first board of directors.

The next day we had a training seminar on production of organic feeds and fertilizers using local plant, snails, coconut vinegar, sugar, and the wonders of fermentation.

Tuesday we spoke with the community members and brainstormed ideas for current and future projects. They are interested in improving the irrigation system to their rice fields. While in the past the fields were irrigated, a major earthquake in the early 90s changed the landscape and the old system is no longer usable. So we hiked 6 miles round trip to evaluate the canal and mountain spring that is the source for the irrigation system.

By a stroke of luck, we were in town for the municipal women's day. So, after supper that evening we went to the town plaza and watched the local women perform speeches, compositions, songs, and traditional dance.

Finally on Wednesday, we got down to the nitty gritty business of running a community organization. We spend long hours in the Sari-sari store of one of our members drinking coffee, and setting up the books. As the day progressed, most members of the organization dropped by and took an interest in the methods. By the end of the day, the SFA was ready to provide its first ever livelihood assistance program to its members.

The staff went back to our quarters at the end of the  day exhausted and shared dinner and conversation in the cool nights air of the Cordillera Mountains.

The freshly elected SFA Board of Directors.
Members preparing our chicken lunch.

Me doing our bookkeeping training.

Rice fields outside of St. Timothy's Church.

Aldwin presiding over the drafting of the SFA constitution.

Cuttings from leafy plants, bamboo shoots, and banana trunks to be used for organic fertilizer production.

Member provides music for our coffee break.

Member's children lounging in the outdoor kitchen.

Jocel conducting training on organic farming systems.

Mixing sugar with plant cuttings for fermented plant juice fertilizer.

Preparation of ginger and garlic for fertilizers.

Jocel oversees while women crush the snails from the rice paddys and the men chop herbs.

Jocel, Aldwin, and our community members taking a little break during our hike to the water source.

Ginebra San Miguel: a member's dog who followed us all the way to the source.

Chatting and snacking at the water source.

Member teaching us the local history during WWII.

The treasurer accepts the first livelihood application in our makeshift office.