My name is Sébastien and I am an IT man from North America. I wanted to do my part as a global citizen by doing something concrete. I wanted to help other people, not only by giving money to a non-profit organization to give me good consciousness. I had this chance last January 2018, and I left the cold snow of winter in Canada. Now I’ve reached Marinduque.
Marinduque is an Island at the center of Philippines. It is beautiful, warm, people are nice and the lands are very fertile, yet mostly unexploited. The locals are growing crops, mostly rice and coconut, but also all kinds of tropical fruits and spices. Unfortunately, their production is raw and insufficient for all the needs of the local population. As a result, most of the goods on the island are imported. On the long term that could be a problem since its creating wastes and economical unbalance, even poverty.
The Filipino people are proud, and the inhabitants of Marinduque are no exception. Some of them saw the potential of their island and the potential danger of irresponsible exploitation. That’s why there is growing incentives to follow a common sustainable vision. One of these organizations and a promising one is AGREA. They act as teachers, researchers, and guides to make life easier for farmers and they assure the island to be more independent and their exploitation smarter. I volunteered and worked as a farmer on an experimental farm with their team and I learned quite a lot.
My stay was short, so I observed and learned the most I could. I saw the good practices the team teaches to local farmers. I saw how they prepare the soil and make their own fertilizer with local and natural plants and fruits. I will definitely try that at home. I also learned a lot about caring for crops, animals and how to plan ahead the production. My work back home is very different and abstract. I work behind a desk as an IT specialist. It is far from the sweet and sour reality of actually putting your hands in the soil and sweating to create new life, it was very refreshing.
The work on a farm is hard and you don’t get a day off. This is a never-ending love story between a farmer and its crops. This is also a contract with the environment that you must honor every day. Fail to follow the rules or misunderstand them and the crops would dry or get infested by insects or your animals could get sick, then you will start all over again. For me it had no consequences, I could afford to make mistakes, but for someone who lives on this island, it could spell financial troubles. Doing the right things for your farm and the environment is not harder; it only requires the right education, planning, and a common vision.
In my stay there I could understand that Filipinos put the collectivity and their relationships in high importance. It was a shock for me who came from an occidental, individualist, and task-oriented society. I learned that one of the objectives of AGREA is to focus on this love for collectivity and help the farmers work together as communities. Their dream is to see Marinduque residents use their resources the best way they can, and produce their own goods to be sustainable. I had the chance to visit a successful and sustainable farming community in Sibuyao. Life looked so nice there that the idea of staying there made me happy.
I experienced all this “late” in my life being an adult already. But I still learned many things about myself, my culture and the environment. There is no age limit for life experience. You win and at the same time, you can help other people. It’s a win-win situation. If someday I will have children, I wish they could do something similar because it is very enjoyable to learn and share.
Marinduque deserves to be a garden and a paradise forever and it looks like it’s on the right path with organizations like AGREA to help them keep tracks.