Vegetable production to avert hunger during health crisis
BUTUAN CITY, April 23 — In the midst of the country’s battle with a health crisis brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), vegetable production could be one saving grace in preventing people from going hungry.
With most of the country placed on enhanced quarantine, some businesses were closed and a number of people lost their jobs and their means of providing for their families’ needs.
To address the situation and prevent people from going hungry, the Department of Agriculture (DA) implemented the Ahon Lahat Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS COVID-19) or Plant Plant Plant Program.
Under the program, the department encourages the public to have their own food production initiative by having vegetable gardens in their backyards. In support of this, the DA has been distributing vegetable seeds to individuals and organizations who expressed interest to engage in vegetable gardening. Some vegetables may already be harvested one month after planting so it ensures food availability in the coming months despite the crisis situation.
In Caraga, 530 kilograms worth P3.1 million of vegetable seeds from the buffer stocks of the previous year have been distributed so far. This is on top of this year’s buffer and regular procurement of vegetable seeds which will amount to P11.1 million as well as the emergency procurement worth P1.4 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most commonly grown vegetables in Caraga are the lowland type such as eggplant, ampalaya, squash, and okra. As per data from the department, the regular vegetable production for this year is projected to be increasing. Eggplant is projected to have the biggest total production at 2,973 metric tons from March to September. This is followed by squash which is set to have a total production of 1,331 metric tons for the same period. Ampalaya is projected to have the third biggest production at 772 metric tons.
But with more and more people taking on vegetable gardening as a productive way to utilize their time during this quarantine and as a food source initiative, these figures may still increase.
DA – Caraga High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) Coordinator Marco Antonio C. Morido said that more lowland vegetables are grown in the region since more lowland areas have been developed here.
Meanwhile, the most consumed vegetables in the region are eggplant, squash, mongo, and ampalaya. Per capita consumption of eggplant is at 0.39 kilograms per month, 0.37 kilograms per month for squash, 0.19 kilograms per month for mongo, and 0.17 kilograms per month for eggplant.
According to the World Health Organization, the recommended intake for vegetables is 400 grams per day which means that Caraganons do not meet the recommended daily vegetable consumption. However, with the health crisis now, more people are inclined to eat healthy and nutritious foods and are thus turning to vegetables with some even planting their own in their backyards.
“With more people planting vegetables in their own backyard, we can ensure food sufficiency and security even as we are facing a crisis. This way, we don’t have to rely on the produce of the farmers alone, but individuals can already contribute to our production. Moreover, we are also encouraging the public to also plant indigenous vegetables like malunggay and alugbati since indigenous vegetables are also rich in nutrients and there many sources of planting materials for these,” Morido said.
The Plant Plant Plant Program is the DA’s response to COVID-19 that aims to give immediate interventions for food production and availability, accessibility, affordability, and food price stabilization. (Vanessa P. Sanchez, DA13-RAFIS/PIA Caraga)