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AMVI-supported Mabakas Farm School turns former dump site into learning institution
JABONGA, Agusan del Norte – In continuously enhancing and bringing its initiatives closer to the needs of its communities, Agata Mining Ventures Inc. (AMVI) recently completed the establishment of the Mabakas Farm School in Sitio Coro, Jabonga Municipality – a project that is one year in the making, and which took-off from the company’s former Techno Demo Farm in the area. Prior to being a certified farm school, the facility served as a training site for vegetable and urban gardening as well as a community nursery for various plant species.
AMVI – a nickel laterite joint venture project of MRL Nickel Philippines Inc. and TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc. (TVIRD) – officially launched the facility some 1.5 kilometers away from the national road. The location formerly served as a municipal dump site, but with the local government’s permission, Agata constructed the new farm school to help enhance the community’s agricultural output.
The inauguration of the Mabakas Farm School was officially led by Jabonga Municipal Mayor, Hon. Jasmin Monton, and key Agata executives: General Manager Emilio T. Figueroa III and Community Relations Superintendent Jonathan A. Bañez. Also present during the event were Genome Fortun, on behalf of the Office of Senator Cynthia A. Villar, and Caraga Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Senior Agriculturist Heracleo Paler.
The LGU supported and agreed to let Agata use the area for a demo farm, explained Mayor Monton. She also expressed that the local government is equally committed to ensuring the farm school will be sustained beyond Agata’s mining operations and encouraged other agencies to support this as well.
“The company envisions a sustainable development for its communities through the establishment of the Mabakas Farm School. It can help alleviate malnutrition among the children and teach the parents how to grow organic vegetables in their own backyards,” according to GM Emil Figueroa.
The institution currently offers NCII courses Produce Organic Vegetable and Organic Agriculture Production – which are both certificate courses recognized all over the Philippines. Moreover, the school is also planning to offer other courses this year to develop skills and enhance the competitiveness of local farmers, including the indigenous Mamanwa community in Coro.
Bañez explained that the company has focused its programs on livelihood, coming at the heels of the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s (MGB) directive for mining companies to allocate 50 percent of Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) to sustainable livelihood.
Beyond this, the farm school is an Agata flagship project under its initiative, Integrated Area Growth Approach Towards Attaining Sustainability (IAGATA-S). It is also training its current staff to be certified instructors at the Mabakas Farm School in order to help accommodate the 160 students from host and neighboring barangays.
The students are divided into four batches while classes are initially held twice weekly from 08:00 AM to 05:00 PM. Each student is also given a pack of assorted vegetable seeds, courtesy of Department of Agriculture (DA), and school supplies from the Office of Sen. Villar.
Vegetable plots are assigned for the students to apply their theoretical knowledge, and after completing the course in two months, they will be given Certificates of Competency (COCs).
“Mabakas” is a Mamanwa word that stands for “hardworking.” The school imbibes this virtue as it endeavors to help the local farmers – tribal and non-tribal communities who are willing to learn.
“We can help our families and neighbors by teaching them the technology that we will learn in the farm school,” said Agata Community Liaison Cristopher G. Eduarte, who is presently a student at the Agata-supported facility. He also said that the knowledge that he will gain will help him and his fellow students generate additional income through the production of organic vegetables.
With the Mabakas Farm School conducting certified agricultural courses, Agata and the local government are confident more than ever that sustainable development is achievable.