Under a color wheel umbrella, armed with shears and focus, Merly was busy marcotting her sunny-yellow San Francisco when BisiTahanan team of Sustainable Livelihood Program visited their humble home and growing garden in Brgy. Bukal, Padre Garcia, Batangas.
The Struggle for Growth
In 2012, Merly and Salvador Marquez and their kids have been labeled as a Pantawid family being eligible for conditional cash transfer. During those days the couple worked as garden laborers with an average income of P 300 per day.
The family rented a 1,000 sq. meter rectangular lot with a humble kubo for P 2,500 per month. Supporting a newborn child and a Grade 1 student that time was costly. Meeting their monthly dues was a struggle. Aling Merly is grateful for the amount they received from Pantawid since it helped a lot in supporting their children’s basic health and educational necessities.
But it was clear to them that as years pass by, their needs will grow so they need to grow their income also. So, pot after pot they acquired planting materials and ornamental stocks through kaltas-sweldo scheme (salary deduction) from their respective day jobs. They patiently propagated their few plants on their frontyard.
Plant propagation is no easy peasy. Sitting on a chair the whole day to do marcotting requires precision and skills since you can easily damage the delicate branches. Species also differ in soil media, water and shading requirements. Eugenia, to develop roots and harden, requires at least 6 months of proper management and waiting. Caring for ornamental plants really is a work of big hands and heart.
By the end of 2013, they have propagated Eugenia, Picara, and San Francisco varieties; and were able to get their microenterprise a soft start.
Caring for the Low-Hanging Fruits
In 2015, they joined a SEA-K association under the Sustainable Livelihood Program where members are in ornamental business. Self-Employment Assistance- Kaunlaran provides seed capital fund for the economically-active poor to support existing business or establish a new business in the community.
Merly recalls buying planting bags (100 pcs) at around P 500 and moss at P 100 per pack in agri-supply stores. But now they can purchase planting bags in their association at P 430 only and a pack of moss at P 70 pesos only. The Bukal Garden SEA-K Association also supplies rice hull, garden soil, pebbles, fertilizers, and plant stocks for the members at fairly cheaper prices than the commercial stores.
The association mobilize a rebate system where in they receive their balik-tangkilik every year-end which amounts to how much they spent on planting materials. As of now, the association is approaching the 200% mark on return on investments.
Sustainable Livelihood Program forms associations to capacitate and engage our communities in planning for their own livelihood projects and manage their available resources.
From Burdened to Blooming
Under their nursery, Merly tried to count the species of ornamentals she propagates and grows; and she estimated to have at least 30 species and varieties. Some of the best-selling species are the San Farncisco (Donya Carmen), Santan, Eugenia, Millionaires’ Star, Money plant, and Sambot Yaman. Though her family is not living on the level of their ornamentals’ names yet; a traffic of buyers from nearby towns and provinces had dramatically increased their income.
“Masaya kapag nakikita mo ‘yung mga halaman mo pagkagising sa umaga,” Merly shared as she remembered starting from rock-bottom. Merly and Salvador are happily working now on their own ornamental garden, welcoming visiting buyers, hiring farm aides sometimes and having less worries on meeting their monthly dues.