Last week, the US interns and I took the initiative to revitalize a previously unfinished composting project on the farm. Since there is no one directly overseeing us and telling us what to do everyday, somedays can be a bit dull, but we all got up everyday before 6am to start work. We cleared an overgrown plot of land of a bunch of weeds (by hand). Then we collected dead leaves and sticks from the surrounding area. Finally, we gathered a bunch of goat, sheep and chicken poop to spread on the piles as well. In total we made 15 large compost heaps, which, in 4-6 months, will be used as fertilizer by the fermentation team. This project was attempted a couple months ago by a long-term French intern, but she was unable to complete it because she was working alone. This project was not too difficult because of the amount of people we had, and it didn’t require too much research because we all knew a little bit about composting going into the project. However, I am curious whether or not the climate here will affect how fast the material decomposes. It is hot and humid and rains at least once a day, but I’m not sure if this will have any affect on the natural processes taking place in our compost piles. I think there are still a few finishing touches left, like building small barriers to keep each pile contained, and a few other aesthetic-related tasks, but the main objective is complete. Laurence and I also dug a hole for the SEED students to use for composting purposes, since they were doing a lot of weeding around the bamboo villa— and they asked us to when we showed up ready to work.
I also spent time researching ideas for the waste management program we intend on presenting to the school children, and maybe eventually the larger community. We need to make sure the program addresses the problem, while also being fun and something they can understand. A translator will be needed for this program, which is another challenge, especially for the pre-schoolers and older people, but I think that most of the elementary school kids will understand it in English. Ideally, we would like to talk about composting, recycling, but the main focus will probably be on not littering and promoting a clean environment. Hopefully, we will also be able to incorporate another project that got brought to our attention last week called “ecobricks.” Ecobricks are a really cool idea for reusing plastics to use as building material for infrastructure projects. Check out this link if you are interested in learning more, http://www.ecobricks.org/what/. I will only be working on this project peripherally, but the challenge with ecobricks is actually getting the waste into the bottles, so to promote this amongst the students would be a good way to hopefully get them involved and produce more sustainable building materials. If we can get enough ecobricks together here in the community, we plan on making benches for the basketball court or something similar to show to the community the potential benefit.
I was also able to contact one of the interns from IWU who was here at GKEF a couple years ago to get some suggestions on how to go about working on the waste management projects. She had worked on something similar, but specifically increasing awareness through increased visibility of garbage cans, including added signage and making more waste bins. She was able to tell me what worked well and gave some suggestions for addressing the challenges she faced, and also who were helpful people to contact. Thanks Becky!
I’ve also started working on a new project called Need for Seed, which is in partnership with Make A Difference (MAD) Travel. It was brought to my attention when Prof. Amoloza, one of the professors from my school that made this whole internship program possible, came to visit us at the farm and met with Raf Dionisio, one of the founders of MAD Travel. MAD Travel is a business focused on social and eco-tourism. They were already scheduled to meet because there are a couple other students from my school living here on the farm with us interning with MAD Travel, and they made the connection that this project might be something I would be interested in doing.
Need for Seed is a campaign to save seeds that would otherwise be thrown away in order to redistribute those seeds to the Aetas, an indigenous tribe in Zambales, which is a few hours west of where I’m staying in Angat. They have 3,000 hectares of land, but their ancestral homelands have seen massive amounts of deforestation. Additionally, indigenous communities are commonly mistreated or neglected by governments. As such, they have a hard time supporting themselves and feeding themselves, and largely still hunt for food. It was explained to me like this, seeds to the Aetas are considered gold. They don’t want money because that could be misspent, but they see the value in seeds because they can ensure long-term prosperity and sustainable livelihoods. We already have plans to visit the Aetas in Zambales through MAD Travel, where we will meet the Aetas, learn about their culture and plant trees to help in reforestation efforts. Sounds amazing, I’m excited! You can check out this little advertisement, but I’ll be sure to post pictures after. https://youtu.be/csGm6o1WXSo
So, what I’ve been doing for Need for Seed is trying to collect seeds from the kitchen and from the community. I was given a list of seeds that are wanted, and researched what they looked like to make a guide that includes how to prepare and store them. After a little confusion with the people in the kitchen, I think we maneuvered passed the language barrier and I finally have them on board. I was able to collect a bunch of calamanci, tomato, cucumber and squash seeds the other day. The hard part with this project so far is my lack of resources… I don’t really have anything. So I’ve had to borrow a strainer from the kitchen and get resourceful by reusing glass bottles. Hopefully I can get some materials and possibly even wax paper in town within the next week. Seed storage is also kind of tricky because I don’t want them to rot or germinate, so there has definitely been a learning curve trying to figure out the best way to keep them stored properly. I also plan on actually planting some of the seeds here on the farm with the intention of both redistributing the seedlings and planting some more fruits and veggies on the farm. I was able to help plant some string beans last week, but I really want to plant a mango seed so I can come back and have my own mango tree—!
I’ve also been creating web content for the Need for Seed Facebook page as a way of promoting the campaign. As of right now, there is nothing on the page, so I pretty much get to design the whole thing. Hopefully in the next couple weeks I’ll be able to talk to the local school and the rest of the community to have them save their seeds from being thrown away.
I’m still having a fun time meeting people in the community and eating dinner with Tita Aida and Tito Ver and their family. I befriended one of the women who works for Karabella, the ice cream enterprise that makes some delicious ice cream from Carabao (water buffalo) milk. And, this weekend we’re going off the grid— one of our supervisors runs an island-hopping company called Camp Isla, so we’re going camping on a nearby island. She is taking us to Cagbalete, Quezon. We’ll be able to go snorkeling and I may try to surf. More adventures and pictures to come!
P.S. As of today, I am officially famous in the Philippines!…Not really, but a couple weeks ago one of the news stations, GMA, was doing a little story on the Enchanted Farm and one of the social enterprises, Plush and Play, and I was asked to just say something I liked about the Philippines as a foreigner. I guess it finally aired a couple days ago because a few of the community members let me know that they saw me on TV!