KSK Farmer-Graduates overcome life’s storms

Over a year into the recovery of the Visayas region after Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), 141 farmers from the calamity-stricken area of Balangiga, Eastern Samar finished their 12-week training under SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) Farmers’ Training Program.

KSK farmer-graduates from Eastern Samar share their story of hope after being part of SM Foundation’s KSK Farmers’ Training Program

In November 2013, many of the residents in Eastern Samar lost their livelihood because of Typhoon Yolanda. To help renew the livelihood in the area, SM Foundation conducted its KSK program in Balangiga in 2014 as an additional venue under its Yolanda Rehabilitation Program.

Balangiga is a fourth-class municipality in the province of Eastern Samar, Visayas. Located on the southern coast of the island of Samar, it is home to 13 barangays and carries a population of 12,756 residents (National Statistics Office, 2010).

“When Typhoon Yolanda struck, I lost my livelihood, my house, and even a family member,” Amador Elairon Jr., a KSK farmer-graduate, said.

He added, “I still feel sad because of Typhoon Yolanda. However, through KSK, SM Foundation has given me a new chance in life. My family will have a better future.”

Delia Andrada, another KSK beneficiary, said that she will share the knowledge she has acquired in the training to her peers.

Andrada said, “The farming methods taught to us during the KSK Farmers’ Training program is totally different from what we were accustomed to. I will continue to share what I’ve learned to help others who were not able to attend the training.”

Elairon and Andrada are only two of the many farmers who were given a chance to secure a better life through the KSK program.

SM Foundation believes in empowering rather than simply providing. Under the KSK program, farmers are taught to be self-sufficient by equipping them with knowledge in the production of high-value crops to help provide food on their table while earning income from the rest. In addition, they are also taught on how to effectively market and sell their crops in a way where they can penetrate high-end markets.
In December 2014, another challenge for the Balangiga batch came when Typhoon Ruby (international name: Hagupit) which hit Eastern Samar, damaging most of the crops they have planted during their training. Despite this, the farmers remained positive realizing that the future now holds even bigger and better opportunities for them.

“The farmers are confident that what they learned at KSK training will benefit them in the long run. Their training is more valuable than what they have lost during both Typhoon Ruby and Typhoon Yolanda,” said Cristie Angeles, SM Foundation Assistant Vice President for Livelihood.

During the KSK graduation, Angeles emphasized that the training was also a way to create linkages between farmers and the market through the SM Food Group suppliers. SM Savemore Tacloban Assistant Store Manager Herbert Policar also added that the graduates will be given a chance to become suppliers to the branch in the future.

The Balangiga group is SM Foundation’s 80th batch since the farmers’ training program started in 2007. By the end of 2014, SM Foundation has already trained 10,080 farmers from 1,657 barangays in 479 municipalities nationwide.