Love in the Time of COVID-19: Agata Distributes Agri Produce to 2,000 Households
In line with its ongoing programs to ensure food security and developing resilient communities for the future, Agata recently harvested and consolidated the organic production of its beneficiary Mabakas farmers and temporarily re-aligned its focus to address the adverse effects of COVID-19 on the accessibility of much-needed goods and services.
Among the vast number of issues brought about by the current pandemic is the current strain on the availability of every community’s daily staple. With this in mind, Agata endeavors to augment the current supply and approach the issue where it matters most – and that is in the very household of its beneficiary communities.
This week, Agata began the distribution of food packages earmarked for close to 2,000 beneficiary-households in its eight (8) barangays covering host municipalities Tubay, Jabonga and Santiago as well as to its employees. The company plans to complete distribution activities by the following week.
In a parallel effort to help contain and prevent the spread of the virus, it also collaborated with Ms. Erma Suyo of partner agency, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, as well as its Barangay Emergency Response Teams to distribute Personal Protective Equipment and food items to all frontliners at check points within Agusan del Norte Province.
Agata’s production model involves local vegetable farmers involved in their traditional livelihood, which Agata harnessed with additional skills and necessary tools and infrastructure. Upon harvest, vegetable packs consisting of a mix of ampalaya (bitter gourd), kalabasa (squash), okra, string beans and eggplants were then distributed to the nearby communities, including the company’s employees in the mine site.
While observing safety and health protocols during community quarantine, vegetables are sourced from local farmers who are presently having difficulty in transporting their produce to the marketplace due to certain restrictions because of the lockdown, and thus, running the risk of spoilage.
These vegetable packs were then prepared by Agata personnel and were made ready for distribution to the community, testament that its production model under the Mabakas framework is in fact sustainable.
From its humble beginnings motivated by the aspirations of its communities to develop their own vegetable and livestock farms, Mabakas has become the first organic agriculture production assessment center run by a mining company in the Caraga Region.
Sustainable food production
“Agata’s future-oriented philosophy applies to the entire range of its activities: from front-end engineering, to environmental management, down to food production for our communities,” according to Assistant GM Anthony Quijano.
One such initiative is Agata’s establishment of the Mabakas Farm School in host Jabonga Municipality – which took-off from the company’s former Techno Demo Farm in the area.
Prior to being a certified farm school, the facility served as a training site for vegetable and urban gardening as well as a community nursery for various plant species.
Through the school, farmers and farm workers in Agusan del Norte Province are able to avail of complete NCII courses on Organic Agriculture Production and the opportunity to undergo assessment authorized by the country’s Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Today, with more than 1,300 students trained, the institution can officially assess the competency of its graduates (through examinations) and determine their eligibility to earn a TESDA National Certification, which opens doors to better career opportunities.
But most of all, it takes the communities a step closer to achieving sustainability that will keep them afloat way beyond the life of the mine.
“‘Starting it right and keeping the end in mind’ has guided Agata in achieving sustainable operations focused on progressive and final rehabilitation. The sustainability of our communities is not any different. Agata endeavors that people will be able to fend for themselves with the necessary skills and infrastructure in place,” Quijano concluded.