Urban farming and the SM Foundation
By Philip Cu Unjieng
The field schools of SM Foundation’s Kabalikat Sa Kabuhayan on Sustainable Agriculture Program (KSK-SAR) held a rare event at the SM North EDSA Annex on July 7, 2023. As Cristina Angeles, SM Foundation AVP Outreach Program, explained; in its 16-year history, the KSK has rarely drawn attention to itself by mounting these events—and she was happy to see this changing, as the Foundation and the KSK celebrated the ‘graduation’ of KSK Batch 269.
Founded in 2007 on a vision of the late SM founder, Henry Sy Sr., the KSK program is all about uplifting the farming community in our country, and promoting environmental consciousness. Its latest initiative, Urban Farming, has been introduced in 19 SM Supermalls nationwide. The initiative aims to equip Filipinos, particularly those from low-income urban communities, with essential skills in high-value crop farming. Modules offered provide comprehensive urban farming techniques, product development, marketing, and basic accounting, while hoping to transform underutilized urban spaces into productive gardens. There are now 250 field schools, and since 2007, they’ve ‘graduated’ 28,550 farmers, in both rural and urban settings.
What was great to note, was how in their efforts to leave no stone unturned in ensuring success for the new batch of urban farmers, SM Foundation has forged strategic partnerships with several government agencies and LGU’s. Plus they’ve aligned the initiative with other subsidiaries of the SM Group of Companies.
This collaborative effort has the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Science and Technology, the Department of Tourism, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the QC Government, SM Foundation, SM Supermalls, and SM Markets all playing vital roles in the program. Each entity contributes to an integrated approach that promotes circularity and creates a mini-economic ecosystem.
I especially liked how SM Supermalls have gotten involved. The Foundation, along with the government agencies and LGU’s, can equip these urban farmers with the knowledge of what to farm within their small plots of urban land; but that the Malls have now organized regular Sunday Markets mean that these farmers have somewhere to bring their harvests, and hopefully, monetize their efforts. That’s synergy for you, and maximizing resources available to encourage a circular economy and sustainability.
Who would have thought back in 2007, that this vision of Henry Sy Sr., could be so prophetic, anticipating the current issues we now face regarding food security, sustainable food production, urban development and its impact on Agriculture. The KSK-SAR specifically addresses these issues in a manner that we should wholeheartedly support.
It demonstrates that whether on a soft impact basis, or on a small scale, every little bit can help in alleviating the situation, and creating livelihood and income opportunities for the marginalized urban populace. AVP Cristina Angeles is right, more noise should be devoted to letting the public know about this initiative, and making more go through the modules offered.
Photo by Philip Cu Unjieng