Gat's Garden

FEATURED SOCIAL ENTERPRISE: Gat’s Garden Natural Produce

Purok 3A, Tubigan, Initao, Misamis Oriental 9022 Philippines


Development of the small-scale backyard farm Gat’s Garden Natural Produced started early June of 2015. Owned and managed by the husband and wife team of Carmelo 'Melo' and Mary Grace 'Gat' Tugas, initially as a source of healthy and steady supply of organic vegetables and livestock for the family, it slowly started going commercial in growing organic produce by September of the same year upon experiencing a bumper crop of high-value vegetables and culinary herbs.

'My wife and I held many misconceptions about social enterprises that hindered us from making the dream a reality.' - Melo Tugas

They found it tragic that a lot of the community’s youth preferred to leave the town and seek employment in the cities, creating a drain of the local community’s talent and skill pool. Equally alarming were the number of out of school youths and men who were idle most of the time. The couple believe that with the proper training, these sectors of society could contribute to the local community as well.

However, without a proper background in establishing a social enterprise, the couple did not even know how to begin. Luckily, around February of 2016, Melon Tugas found a call on Facebook for the British Council’s Active Citizens: Leaders for Social Impact programme. After some thought, he sent in his application video, got in, and attended the four-day event.


This is what Melo has to say about his experience:

Prior to joining the Active Citizens Movement, the Social Impact aspect of Gat’s Garden was a mere dream. My wife and I held many misconceptions about social enterprises that hindered us from making the dream a reality. But three things I learned from being an Active Citizen erased all doubts and misconceptions about the SEs:

1. Defining your Social Impact

By putting down our dream into words we were able to better see where we had to go; we could set our limitations and extend our dream when and where we see fit. By stating our social impact we were able to simplify our objectives, making them more attainable.

2. Defining our part in the organisation

By recognising who are thinkers, doers and managers in our SE, we are now able to assign and delegate tasks to the right person based on our different profiles and personalities.

3. We are not alone.

Lastly, I learned that we are not alone. The biggest impact I felt with Active Citizens is how it has connected me with different individuals and organisations that are of one mind and heart in making a lasting impact and change in society. A group that continuously serves as inspiration and support for achieving each others’ goals. Through these learnings we were able to best apply our dream into a Social Impact that has started benefitting our local community. For all these, I thank the British Council in the Philippines (kudos to Angel, Berns, Chris, and Apa, and to our facilitators Richard of Balay Mindanaw, and Marge of Messy Bessy). Daghang Salamat!

With the Tugas children being the bridge, they were able to find a few young men and women that were interested in working while continuing their studies. From there they developed a partnership with the Open High school programme of Balulang National High School in Cagayan de Oro City. All these young people were enrolled, along with their own children, in a modified distance learning system wherein the students worked on their studies at their own pace gave them enough time in the day to have gainful employment.

As of the moment, there are four young men directly working at Gat’s Garden Natural Produce as farm assistants, while two other women and one young man work at other businesses in the community. 

It has been a roller-coaster ride these past few months, juggling the business and the social enterprise. On one hand, the Tugases are glad for the extra hands, but on the other it also means added expenses in the form of daily allowances and meals, as well as the needed school supplies, educational tools like maps, reference books and the sort. However, the Tugases are hopeful and are continuously striving to provide for their advocacy of promoting organic agriculture, and molding the youth into meaningful members of the community.