MANILA, Philippines – Mayor Datu Shameem Mastura of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, has found a way of sourcing relief goods for his constituents from local food producers.
His effort addresses two key concerns in this time of pandemic and quarantine: First, he is able to provide food for his constituents that is fresh and healthful. Second, he is able to help local food producers stay in business and keep his area's economy afloat.
Mastura began distributing rice and canned goods to affected communities in March, after the municipal government placed Sultan Kudarat under enhanced community quarantine as a safety measure against the spread of COVID-19.
On April 2 and 5, Mastura started distributing dressed chickens puchased from local growers to around 20,000 households.
“We believe that it won't hurt if our people can experience some small comfort amid this pandemic,” the 29-year-old mayor said.
In a Facebook post, Mastura called on local farmers to sell their produce to his office so that the municipal government can distribute fresh food to the community.
“Sa ngayon panawagan sa lahat ng mga farmers natin na kung sino may harvest diyan…. Dito na 'nyo ibenta para ipamigay sa taong bayan (For now, we are appealing to our farmers who have harvests to sell these produce to us so we can distribute them to the people in the community).”
Mastura’s wife, Bai Settie Shahara Mastura, who is also a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), said they distributed freshly harvested vegetables to around 5,000 residents of Sultan Kudarat.
“Araw-araw po tayong bibili ng gulay upang ipahamahagi sa tao (we will buy vegetables daily so we can distribute these with the people),” she said.
She said that canned goods manufacturers were already earning well from the relief packs purchased by government agencies, so they figured that the municipal government can also get their relief goods supply from local food producers such as farmers, fisherfolk, and poultry raisers.
“The next plan would be to buy fish, seafood, from our fishermen here,” she added.
The two officials said that while there were still no confirmed COVID-19 cases in their town, another challenge would be how they can sustain the relief efforts while keeping the local economy alive. – Rappler.com