Villar proposes 'community gardens' to fight hunger in times of pandemic

Amid the spread of community pantries in the Philippines, Senator Cynthia Villar pitched the establishment of "community gardens" where people can grow their own food and share in times of calamities or public health emergencies, such as the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate agriculture and food panel, during the hybrid hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government's decision to open up the importation of pork amid the impacts of the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. (Senate of the Philippines)

Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said such initiative can complement community pantries and sustain communities even without a pandemic.

“Community gardens are a more sustainable and cost-effective way of providing daily supply of food or substance to community members, especially in poor neighborhoods. They only need vegetable seeds, seedlings of fruit-bearing trees, organic fertilizers and a small parcel of lot from a backyard or open spaces of subdivisions in a public place which some LGUs (local government units) can even allocate for them,” the senator said in a statement.

Villar previously filed Senate Bill No. 141, which seeks to institutionalize urban agriculture in the country to meet food sufficiency targets and address hunger.

The lawmaker cited the initiatives of her home city Las Piñas, where vegetable seeds and organic fertilizers are being distributed. The city also has yearly urban gardening competition to encourage residents to do urban gardening, she added

Villar said she is glad that Filipinos had a "better appreciation of the value of growing one’s food" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It solves many interlinked problems besides daily sustenance of families with nutritious food. It provides livelihood, solves poverty-linked hunger and malnutrition, easy access to food when supplies are lacking or limited and ultimately it will ensure food security,” she added.