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Police-led community gardens provide peace, order, and vegetables

At first glance, local community gardens are mere patches of land where gardeners grow eggplants, okra, and some greens like pechay and mustasa, and have very little to do with local development. However, in the town of San Isidro in the island of Siargao, Surigao del Norte, community gardens serve very important social, organizational, and economic roles. 

Local community gardens draw people together around two common points: everyone eats and everyone appreciates beauty. When a small vacant patch of land becomes a thriving garden filled with vegetables and other plants, neighbors tend to look and push themselves to be part of it too. Slowly, the former vacant patch of land becomes a community garden that produces food and income for the community and the barangay

Hardin ng Pagbabago (trans. Garden of Change) is a major police-community relations program of San Isidro Municipal Police Station in the Island of Siargao. It is a community gardening program already launched in twelve barangays in San Isidro. 

“With assistance from our respective Pulis ng Barangay and local residents, we are now in the process of making, maintaining, and sustaining twelve beautiful and sustainable organic vegetable gardens,” said PSI Wise Vicente B. Panuelos, San Isidro Municipal Police Station Chief of Police. 

Community gardens help preserve peace and order
The project highlights its direct impact to preserve peace and order. The small surf island of Siargao has been recently named as the Best Island in Asia. Tourists from all over the world arrive in huge numbers daily. There is an indication of a trend that more tourists will come soon. With this influx of domestic and foreign tourists, and with farmers leaving their lands in order to be part of the exponentially booming local tourism industry as service providers, Siargao Island will be in a deep food security problem.

“The community garden program is launched with maintaining peace and order in mind,” PSI Panuelos added.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Hardin ng Pagbabago organizes the locals and turns them into a powerful force in pursuit of a positive change in their own community.

Kung ang mga foreigners o ‘yung mga mayayaman lang ang umaangat sa tourism [sa Siargao], ‘yung mga mahihirap ay mas lalong mahihirapan dahil sa mahal ang pagkain, imported pa sa mainland. High price ang result; kawawa naman ‘yung mga mahihirap. At malaki ang probability na ma-involve sila sa mga krimen kasi sila ang direktang apektado sa negatibong epekto ng tourism.”

The aim of the Hardin ng Pagbabago is to establish sustainable community gardens in every barangay to produce locally grown organic vegetables and spices to support the need of the local community as well as to improve the local economy of San Isidro and the whole of Siargao.

Helping communities attain food security is a crime prevention measure. Food security equates to decreasing poverty, less poverty equates to less crime.

“There is no reason for the Siargao Island to be dependent on the imports of agriculture products from other places. These community gardens will be the future sources of their food, fund, and pride.”

“As an entity in charge of peace and order, uniting people through a livelihood program is one effective way to attain a safer place to live. We empower people, we provide guidance to facilitate them to the right track,” PSI Panuelos added.

SIR CHIEF. PSI Wise Vicente B. Panuelos, San Isidro Municipal Police Station Chief of Police: "As an entity in charge of peace and order, uniting people through a livelihood program is an effective way to attain a safer place to live."

Community gardens create a sense of community
Local community gardens can lead to greater community engagement and pride. “Hardin ng Pagbabago aims to promote unity, cooperation, and partnership to contribute significant impact to the residents of San Isidro and nearby towns of Siargao Island,” Chief Panuelos said.

This community garden project is also a local competition. Each participating barangay will compete for the title of "Best Hardin ng Pagbabago sa Barangay".

A total of Php 50,000 will be awarded the top 3 barangays who will gain the highest points during evaluation. The participating community gardens will be evaluated twice a year and there will be an annual awarding for the best and sustainable community gardens.

To ensure continuous and sustainable implementation of the project, the Pulis Ng San Isidro has successfully tapped all existing farmers association of San Isidro to adopt the project as their livelihood and food security program for their respective communities. These organizations will lead the community in the improvement, maintenance, sustainability, and expansion of their community gardens.

In one of their meetings with the participating barangays, the policemen asked “Kaya ba?” (Can you do this?). The crowd replied with a response loud and clear: “KAYA!” (Yes, we can!)

The Pulis Ng San Isidro has no doubt that one day, the local communities of San Isidro and Siargao will reap the rewards of their labor, unity, cooperation and sense of responsibility. The AGREA Team

Hardin Ng Pagbabago is a major police-community relation program of San Isidro Municipal Police Station in partnership with the Local Government of San Isidro, Municipal Agriculture Office, Rural Health Unit, Department of Education, The Sun Crew Siargao, and AGREA.

Be a volunteer gardener at Hardin ng Pagbabago sa Barangay. For information, visit their official Facebook page @SanIsidroMPS, or call their hotline 0998-953-5810.

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