Week 2 has largely been spent establishing goals, researching and preparing for accomplishing those goals and getting used to living in my temporary new home near the equator… I didn’t even notice the summer solstice this year as the sun rises and sets at pretty much the same time everyday. I’m getting to know more of the community, and they are getting to know me as well. The farm has a lot of visitors that come through, so the community members are used to seeing people for a few days, but many have realized that I’ll be here for a while and are making an effort to get to know me and make me feel more at home. I got a sore throat and lost my voice this week, but some of the Titas in the community have been telling me what to do to take care of myself and the women in the kitchen gave me a ginger-calamondin-honey tea that definitely helped.
Mangoes are still being harvested, and I have helped clean duck eggs for an enterprise called The Golden Egg, which is essentially a healthier take on a classic dish— the red salted duck egg. The duck eggs are usually extremely salty and are colored red with some harmful chemicals, but these are less salty and colored with turmeric instead, which gives them a golden hue. I’m still learning about some of the social enterprises here on the farm, and it is really eye-opening to see a business run in an unselfish manner. These people care about their businesses thriving, but they also want to help their employees and help their country.
Since I am only here on the farm for a short period of time (2 months), we have not been assigned to work with a specific social enterprise, however, I will be working on several different projects— some of my choosing and others that my supervisors want me to work on. So, if my weeks seem like they are all over the place, that is because they are, but I’m learning to roll with the changes and make the most of my time here.
A quick aside— The Filipino people have something they call “Filipino time,” which basically means that most meetings or events start about half an hour later than stated. This is something that I’m already fond of and am definitely enjoying about the culture. However, this is not to say that the Filipino people are lazy or anything, actually quite the opposite, its just time is perceived differently, and I like it.
I am also working on putting together a feasibility analysis report for vermicomposting (worm composting with African night crawlers) as a social enterprise. I have been talking with Tito June about the intended buyers of the worm castings and how the product should/would be marketed. There is still work to do with this though, so hopefully more on this in the future.
Another project that I hope to undertake is putting together a waste management educational program. There are doctors that come to the community every once in a while (still unclear on frequency) to present on a health/wellness issue, so I figured this could be a good opportunity to talk about waste management and pollution. There is a noticeable amount of litter around the community and I have witnessed people burning plastics, which releases dioxin and is terrible for our health, so I think there is room for education and improvement. Although, I must admit, I do feel strange coming in and telling these people about what they are doing wrong from my perspective. They might not be aware of these problems, but they might be conscious of other issues I don’t know about or are more worried about other things like feeding their families. I think this educational program will prove to be challenging, and must be approached with some caution and prior knowledge. I intend on investigating what happens to the garbage/recycling here and if littering is even perceived as a problem. Our on-site supervisors want us to implement a nutrition program and “green” program, and I think this program idea will tie in nicely.
Additionally, we have been working on reviving and improving a compost area that was previously attempted, though they lacked the man power. We have spent some time clearing weeds from a patch of land that will hopefully become the new composting area. I don’t think this will initially be for food waste from the community, but rather plant waste and animal waste for the time being, but eventually could be expanded to have the capacity for food waste. We are working with a french intern who attempted this project two months ago. Working in a team, on the composting project and other projects, continues to be a challenge for me. I’m usually more of an independent worker, but it is nice to get a range of viewpoints and expertise— and, many hands make light work!
We also had the opportunity to travel to other GK communities outside of the farm in Bulacan last Friday. This was another great experience as these people are less used to foreigners and, even though they are in the same province, have much different lives than the people living at GKEF. These communities ranged in size and didn’t have large scale farms or a university program like at the Enchanted Farm. They also didn’t have social enterprises set up, which was the most notable. The people earned their livelihoods from various professions outside of their communities, and one community lived as farmers, primarily growing string beans. On the outer edge of this village there was a planted forest— a clear sign of reforestation efforts that I noticed immediately. The trees were planted in a uniform pattern and looked anything but natural. I already knew that the Philippines had undergone massive deforestation in the past, with more than two-thirds of their forest cover gone before the 21st century. This was something I had been looking out for since I got here and discreetly asking people if they were aware of the ecological damage that had taken place in the past. It was definitely interesting to see this type of reforestation, and I am curious to know if it helped the environment in that area as deforestation has many long-reaching environmental implications (google search this, if you are interested).
That is all for now. I will continue living and I encourage you to do the same!