Saturday, June 22, 2013

The vision and the spirit

Hello again! I want to write more about the project and beyond as I feel there are still many things to share. Though most of these thoughts are not mainly about Sharing Garden, I still think these are important because they are closely related or relevant to it. As what was planned, the project will also serve as an instrument to promote example of organic gardening and inspire actions to slowly change the current paradigm of food industry that uses chemical pesticides, genetic engineering and other harmful methods of food production. We all know that these transnational companies are the perpetrators of chemical contaminations, genetic monopoly, and modern carcinogens yet they are in charge of our global food supply. Despite of this reality, majority of the people in Davao City are unaware and still dependent to their system of agriculture and food. 

The Volunteers

I received a letter from a friend about the volunteer aspect of their project. It seems the same everywhere in the world; it is not easy to motivate people. Sure there are many reasons for lack of volunteers and every gardening project has its unique situation, but for sure in the context of Davao, economic and family reason are some of those. But even though it is very minimal, it is still worth appreciating and mentioning here; those wonderful times, no matter how short, that we had experienced gardening with interesting people from other parts of the Philippines and also from Europe and the US. We’ve learned many different important things about community actions and their culture; most of them are already exposed to different alternative or intentional community in their place that is why they are more familiar to projects like SG. Compare to them, most people in Davao (or perhaps the whole Philippines) needs to be heavily educated and oriented towards these “alternative ideas” first before they’ll have the motivation to work for these matters. As what I also see as normal, is the people’s inability to clearly comprehend unfamiliar information especially when it’s related to their cultural, psychological, environmental, and economic aspect. Most people I see are contented and dependent to the economic model that is being imposed to them by the same institutions that created these crises on food and other social services. In the issue of technology, computer familiarization is not a priority especially to folks in the middle age and because of this they cannot gain essential information from the internet regarding community initiatives and alternative lifestyles.

Some factors for uninvolved-ment and the cultural comparison

Perhaps another factor underlying these reasons is their lack of economic stability. I can understand that at the moment it is hard for other people to face the challenges of change and responsibility. But in spite of this, I am personally not hopeless that this project will succeed! Perhaps our effort was not enough in terms of educating and motivating people and so we were not effective in attracting more volunteers. As far as I can remember, we tried to reach as many people as we can from all over Davao and even sometimes pushed ourselves to the limit, doing every ways to encourage volunteers. Another visible factor is the “cultural differences” between us and other locals. What bothers me is the fact that people are afraid of new things; they are not yet ready to leave their “comfort zone” and they also don’t want to think that they might be wrong in some of their deeds and ideations. They sometimes justify it through their economic excuses. It’s normal that as long as people are secure economically or when they have the certainty on such projects or initiatives, as what they always consider “job”, they will surely join and help. To explain my statement earlier, I know that most of you will agree that cultural exposure is also very important because it brings strong impact to people or a person. So for example, just because those volunteers we had from other countries are have long been exposed to activism, community resistance, squats, social centers, etc., we don’t need to explain to them everything anymore. Again compare to them, local volunteers or neighbors sometimes have the difficulty seeing the connection of this project to the global sociopolitical and environmental situation or crises that we are facing. I remember one time when one of the trusted pastors of the community asked me “what’s the connection of SG to the problems regarding corporate monopoly and exploitation on food and agriculture, and also to the looming crises on energy especially on oil”. I explained to him everything as if I didn't give him a brochure at the beginning of this project. But I also thought it’s because he didn't know what was happening and doesn't have options other than mainstream information.   

The revolution (and the economics) of everyday life

As social activists we are doing projects and little things to initiate actions and inspire people. No matter how poor we are in an economic sense, we still strive to give service in our own small ways. This is part of our resistance. We value the fact that we are contributing a positive impact to people no matter how little these contributions are. Since we have the capacity and ability to actualize ideas or programs that could promote social awareness and alternatives to the usual ways available in the mainstream market and culture, we will do our best to continue this service. For several years we’ve been helping other groups here in Davao promoting and pushing issues that are currently necessary to address various problems in the society, political and cultural. And for all these years, as what usually happens to many sincere activists working for social upliftment and equality, we’ve never become rich or at least economically well off. Having this, I never had any regrets or shame regarding my personal economic assets or financial status. We don’t get salary or allowance except for the rental support to our house, which is also another kind of project, a community library and social center, and we even use our personal money for some of our projects and activities but we still love to do these things. In good luck we always manage to beat our insecurities and alienation in this society where happiness equates to money and commerce. 

Just to share to you, some of the things/activities we do in SG project are sometimes financed personally. Like the composting for example, 50Php a week is not an easy financial obligation if you don’t have a regular job. If you total it for the whole year it will cost 2,400Php, it’s not that big but it’s quite an amount of money. And for the 50php we can only gather five to six sacks of banana peel. Each delivery cost 20 to 30php, and compare to buying ready-made compost at the mall, which we can get for a hundred peso per 2 kilos, so it makes sense and fairly practical. I can’t really tell how much we can save but it’s quite easy to comprehend why it’s more practical. But when I think of how much money I can save for a month (200php), I still doubt the rationality of this idea so that is why my plan for now is to do the composting in the area close to the source of the materials so that we don’t need to spend this amount for the transfer. All I need to do is bring the wheelbarrow and pick the banana peel and other materials and bring them to the compound near the banana shop or market. Hopefully the owner of the compound will allow us to do that. But on the other hand, I would still love to continue using the area for the compost materials nearby such as cow and goat manures and other organic materials available from the nearby houses and in addition, we still love to do basic gardening in the area. Speaking of economic alternatives, me and my partner is planning to organize a show that will raise at least small funds for the library. This will also help advance the SG project since this library serves as foundation for all the plans we have for SG, and this is where we do our education programs regarding the project. So hopefully this coming month of July, we can invite bands and do the show. Another option is to do busking, this is the most easy way I think gather money for SG. Aside from this, we will also have our third exhibit promoting the SG related issues and other matters related to health, organic farming/gardening, alternative energy and intentional community at the High School nearby (Bernardo National High School). This will happen on July as well.

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