Inmates of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Jail (INPJ) look forward to harvesting fresh vegetables grown on healthy soil, which they produce out of scraps from the kitchen.

As a pilot site for household composting and urban gardening projects, at least 162 inmates of the INPJ are being trained to turn their food wastes into organic soil.

The organic soil comes from fermented food wastes mixed with locally available materials that help hasten decomposition without the foul odor.

Using an improvised bucket with a tight cover and a faucet for draining purposes, food wastes are properly segregated so that these may no longer be transported to the city landfill, which is becoming congested due to the rise in daily waste production.

Top photo: WANTED: SOILMATES. Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta-Marcos (4th from left), leads the launch of a household composting project at the Ilocos Norte Provincial Jail on Thursday (Oct. 1, 2020). The program is part of the provincial government’s efforts to encourage residents to use food wastes in creating healthy soil that can be used for urban gardening. (PNA photo by Leilanie G. Adriano)

During the launch of the household composting project on Thursday, Estrella Sacro, chief of the Environment and Natural Resources Office said it is high time for everyone to adapt “as the universe keeps on changing.”

As part of the “Narimat nga Aglawlaw”, an Ilokano term that means a “bright environment” program for the province of Ilocos Norte, local environment officials here are advocating for responsible waste management.

Starting with the inmates of the INPJ as partners for the household composting project, Ilocos Norte Vice Governor Cecilia Araneta-Marcos, who had been on the front line of advocating this project, said she hopes every household in the province would follow suit.

“We are just starting and we hope to sustain it with the cooperation of the community, particularly in urban areas with limited space for urban gardening,” Marcos said, as she shared her vision for every Ilokano home to have an edible garden to ensure food security amid the pandemic.

She said rural areas could likewise adopt the technology so they no longer need to apply synthetic fertilizer in growing their food.

At the INPJ, youth volunteers led by the 4-H club are assisting the inmates in developing organic gardens at the back of the jail compound.

INPJ inmates make a household bucket for composting. (Photo by Leilanie G. Adriano)

Crisner Lagazo, president of the 4-H Club and an accredited trainer of the Agriculture Training Institute, said they are teaching the inmates new agricultural practices they could immediately apply in the food garden.

“We are helping them set up vermibeds for them to have organic fertilizers and soon we will also introduce (a) livestock and piggery project,” Lagazo said.

Meanwhile, jail warden Benilda Sadian said it has been her long-time dream for the INPJ to have an organic and stable source of fresh fruits and vegetables for the inmates.

“We just don’t know how to start but we are thankful for showing us how,” Sadian said during the official launch of the household composting project, along with a seminar and hands-on training on urban gardening and edible landscaping at the INPJ. (PNA)