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OFWs learn to farm for future survival

21 August 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

As Typhoon Signal 8 sent Hongkongers seeking the safety of their homes and malls and offices were shut down, a group of OFWs was talking green in the conference room of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Admiralty Centre.

The workers, numbering 30, had just graduated from four Sundays of agricultural livelihood training offered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and were discussing growing food as a livelihood when they return home for good.

“The training prepares the workers for their reintegration into the economy when they decide to quit Hong Kong,” explained Rose Perido, a volunteer from Cavite who says there is money in farming. Perido has been training fellow OFWs in the agro livelihood course for the past 12 years.

“We have Lessons 1 to 4, and the first lesson is natural farming in which we teach them how to make different kinds of natural, all organic, depending on how they are going to apply it,” Perido said.

The second lesson is about mushroom growing, which covers various types of the edible fungus, such as the oyster variety.

Perido said the trainees are taught how to produce mushrooms using both natural and laboratory methods, so, if they venture into this, they can choose the option that better suits the environment in their areas.

She explained further that natural mushroom production uses beddings made of natural materials such as rice straw, dried banana leaves, or a mix of sawdust and banana leaves.

“Just make the bed and spray it with water and shortly afterwards mushrooms will grow naturally on the bedding,” Perido said.

She pointed out that in the natural method, beddings are set up in backyards or in farming rooms where they are moistened and laced with mother spawns or implanted with fresh mushrooms that multiply by dispersing their seeds, or spores.

In laboratory production, mushrooms are grown in fruiting bags made of a mix of rice husk and straw and seeded with sterilized spawns made in a controlled environment.

Lesson 3 is organic livestock production in which the trainees learn to raise native chicken and pigs without using commercial feeds, and duck-raising. The last lesson is aquaculture, or fish production.

Perido said she teaches the workers how to start livestock production without a big starting capital.

“We look at the resources around them. For instance, in the provinces you can ask a friend or neighbor for a pair of male and female chicken which you can raise to start a poultry farm,” she said.

She said the main purpose of her teaching is to provide OFWs livelihood skill they can use when they return home because there have been many cases where a worker was suddenly out of job and penniless because she had no savings.

“Everyday a worker is terminated. But, if you are equipped with livelihood skill, you will survive. You can produce food for your family’s consumption. You won’t starve, as long as you are industrious,” Perido said.

The trainer teaches two lessons each on Saturday and Sunday with 30 trainees per four-lesson batch. That means in a month at least 240 trainees graduate from the agricultural livelihood course, and given that the program is year-round, it is turning out an average of 2,880 graduates annually.

This army of OFWs armed with new livelihood skills are indeed prepared to fend for themselves and their families anytime they return home by choice or by fate.

So popular is OWWA’s agro livelihood training that POLO has halted the enrolment in the courses offered because all slots have been filled until mid-December this year.

“The advantage here (OWWA program) is the OFWs learn the skills free of charge. If they enroll in training courses in the Philippines, it would cost them much,” Perido said.

For instance, a one-day mushroom growing seminar that she attended in Manila cost PhP2,500 while she paid PhP6,000 to join a one-day natural farming seminar.

Aside from agro livelihood, OWWA also offers training in basic computer literacy, basic Cantonese language, ribbon folding and macramé handicraft-making, dressmaking and beads craft.

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