By Edelynne Mae Escartin
ANGAT, BULACAN – Tony Meloto, the founder of Gawad Kalinga, believes the solution to poverty is to encourage more Filipinos to become farmers and build a sustainable ecosystem to support them.
The Gawad Kalinga or GK Enchanted Farm in Barangay Encanto in the Angat serves as a model for the organization’s goal of totally eradication poverty in the Philippines by 2024.
“Enchanted Farm was born because we want our poor people to have a sustainable livelihood. Here, they can have their own home in the village where they can send their children in the adjacent university,” describes Tony Meloto, founder of Gawad Kalinga, which has been building housing communities in underserved areas nationwide.
“In this community, they can have jobs and we are bringing a lot of brilliant people to teach them. Tourists are also welcome to the farm, they will be accommodated by the people and they can bring home souvenir items that are homemade.”
“By this system, both parties will benefit and we can make our people happy. We will lower the cost of living and at the same time we uplift the quality of life,” he explains.
The Angat community serves as a template for 24 such sites Gawad Kalinga intends to build.
The farm-based community is anchored on three phases: “Village University” that would provide the foundation for education, “Silicon Valley” that would harness social entrepreneurship and promote local resources, and “Disneyland”, so-called because of its “social tourism” thrust wherein visitors can have a first-hand experience of the Gawad Kalinga community.
Currently, the Bulacan community is in its second phase, carrying out livelihood programs meant to harness the skills of the residents, such as sewing for women and farming activities for men.
Such programs allow farmers at the GK community to earn 30 percent higher than minimum wage, according to Meloto, who emphasizes the need to help farmers have a better life.
“We do not want that the poor will be deprived. Our business ecosystem is where rich and poor people work together. We have a very simple concept for nation building—you eat, you shop, and you help us end poverty,” he says.
(Photos by Dae Bunao)
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