From adversity to abundance: The triumph of mothers in urban gardening

 Some of the KSK farmers tend their urban garden in Sto. Cristo Elementary School

The world is steadily redefining how cities are deemed. Through the transformative power of urban gardening, cities are no longer concrete jungles but vibrant oases, teeming with life greenery. 

As urban gardening takes root, it allows people to rediscover the bountiful benefits of connecting with greenery, even in the heart of urban environments. Two homemakers, Lisa Alcantara and Jennie Fernandez proved just this as they completed SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan’s urban gardening program. 

Nourishing the community, one harvest at a time

Lisa has been ingenious ever since her former company closed down due to the global economic crisis in 2007. She tried venturing into multiple side hustles and micro businesses, helping her make ends meet. 

Always looking for ways to put food on the table, she learned about the basics of urban gardening years back and has become passionate about it since then. 

“Noong sumali po ako sa KSK ng SM Foundation, mas lalo ko po naintindihan kung paano ba alagaan at mas palalaguin ang bawat uri ng halaman. Natuto rin po kami kung paano po paikutin ang puhunan at kita,” she shared, adding that she and her fellow KSK farmers can rely on their garden for their daily meals.

Lisa proudly shows some of eggplant they grew in their urban garden in Sto. Cristo Elementary School, Quezon City.

The program not only brought fresh produce to her table but also allowed her to give back to her roots. Collaborating with fellow community members, Lisa and her batchmates cultivated the garden at her alma mater, Sto. Cristo Elementary School beside SM North EDSA in Quezon City. Teachers and other staff members can harvest from the surplus vegetables, creating a cycle of generosity that echoes Liza’s newfound commitment to her community.

“Dito po talaga ako lumaki sa Brgy. Sto. Cristo at dito din po ako nagtapos ng elementarya. Masarap po sa pakiramdam na marami pong nakikinabang sa aming mga pananim. Dahil po nakapalibot‘ang classrooms sa garden, maganda po ang kapaligiran ng mga bata habang minsan naman ay nakakapagbigay ito ng gulay sa mga teachers at sa aming mga urban farmers,” she said.

Cultivating hope

Much like Lisa, Jennie from East Ortigas faced the challenging aftermath of her online business closure due to the pandemic. 

“Gusto ko po talagang bumalik sa pagne-negosyo na malapit sa puso ko,” she said, seeking a sustainable and personally fulfilling venture. Through KSK’s urban gardening initiative, she acquired the skills needed for cultivating vegetables in their urban community and rediscovered her entrepreneurial spirit as an urban farmer. 

Together with her batchmates from the program, they envisioned establishing a cooperative to formalize their business, opening doors to new entrepreneurial opportunities and creating a sense of empowerment among the participants. 

Jennie, an SM Foundation KSK urban farmer, joins the market tour in SM East Ortigas to learn about marketing and supplying fresh produce.

“In the next two years, gusto po naming i-institutionalize ang urban gardening sa aming subdivision para rin po makatulong sa mga kapitbahay namin those na wala o nawalan ng trabaho,” she said. 

As the homeowner’s association president, she also looks forward to sharing her new skills so that houses in their village would be filled with produce they can always rely on.

Both Lisa and Jennie shared how they see gardening in a whole new light. For them, it goes beyond putting food on the table but also serves as a catalyst for empowerment and community collaboration.