22 July 2022, Laguna Quezon Land Grant, Siniloan, Laguna. Merck Philippines took their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to the next level by adding another 300 indigenous Philippine seedlings to the Sierra Madres*; and an upland heirloom vegetable garden for the preservation, production and sharing of native vegetable seeds for the local communities – at the Laguna Quezon Land Grant (LQLG), part of an over 9,000 hectare forest reserve managed by FEED’s longest Living Legacy partner, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). The native trees was added to their 722 forest trees seedlings planted for each employee last 25th of June 2021.
During this year’s planting, Merck Philippines also requested to further engage our forest communities by incorporating the youth, so 15 of the forest families’ children, including their older brothers, sisters and some parents (to guide the kids) were invited to join the tree planting in order to strengthen the connection between the youth and their environment.
Planting fruit trees with the children and setting up seed beds full of native veggie seeds offered the kids a unique chance to learn about the importance of healthy foods that tackle malnutrition and can be grown in your own back gardens.
Merck Philippines wanted to promote a healthy partnership focused on health, environment, sustainability, poverty alleviation and nutrition-based planting, aiming to increase awareness for the protection, preservation and promotion of low-cost and high nutrition foods for the local community, so the next generation growing up in the forest become more familiar with agro-forestry best practices, the importance of food and water security upland and giving back to others who can benefit from perennial harvests and seed sharing.
The trees and vegetables planted by Merck Philippines and the local children have a direct impact not only on the environment but as importantly amongst themselves, as the future youth leaders and champions for environmental protection.
FEED adopts the scientific guidance and technical support from its academic and institutional partners, among others, the UPLB (on agro-forestry) and the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (or IIRR, for the installation of bio-intensive gardens), incorporating planting methods that have been tried, tested and proven sustainable.
The 54 dedicated participants from Merck Philippines drove 2.5 hrs from Manila to the LQLG planting site situated at the southern part of the Sierra Madre mountain range in order to fulfil their commitments to environment and community conservation.
After the early morning debrief on FEED’s Ridge to REEForestation approach, they trekked around 45 minutes to their planting site, which had already been prepare a day prior by some members of the permanent team of 30 plus LQLG forest guards.
The planting demonstration done by Forest Guard Larry shows that seedlings must be treated with great care, like a child – from its roots to its root collar up to its monitoring, maintenance and reporting of at least 85% minimum survival.
After a quality control check after the planting, we proceeded to base camp where Merck Philippines hosted thinking and fun games for the children in a friendly competition, where they also won prizes, including cash and school supplies.
Merck Philippines’ tagline resonated among all participants and forest guards, children and their families, who throughout the planting experienced the challenges that our frontliners face every day toiling our lands, forests and seas to forage for their livelihood by providing us with food. Farmers, foresters and fisherfolk experience some of the toughest hardships we rarely have a chance to witness, through rains, storms and physical exertion.
Nowadays, we rely on instant noodles and processed food that later on have a major effect on our health and dispositions.This project taught the children and their families to appreciate the value of native crops that may be taken for granted but which supply great nutritional value to everyone, making vegetable gardening one of the most low-cost yet sustainable solutions tackling malnutrition and poverty alleviation everywhere.
There is always good in the world for those who make it happen and share these simple joys in nature together.