Growing Food, Saving Lives: use of urban gardening as an approach to community building and coping with post-disaster trauma among internally displaced persons from Marawi City by Kalimudan Sa Ranao Foundation, Inc.
Brgy. Basak Malutlut, Marawi, Lanao del Sur
Amenodin Cali, Hindawi Datu, Alyasa Orangaga, Kimen Domato, Badrodin Cali, & Almairah Ampuan
Growing Food, Saving lives is a two-pronged approach to dealing with the trauma that residents of Basak Malutlut experienced during and after the 2017 Marawi Siege. It uses family conversations and urban container gardening to bring back trust among the community and to provide livelihood to residents whose lives were disrupted by the war.
The goal of this innovation is to help Marawi residents get back on their feet, one barangay at a time. The innovation team wants to replicate the success of their project in Basak Malutlut in nearby neighborhoods.
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The innovation team is asking for financial assistance in sustaining their work in Basak Malutlut and in scaling their efforts to the rest of Marawi.
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We did this because we wanted to bring back the trust among members of the community. It was every person for himself/herself for Marawi residents when the war broke out. They stopped caring about their friends, even other members of their family.
Maranaos are not expressive, but the family conversations really drew out our emotions. Hearing your child and your husband say they love you is hearwarming.
Kalimudan sa Ranao Foundation, Inc. (KFI) is a civil society organization based in Marawi for over three decades. The innovation team came up with the idea for “Growing Food, Saving Lives” as a response to the plight of Marawi residents returning to the city after the 2017 siege. KFI wants to provide Basak Malutlut residents psychosocial intervention to help them deal with the trauma from the war. At the same time, KFI wants to provide a source of income for the residents to help them get back on their feet.
Basak Malutlut residents are part of the first batch of returnees allowed back into Marawi City six months after the May 2017 siege. Some families have been separated during the chaos of the war. They were traumatized by the war, and again from months of living in evacuation centers. They came home to a ghost town. Their houses were ransacked. They had no food and no source of income. The general environment simply wasn’t conducive to recovery and rehabilitation, which Maranaos needed the most.
“We did this because we wanted to bring back the trust among members of the community,” says Kimen Domato, Project officer for KFI. “It was every man for himself for Marawi residents when the war broke out. They stopped caring about their friends, even other members of their family,” he adds.
To bring back trust among community members, KFI conducted “family conversations.” Domato says the conversations discussed various issues like domestic violence, disaster risk reduction, and even specific issues that get in the way of closer family ties.
“Maranaos are not expressive, but the family conversations really drew out our emotions,” recalls Norjanna Capitan, a volunteer kagawad and a participant of the project. She says “Hearing your child and your husband say they love you is heartwarming,” Capitan adds.
KFI knew they also had to offer more than just counseling if they want holistic recovery. That’s when container gardening was introduced. KFI distributed seed-starting kits to participants, taught them how to upcycle plastic bottles, and how to grow the plants in those containers. Eventually, they also learned how to sell their produce to the market.
With the garden and the family conversations in place, KFI finally saw the result they wanted: “the participants started trusting each other again. They also started working with the barangay local government unit again,” says Domato.
Even Basak Malutlut Barangay Captain Norhaya Grande is giving KFI’s innovation the credit for her constituents’ recovery. “I really liked the psychosocial aspect of the project. It helped the residents get back on their feet and at the same time, it hit all the three C’s: closeness, communication, and cooperation,” Grande says.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND IMPACT
It didn’t take long until other barangays got wind of KFI’s innovation in Basak Malutlut. “Even those not part of our list of beneficiaries have taken up gardening,” says Domato. He adds that “at least two other barangays have also express intent to replicate the project in their areas.”
Norjanna recalls how their life was before they took part in the project. “Before Tuklas came along, we were suffering from trauma. We lost a lot in the siege, but now it’s been replaced with joy. We have more friends now and we value that even more.”
The beneficiaries of the project are some of the most vulnerable people in society. “Most of their participants were jobless, mothers, farmers, dressmakers and solo parents,” says Barangay Captain Grande. “Although gardening was not the main innovation, residents still benefited from knowing how to grow crops in containers inside their homes.”
Domato admits that one key factor prohibiting them from replicating their innovation elsewhere is funding. “We need money to sustain and grow our project. We have the capacity to mount the innovation, but if we do not have the funds to buy the materials to get it started, nothing will happen.”
The Project Officer says they’ve already written to a number of non-government organizations and government agencies to ask for more assistance. Once they get funding, Domato says they will be able to bring their project to other communities that need it the most.