Image courtesy of Basilio Sepe/Greenpeace

The Dumagat Remontado, the indigenous people of Daraitan, Rizal, have been sharing their produce to 10 of Manila’s community pantries since they started sprouting in the capital mid-April.   

The response is a show of solidarity with the urban poor and a sign of the broken food system, said Rhea Jane Pescador-Mallari, Greenpeace Southeast Asia–Philippines campaigner.  

Greenpeace Philippines, through the agricultural advocacy group PAKISAMA (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka), has been supporting the initiative by facilitating the supply, delivery, and distribution of the Dumagat IPs’ produce.   

“Greenpeace supports this initiative in order to show a proof of concept on the viability and benefits of shorter value chains, by linking community pantries with indigenous peoples, local ecological farmers, and the urban poor,” she told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview.  

Among the pantries that source some of their supplies from the Dumagat Remontado farmers are those in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig; Tondo; West Crame, San Juan; as well as the zero-waste Mother Earth Foundation pantry in Tinajeros, Malabon. All produce is packaged and distributed in reusable bags.   

The first community pantry was set up in Maginhawa Street, Quezon City, this April. On a cart piled with vegetables, eggs, and non-food items was a cardboard sign with the message, “Maginhawa Community Pantry. Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” (Give what you can, take what you need).” The idea soon spread and inspired similar pantries all over the country and in Timor-Leste.  

“PAKISAMA saw this as an opportunity to show that farmers are essential to our way of life. They saw how this initiative can challenge the status quo on how our food systems work where community pantries can directly source out from farmers,” said Ms. Mallari.   

While Greenpeace believes that the emergence of community pantries reflects the inadequacies of government, not all support this view. “And I beg to disagree that community pantries reflect the inadequacies of government. All over the world, many governments were not prepared for COVID-19, and are presently hard pressed to sufficiently cover all the needs of their people,” said BusinessWorld columnist Marvin A. Tort in a recent Opinion piece.  — Patricia B. Mirasol