Manila (AsiaNews) – The diocese of San Jose, in northern Philippines, has decided to promote integrated organic agriculture to empower farmers.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the local bishop, Mgr Roberto Calara Mallari, said that the initiative is designed to meet the needs of the local population, “80 per cent of whom are farmers, who need the Church’s support and guidance. Through the diocesan Social Services Centre, farmers acquire skills and know-how to boost the local economy.
The diocese is about 130 km from the capital Manila, in the province of Nueva Ecija. Created in 1984, it is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. Some 700,000 Catholics live in the area, served by 45 priests and 20 nuns in 21 parishes.
The most recent challenges are illegal mining, the rise of rebel groups and unstable weather.
The region is known as the country’s rice greenery, with rice as the staple food, Mgr Mallari said. “Our farmers don’t know how to grow organic rice. We encourage them to opt for medicinal plants, as well as indigenous alternative medicine.”
The diocese is also involved in “empowering women,” the prelate said. “Women need skills to take advantage of job opportunities. Through the diocesan family life [programme], we are trying to empower them to become agents of social change.”
Likewise, the diocese has “feeding programme” for children “so that they can have a healthy life.” In fact, “For a child, nutritious food is important to grow into a healthy person.”
“When children lack nutritious food, their brain development is affected. When that happens, they may not develop into productive adults later.” At the same time, “Our feeding programme is part of a broader social project.”