Food, livelihood, better lives: SMPC ramps up 2023 sustainability projects
The start of a new year is a fresh opportunity for Semirara Mining and Power Corporation to renew its commitment to sustainability efforts through conscientious environmental stewardship and social development. SMPC’s socially-inclusive programs are all aimed toward creating transformational community impacts in Semirara Island and the host municipality through the sustainable management of the environment, cultivating and nurturing biodiversity, and improving the lives and livelihood of its host communities.
This 2023, SMPC will ramp up efforts directed toward these objectives with programs that are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. Specifically, the company will focus on three areas — agroforestry community farming, poultry, and aquaculture — that will help enable long-term island sufficiency, alleviate poverty, provide livelihood income and food security, and boost the island’s resilience beyond the life of the Semirara mine.
SMPC has established an agroforestry project in Sitio Bigo, Barangay Alegria, Caluya, Antique that has so far generated livelihood for 34 local farmers from both Sitio Bigo and Sitio Bunlao. The farmers were provided the necessary training on agri-crop production, with TESDA certificates to be issued this January 2023.
Under the project, native and introduced cash crops, vegetables, and fruits are propagated in nurseries, while small farmers are provided seedlings to grow either in their owned lots or communal vegetable gardens. Sustainable farming practices are also adopted, including composting biodegradable waste as organic fertilizer, proper waste management, and sustainable water resource system.
This combination of agriculture and forestry will provide multiple benefits: enhanced yields from staple food crops, higher farming income, increased biodiversity, improved soil structure and health, reduced soil erosion, and increased carbon sequestration.
While the island sources vegetables and root crops mainly from nearby Mindoro and the Antique mainland for its food supply, the project’s produce has enabled local residents to enjoy accessible food supply at reduced market prices, given the elimination of interisland transport costs.
In 2022, the project yielded over 20,500 kgs of assorted fruits and vegetables, 96 percent of which were sold, contributing to the island’s food security. The remaining 4 percent was used for local consumption, providing a sustainable way to build a thriving food economy in the community.
Furthermore, the farm also aims to utilize natural grown and planted bamboo in Semirara Island as another source of livelihood through the production of sustainable bamboo furniture, utensils, and other materials.
In partnership with a technical training school and relevant government agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, 16 locals have been trained who can now produce bamboo and rattan handicrafts and bamboo furniture sets that they can sell. The training given them focused not only on production but also on financial and marketing management.
Another alternative livelihood for locals is the cage-free farming of selected breeds of various domestic stock on a semi-commercial backyard scale. SMPC’s poultry farm project has distributed some 1,500 quail livestock so far, generating a total egg produce of more than 30,000 and giving beneficiaries additional income and food sustenance.
The Semirara Biodiversity Conservation Center is instrumental in building the capacity of the community beneficiaries, equipping them with farming skills and sustainable poultry farming techniques. SMPC also aims to establish a farmers’ cooperative involving women and senior citizens who will be trained in running the poultry project.
Another highlight of this program is the raising of cage-free and non-GMO pekin ducks for food production to create a new industry in Semirara Island. SMPC will provide beneficiaries with trainings, appropriate facilities, and food machinery and equipment to prepare specialty food products such as pekin duck hamonado, pekin asian style pre-processed duck meat and duck liver patè within the standards of the food industry.
With majority of aquaculture products such as bangus and prawn sold in Semirara Island sourced from nearby Mindoro, there remains a big demand for these products in the island.
Thus, SMPC, through its Semirara Marine Hatchery Laboratory, is looking to establish a viable aquaculture industry in the island that can supply seed stock of mangrove crab (an ecologically significant and economically viable species of crab found in many Asian countries) and other seafood to local fisherfolk and neighboring areas.
SMPC has sponsored technical training seminars on mangrove crab hatchery operations and techniques at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center/Aquaculture Department in Tigbauan, Iloilo. Furthermore, SMPC will assist aquaculture farmers by providing initial stocks (fingerlings) purchased from reputable sources at the initial project stage, and the materials needed for constructing fish pens, with technical help from invited experts from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the Department of Agriculture, and other relevant agencies.
Responsibly tapping the area’s coastal marine resources can generate rich and diverse aquaculture products that can support the island’s self-sufficiency and eco-tourism initiatives.
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