The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) imposed in the whole of Northern Luzon due to COVID-19 has caused further losses to farmers who have been dealing with low prices of their produce since the start of 2020. The situation is no different for the farmer-incubatees of Benguet State University’s Agribased Technology Business Incubator (BSU ATBI) stationed at the La Trinidad Strawberry Farm. The ECQ limits mobility and tourism activities in the Strawberry Farm. This condition did not hamper the ATBI farmer-incubatees and employees from doing their part in helping those who are also greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, ATBI has reached out to stranded students and job order personnel of BSU; fisherfolks, women vendors and barangay frontliners in Ambuklao; an Indigenous Peoples Organization in Ucab, Itogon; frontliners of Kapangan; a community in Bolaoen, San Fabian, Pangasinan; Barangay Balili frontliners; Baguio General Hospital frontliners; Benguet General Hospital Frontliners; PWDs of Naguilian La Union; fisherfolks of San Fernando City La Union; and DA-RFO-1 skeleton force. Some farmer-incubatees and employees of BSU ATBI volunteered in the packaging and delivering of various vegetables, herbs and strawberries to nearby locations. Food packs were also transported to other provinces with the help of different coordinating groups.
Later on, farmers from Atok, Benguet and Bauko, Mt. Province also donated vegetables in coordination with ATBI. Most of the beneficiaries expressed their gratitude through social media posts at the BSU ATBI Facebook page. “We will surely be healthy and lively with your donations,” stated one group while another wrote that the donations will help them avoid COVID-19.
But how did the ATBI group make this possible? Dr. Ruth C. Diego, Director shared that the initiative began with the idea of the possibility that the ATBI incubatees might not earn a decent income for the current season and that their produce will go to waste. “I was alarmed by the sudden stop of our farmers' earnings when the Strawberry Farm was closed to all visitors. This was compounded by the fact that the duration of the ECQ was also the peak season of strawberry and we expected a good harvest just in time for the tourist season,” said Dr. Diego.
“I then called for a meeting with the farmers to determine the average production cost of their crops so we can prepare what we called a COVID price at which amount we can buy these to be donated as food relief packs. Next, I had to find funds to support the activity. I thank DOST PCAARRD for allowing the use of some of our ATBI Project funds for the purpose. We help our smallholder farmer-incubatees while providing food to our community,” she added. The ATBI farmer incubatees are now back in their farms strictly adhering to the guidelines set by the Department of Agriculture. Some of their strawberry harvest were frozen to be further processed when the ECQ is lifted.//JSTabangcura