Les Buena Lee is a farmer-graduate of SM Foundation’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) program Batch 147 in Tacloban. Not only has he used his knowledge to improve his life, he is also a great example of resilience.
Through the knowledge he acquired from the program, Les was able to expand his agri-production, enabling him to supply fresh produce, high value crops such as Chinese cabbage, kangkong, bell pepper, and sweet pepper to a number of restaurants and big grocery stores in Samar.
“After po ng training sa KSK, gumanda lalo ang aking mga ani kaya dumami po ang customer ko sa wet market, mga restaurant, karinderya at maging sa mga supermarket [After my KSK training, our harvests greatly improved. As a result, the number of our wet-market, kiosks, and supermarket customers increased],” Les shared.
Misfortune struck when typhoon Ursula hit the country back in December 2019. Les’ standing crop and all his farm inputs (seedlings, his formulation of organic pesticides and fertilizers and farm materials) were wiped out.
With his savings from previous harvests, Les traveled all the way to Manila to buy seedlings and other farm inputs to start anew.
However upon his return home to Tacloban, the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was imposed throughout the country. Knowing that this will affect his agri-enterprise, he thought of ways to make the lockdown less stressful and potentially profitable for him and his parents.
The entrepreneurial spirit in Les prodded him to convert the rooftop of his parent’s four-story lodging house in Tacloban into a container-urban garden. Through this, he was able to supply food for his family, friends, and other relatives during the ECQ.
“Lubos po akong nagpapasalamat sa SM Foundation dahil sa aking mga natutunan sa pagsasaka. Kapag umayos na ang sitwasyonat natapos na itong pandemic, muli akong babalik sa farm ko upang ipagpatuloy ang aking nasimulan [I am grateful to the SM Foundation for the many things I learned in farming. When the situation improves with the end of the pandemic, I will go back to (traditional) farming to continue with what I started],” Les said.
Les also shared his knowledge on agricultural technologies and urban farming with his community and advocates agribusiness as an alternative livelihood. According to him, it’s better to start small and just grow their farms rather than starting with a big farm right away, running the risk of mismanagement. By starting small, one can become familiar with the appropriate systems and farming technologies that work for them and then scale up after.
Kabalikat Sa Kabuhayan (KSK) is SMFI’s Social Good program focusing on sustainable agriculture. The program aims to uplift the lives of Filipinos in grassroots communities through sustainable agriculture, technology transfer, product development, and farm-market linkage. To date, the program has trained more than 26,700 farmers.