In December 2020, the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) started planting urban gardens on its premises.
Measuring around 15 to 20 square meters each, the urban gardens have three locations: in front of the hospital kitchen, behind the psychiatry building and in front of the TB-DOTS clinic, the latter mainly dedicated to papaya trees.
The gardens were constructed from recycled materials, including containers from the laundry section, bags from the diet section, old wood and donated plastic containers.
Although construction began in the last month of 2020, the idea was actually planted a year earlier.
âAround 2019, I was invited to an activity of the Rotaract Club of Zamboanga City West called Siembra Paz (Planting Peace). In this activity, they visited a relocation site for internally displaced people within the Zamboanga headquarters in 2013 and taught them urban agriculture. I was very impressed with their success and asked to meet their consultant, Mr. Muneer Hinay. We exchanged ideas and I noticed that it would be a very good idea to have an urban garden at ZCMC â, explains Dr Afdal B. Kunting, MD, MPH, FPCP, head of the medical center of ZCMC (MCC) .
READ: A Garden of Hope: The community garden is a source of food, profit and hope for community members displaced by the Zamboanga siege
They couldn’t go ahead with the idea because the hospital was under different management with different priorities. This changed when Dr. Kunting became MCC in November 2020. âMr. Hinay contacted me regarding our projects. We have had meetings with our gardeners, dietetic sections and engineers. Initially, training was given in urban and container gardening methods (and) hydroponics, and then the construction of the raised beds for the containers was carried out, âsays Dr Kunting. “(We) officially started in February 2021. We had our first harvest in March.”
Even though they cut costs by using recycled materials, funding, not to mention labor, remained a challenge. The hospital needed money to buy materials such as “garden soil, fertilizers, seeds, coconut peat and hydroponic solution.”
Fortunately, they managed to overcome these challenges. âWe got the support of Mr. Hinay and his Kids Who Farm foundation,â says Dr. Kunting. âLater the DA (Department of Agriculture) also gave us seeds and I was able to get donations of chicken manure from friends, the PCA (Philippine Coconut Authority) also gave us coconut peat. “
The gardens are made up of container gardens, which grow herbs and vegetables like pechay, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, green beans, kangkong, basil, garlic chives and lemongrass; a hydroponics crop that grows lettuce, eggplant and kangkong, and papaya trees planted inside the tires for support. It is maintained by the gardeners and the staff of the hospital’s dietetic section. âThe vegetables are used for the patients, the surplus being distributed to the staff. Lettuce is sold to have working capital, âsays Dr. Kunting.
Although small in size, the gardens had a big impact on the hospital. âWe can give super fresh vegetables to patients and staff,â says Dr. Kunting. âOur menu has also been modified to incorporate the regular harvest of vegetables. We have also reduced some expenses. We also recycled many items that would have been thrown away. “
It also changed the mindset of the hospital staff in a positive way. âWe used to think that preparing healthy, pesticide-free food for patients would be difficult and expensive. This experience has taught us that healthy eating can be affordable and accessible, âshares Dr. Kunting, adding that two of the biggest benefits urban gardens have brought to the hospital areâ healthy eating (and) committed staff. “.
On the strength of these encouraging results, the hospital plans to extend the garden to the roof terrace of its new tower and to the flower beds in the car park. âWe also plan to grow fruits like grapes, strawberries and melons on the papayas we are currently growing,â says Dr. Kunting. “We are also planning to organize educational sessions on organic container farming for staff and patient observers so that they too can create their own urban gardens.”
Needless to say, Dr Kuntung and the rest of the hospital staff were very happy with the hospital’s latest addition. âThere are many advantages to having an urban garden,â he says. “Try.”
Photos courtesy of Kids Who Farm
Learn more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph
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