In line with the food security agenda of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., the Department of Agriculture (DA) is partnering with the private sector to pursue food production initiatives on a larger scale.

In a shared pursuit towards the development of more urban agriculture areas in the Philippines, DA signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the SM Supermalls and SM Foundation, Inc. (SMFI) on May 29.

Under the said agreement, the DA, through its National Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Program (NUPAP), shall provide agricultural inputs, capacity-building activities, and informative materials and training that are necessary for the maintenance, compliance to existing regulations, and continuity of the identified project sites.

The partnership, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban explained, is true to the mission of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. of ensuring accessible, affordable, available, nutritious, and safe food for all.

“With the current issues of food insecurity in the country, fostering innovative and sustainable urban farming methods with the help of private sectors is a solution to improve food accessibility. The private sector serves as the extending arms of the DA in reaching new heights for the implementation of the program through sustainable and environment-friendly innovations,” Senior Usec. Panganiban said.

On the other hand, the SMFI shall incorporate the DA-NUPAP in its Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan on Sustainable Agriculture Program (KSK-SAP), which provides skills enhancement, sustainable livelihood, and employment to local farmers. It will determine 25 participant-beneficiaries, to be trained as Barangay Trainors, from the barangay where the project site is located.

The SMFI will also work with institutional markets to link the production from the established urban gardens as well as ensure that the trained Barangay Trainors will cascade their learnings down to the household level.

Meanwhile, the SM Supermalls will identify and secure the project sites and other logistical needs for the urban gardens to be established under the MOA. It is also tasked to campaign for urban agriculture through its various platforms.

“Kami ay nagpapasalamat muli sa Kagawaran ng Pagsasaka sa kanilang tiwala na muling makipag-partner sa amin sa programang ito. Umaasa kami na sa pamamagitan nito ay marami pang mga Pilipino ang mae-engganyong magtanim ng sariling gulay sa kanilang mga bakuran,” SM Supermalls Senior Vice-President for Operations Engr. Bien Mateo expressed.

Expressing the government’s intent to sustain not only the partnership between the DA and the SM group, DA-Bureau of Plant Industry Director Gerald Glenn Panganiban called on every Filipino to take part in the Department’s undertakings towards food security.

“We know that the government definitely cannot do food security resolutions by ourselves. We need partners from the private sector, even partners from the local governments, at iyon pong mga mahilig sa gardening. Please help us kasi tayo pong lahat ay may responsibility for food security,” prompted the DA-BPI Director, who concurrently serves as head of the DA-NUPAP and the DA-High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP).

Pasay City Chief-of-Staff Peter Eric Pardo, on behalf of Mayor Imelda Gallardo Calixto-Rubiano, vowed to “share a space in the crusade to go green and to be environmentally sound and conscious.”

Citing a 2009 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) which revealed about 32 percent of food wasted worldwide, Mesa ni Misis founder and editor Juana Manahan-Yupangco also expressed her support for the initiative as urban gardening “reduces travel time, preserves nutrients of vegetables, can be done on small or large rooftops, and is good for the wellbeing of children and the entire community.”

The MOA covers the establishment of 20 more urban gardens in select SM malls in: the City of Manila; Las Piñas City; Quezon City; Ortigas, Pasig; Marikina City; Quezon City; Muntinlupa City; Urdaneta, Pangasinan; Tuguegarao City; San Fernando, Pampanga; Mabalacat, Pampanga; Nueva Ecija; Tarlac City; Marilao, Bulacan; Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Naga City; Iloilo City; Cebu City; and General Santos City. ### (Krystelle Ymari A. Vergara, DA-AFID)