Livelihood opportunities bloom through MDC Greens

MDC Greens Farm

JOSEFINA CAJES wakes up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare breakfast for her family and to prepare herself for her job. Work for her means joining her neighbors to grow ornamental plants in a nearby two-hectare lot. After a day’s work, she heads home, prepares dinner and enjoys the rest of the evening with her family.

Manang Josefina, 65, is a resident of Southville 7, a resettlement site in Calauan, Laguna under the administration of the National Housing Authority. And just a few years ago, her now daily routine was one of extreme hardship.

Southville 7 is a relocation area where Informal settlers, who were victims of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, as well as those displaced by the Pasig River rehabilitation program, were transferred to. Currently, there are about 6,400 families/residents living in the settlement.

Unfortunately, the families living in Southville 7 had to deal with the lack of access to basic services such as water and electricity – a sad situation often common in resettlement areas. They also faced limited opportunities for employment.

In 2015, the MDC Greens Ornamental Farm was developed and with it came a hope of a better life for the residents of Southville 7.

A project of the Ayala Foundation and Makati Development Corporation (MDC), the construction arm of Ayala Land, Inc., the MDC Greens Ornamental Farm provides a source of livelihood for the residents of this resettlement site in Calauan, Laguna.

Working with local groups and the Salesians of St. John Bosco, Ayala Foundation and MDC decided that the community of Southville 7 needed a more sustainable solution for their plight. “We wanted the residents learn skills so that they can stand on their own in the long-run. The MDC Greens Ornamental Farm is an integral part of Alagang Ayala Land , our commitment to social development and environmental stewardship” said , Marlo Saul, MDC Greens Head.

The MDC Greens program initially enrolled 20 residents in the landscaping training program of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). For eight weeks, Manang Josefina and the other participants in this initial batch were trained in landscaping and the growing of ornamental plants.

After their training, they were employed to farm a two-hectare lot where they grew ornamental plants that were to be used for the increasing landscaping needs of MDC’s numerous construction projects.

Manang Josefina and her family is just one of the beneficiaries of the program. “Maganda na po ang buhay di tulad dati. Nakakaluwag-luwag na rin ako mula nang magtrabaho dito…. Nakakapag-ipon na. Di na umuutang,” she shared. (“My life now is better than before. I am able to save. I don’t take out loans anymore.,” she shared.)

Because of their participation in the enterprise, the farmers reportedly experienced a 137 percent increase in their monthly income. In fact, by the end of the year, they were earning close to P8,000 a month. They now have a steady livelihood without having to leave their families to travel all the way to Metro Manila for employment.

“Because of the promising results of the MDC Greens farms, we are engaging twenty more farmer-trainees, and have earmarked an additional two hectares of farmland to be tilled — bringing the total to four hectares of land,” reported Arturo Tolentino, Ayala Foundation Project Officer.

Like the plants they care for every day, Manang Josefina and her fellow residents now have a chance to grow and contribute to the development of their community.

Josefina Cajes in MDC Greens
In photo: Josefina Cajes