A former jailhouse in Samar was transformed into an agricultural school which seeks to help in addressing food sufficiency and security in Catbalogan City.
The agricultural school has a demonstration farm, where students can apply what they have learned.
Apart from solving the food insecurity, Catbalogan City Agro-Industrial School (CCAIS) aims to encourage youth to engage with agriculture by being a professional farmers.
Mr. Archimedes Fabellar, a science teacher in research the Catbalogan Comprehensive National High School, became the principal of the agricultural school. He was also the great man behind the establishment of the school.
He accepted the task that was given by the school division superintendent of Department of Education (DepEd) to manage the school for agriculture and at the same time, to research possible agricultural technologies that may strengthen the food security of the province.
The story behind the school for agriculture
The jailhouse in Catbalogan City was built in June 2001 by the provincial and city governments. What the local government unit (LGU) did not account for, however, was the many New People’s Army attacks that hounded the area at that time. Fearing for the safety of the inmates and jail wardens, the government decided to abandon the building.
In 2017, the city government offered the facility to the Department of Education for its productive use. The DepEd Schools Division of Catbalogan City proposed to transform the jailhouse into a farm school to help address food sufficiency and security of the city.
How did it start?
As a school that just started out, it already had 44 Grade 7 and 60 Grade 11 enrollees. This was a result of the city recruiting two scholars from every barangay. While the funds for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of CCAIS were still being processed, Fabellar had to rely on city government funds with supposed counterparts from 57 barangays. Based on the plan, each barangay would donate P5,000 per student every year, but even that was not realized.
Fabellar used to teach classes with three more teachers he borrowed from other schools. As part of their Brigada Eskwela, he would request volunteers from the army, barangay, and parents to help clear the forested lands so they could use them for their lessons. When not teaching, he would continue working on the documentary requirements of their school and funds.
“The first six months were really tough. With LGU funds, bidding for supplies took longer so we made do with whatever available desks we could get. We constantly needed funds because the school has a dormitory where our students stayed, so their daily needs like food had to be met. I had to be at the city hall every day to ensure the timely release of the monthly allowances for food,” Fabellar said.
Current situation of the agricultural school
CCAIS is now making its operations sustainable so it does not rely so much on government funds. It has a demonstration farm with a vermicomposting area and chicken coop, where students can apply the skills they learned in the classroom. The school is also starting to build a livestock farm, focusing on hogs, cows and carabaos.
To date, CCAIS started delivering close to 15 trays of brown eggs every day. They used the income to purchase feeds for their animals and are also planning to mass produce blue ternate (or butterfly pea flower) for a high-end farm in Leyte.
Graduating students will also be offered an opportunity to build their own farms in their homes and sell their produce in their respective barangays as part of the city’s food sufficiency plan.
This year, SCB is also turning over four agribusinesses to 41 (from the first batch of SHS graduates in April) students to help them become young agripreneurs. These young farmers will be organized and registered as an association. Aside from these agri-enterprises, the company is also providing an agribusiness and enterprise management seminar, as well as training and exposure trips on different agribusiness technologies.
Standard Chartered Bank’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing Mai Sangalang said, “A lot of young Filipino farmers dream of pursuing education but do not have the access and resources due to poverty. SCB LEAD program in 2017-2018 paved the way for our young dreamers in Catbalogan, Samar, to aspire for a better future. This year, LEAD 2 will fulfill our vision of making them agripreneurs by giving them agribusinesses that will augment their living and economic conditions. Through the bank’s global program, Futuremakers by Standard Chartered, we aim to empower disadvantaged young people and women from low-income households to learn, earn and grow.”
As for Fabellar, his stint at CCAIS taught him to appreciate agriculture. In fact, he is even starting to build his own small farm. By mixing this new love with his passion for research, he has also ventured into pet projects with his teachers. One of which is to cross-breed chickens, so it could produce different kinds of eggs.
“Two years ago, I would have never thought that I’ll be where I am right now. I feel truly blessed. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m glad I took it. I got to meet people who helped build this school and I am trying my best to do my part, so all their help and investments will not go to waste,” he concluded.
Source: Business Mirror