HOPE LITERALLY grows in Pantar, Lanao del Norte, as concerned organizations and government agencies have banded together to teach halal organic farming to families who have been displaced by the Marawi crisis.

More than 138 families from Marawi are temporarily living in the Tarbiah Islamic Institute located in West Pantar in Lanao del Norte, where three families with about six to 11 members – about 33 occupants – crowd inside one room. Issues of privacy, limited resources, and loss of livelihood are just some of the challenges that they contend with on a day-to-day basis. Many civic organizations and NGOs desire to help but few make it to the evacuation centers because of safety issues.

Among those that have were the personnel at Skills Mastery Institute (SMI), a technical-vocational school based in Cagayan de Oro City, who partnered with S.M.I.L.E.S. Foundation, and with nongovernment units and Pantar’s barangay officials, to bring material, educational and livelihood assistance to these families.

SMI President and CEO Dr. Irene Floro and team, along with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Regional Director Lorenzo Macapili, and TESDA Provincial Director Tarhata Mapandi, also distributed agricultural tools and equipment to some of the refugees and to residents of West Pantar.

The tools were used for the Halal Organic Agriculture Training conducted by SMI which ran for 22 days. Participants were taught to plant vegetables, turmeric, and indigenous plants in a 50-hectare communal farm. SMI gave beneficiaries free meals and snacks during the duration of the training so that they could focus on learning the skills and growing the produce.

The harvested vegetables are to be brought to the barangay trading post or bagsakan center to be sold. At the end of the course, participants will be given an assessment exam prior to obtaining their Organic Farmer NCII certification. “It is hoped that when they go back to their areas, they can apply what they learned in their respective backyard gardens,” said trainor Moises Tan.

Last month, 86 participants were brought from Pantar to Cagayan de Oro for a four-day study tour at SMI’s Organic Farm School. “This will be another venue of education as part of their benchmarking tour,” said Dr. Floro. There they observed the methods used at the school’s organic farm and also learned how halal organic fertilizer is made using fish entrails.