Mabi speaks at Sama Sama, Sari-Sari

Shared on June 19, 2021

As a writer and researcher member of Slow Food Sari-sari, a coalition of volunteers involved in creating agrobiodiverse food gardens in low-income communities in Quezon City

What I deeply dream of about the food we want is that good, clean, fair food is available for all. Food that is healthful, and ecologically and ethically grown is not “pang-mayaman” but one we are all entitled to and within reach.

At SFSS we know that one of the ways we make this possible is by learning to grow our own food–through which we tap our own power and control rather than surrendering it to giant corporations. 

What we have done to grow this is the co-creation of agroecological, biodiverse food gardens in low income communities, specifically in Payatas and Bagong Silangan, in partnership with the urban poor residents. Over 16 weeks, we grow this community of practice using the experiences of our Payatas urban growers and guided by a rights-based framework, which we then documented in an online toolkit that we are sharing as part of the commons. We have received inquiries and requests for support and given that SFSS is volunteer driven, we thought that a toolkit with downloadable modules and actual experiences will help promote the mainstreaming of such gardens.   

More than a toolkit, we want this to be a way to name and acknowledge what we have learned together, given how valuable the restoration of the commons is in the process of manifesting–in our case, the world we want in a way that benefits all and not just a select few. And we are really grateful to be part of this Living Library, and contribute to building a commons.

What I have learned about local food and community health is how deeply intertwined these two concepts are with the conversation on and struggle for human rights. Specifically that a right to food is connected to one’s right to land, whether in the rural or urban setting. This can be a blind spot for those like us who do not have to worry about eating three times a day. We were confronted with this first hand in Payatas, with no land to call their own and with their right to housing violated, you imperil a community’s ability to feed itself and thrive as human beings.

 I’ve learned that conversations about local food and community health are best led by the community themselves, and we are here to listen and stand in solidarity with them. It also serves to strengthen a long-held belief that food, if we let it, is a tremendous teacher and threshold in one’s formation as a citizen.  

What I would love to ask for from this community is to be open and to lean into the discomfort. We hope this conversation is a way to cross the threshold for us–from feeling helpless to recognizing our power, from individual despair to collective hope. To accept the invitation to begin to leave behind old ways of doing, of outdated notions about who has power, influence, and control over the food system which soothe us in their familiarity and perhaps because we benefit from them. But we’re seeing these old ways are unjust, violent and extractive; they are destroying the planet and the lives of millions, while enriching a few. We are being invited to repair, redistribute, recreate, renew–to collectively transform with hope, wonder, joy, gratitude, courage, intention. It takes work–of both imagination and action. But it is work filled with so much meaning. And like what Vandana Shiva says, in this kind of work, the world gives you great company.   

We can make agrobiodiverse gardens as common as sari-sari stores! Join us:

By goodfoodcommunity

Good Food Community is an alternative distribution system based on ethical and ecological farming that transforms consumers into co-producers.

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