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Hydroponic veggie farming takes off in Basilan

John Unson - Philstar.com
Hydroponic veggie farming takes off in Basilan
Engr. Salonga Lasatan, a staff of the Basilan provincial government, shows a lettuce from a hydroponic garden.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — People in Basilan are experimenting on something new to them that they expect to earn for the province the tag “hydroponic agriculture capital” of the Bangsamoro region.

Many Muslim and Christian residents of Basilan are now studying hydroponic farming, being promoted by their provincial government that has a facility operating like a show window of how it can be done.

Gov. Jim Salliman said Saturday the project is meant to boost food production in the backyards to end dependence on the Zamboanga peninsula as supplier of vegetables that can also be produced locally.

In hydroponic gardening, edible short-term plants are grown without soil. Vegetable seedlings are raised in small non-toxic pots with water, not soil.

Some of those trying to learn the intricacies of hydroponic vegetable propagation are now reforming former members of the Abu Sayyaf who had been reintroduced by the provincial government to the local communities after renouncing their membership with the group in batches in the past five years.

Kalim Saratul said Saturday he has been collecting recyclable half-gallon ice cream containers since last month for a hydroponic garden, after having seen a video on how their provincial government is doing it in a facility open for public viewing.

“This is my way of showing support for efforts of our provincial government to educate us on the importance of self-reliance in food production,” he said.

Even grade school children can raise vegetables in small areas using hydroponic technology, according to Salliman.

The Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade supports the hydroponic gardening thrust of the Basilan governor’s office, according to its commander, Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway.

Gobway said he wants soldiers in the province to experiment on it too in vacant areas in their command posts.

The Basilan provincial government is propagating lettuce now in its hydroponic facility, virtually organic owing to non-use of commercial fertilizers.

Basilan is touted as the largest producer of rubber latex and cup lumps in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The provincial government had earlier established a processing plant for rubber plantation owners to improve the quality of their product to ensure high marketability.

In contemporary history, hydroponic gardening was reportedly pioneered by a group of teachers in the University of California, who popularized the idea of growing plants using water with nutrients, not soil.

Adelina Santos, a mother of three grade school children, said she and her friends, mostly unemployed mothers, got so fascinated with the viability of hydroponic gardening.

“We want this done too in the premises of our homes,” she said in Filipino in Chavacano accent.

Besides its hydroponic gardening program, the Basilan provincial government, its constituent-local government units, the military and the police have jointly been assisting for three years now former Abu Sayyaf members produce vegetables in their barangays the traditional way.

The Basilan provincial government had earlier constructed modern, drip-irrigated greenhouses in Isabela City and in Maluso town where former Abu Sayyaf members can learn modern vegetable farming techniques.

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