THE old concept of school gardens in the Philippines, now with a focus on the nutrition of school children while introducing them to agriculture at a young age, is gaining a region-wide support and will soon be replicated in Southeast Asian countries.
This came after the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) proposed to member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year.
In 2017, SEARCA first introduced the Philippine concept of school gardens during the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) High Officials Meeting held in Bangkok.
SEARCA Director Gil Saguiguit Jr. was even commended for proposing to education officials from ASEAN member-states including Timor-Leste the promotion and establishment of school gardens throughout the region.
"We are supporting and pushing for school gardens as a way to address school children's nutrition, education needs and to generate interest in agriculture at a young age," he said.
According to Saguiguit, it was recognized at the said regional meeting that SEARCA successfully demonstrated how school gardens can improve the health and nutrition of schoolchildren while providing opportunities for learning by experience and raising the economic well-being of their families.
"Credit goes to the Philippines and SEARCA for piloting the innovative school gardens concept and showing that it works," he added.
In one high school and five elementary schools in Laguna province, SEARCA piloted the school gardens program in cooperation with the Department of Education-Laguna and the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
One of the schools, Labuin Elementary School in Pila town in Laguna, won the 2017 SEAMEO-Japan Education and Sustainable Development Award for its school garden project.
Saguiguit said training and other capacity building activities to transfer the unique school gardens concept to other Southeast Asian countries will radiate from said pilot schools.
He said there are other alternatives through which SEARCA promotes ISARD and among them is through agri-tourism and the establishment of a Southeast Asian AgriMuseum.
"These may be basic things but they have the potential to enable SEARCA to better articulate its message and mission," Saguiguit said.