The Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) recognized the School-Plus+Home Gardens Project (S+HGP) led by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and Department of Education (DepEd)-Laguna.
Winning this year's Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI) R&D Award (Development Category) conferred by LBSCFI was the "School-Plus-Home Gardens Project: A Participatory and Inclusive Model for Sustainable Development."
The award was jointly received by the S+HGP team represented by Dr. Blesilda M. Calub, Dr. Leila S. Africa, Dr. Bessie M. Burgos, and Mr. Henry M. Custodio, as well as the DepEd district supervisor and the principals and teachers of the S+HGP partner-schools in Laguna.
The school and home gardens project was piloted in one high school and five elementary schools in Laguna, namely: Labuin Elementary School and San Antonio Elementary School in Pila, San Andres Elementary School in Alaminos, Majayjay Elementary School in Majayjay, Crisanto Guysayko Memorial Elementary School in Nagcarlan, and Cabuyao Central School in Cabuyao, and Bagumbayan Elementary School and Pedro Guevarra Memorial National High School in Sta. Cruz.
A brainchild of former DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro conceptualized with then SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., the project revived and redesigned DepEd's earlier school garden programs to an innovative approach focused on nutrition, education, and economic well-being of school children, their families, and their communities.
He said the project focused on how the nutrition and education needs of school children may be addressed and, at the same time, introducing and making children appreciate agriculture at a young age.
Dr. Saguiguit said underlying all of these was how SEARCA, which is mainly concerned with higher education programs on agriculture and related fields, could assist DepEd whose focus is basic education and has limited expertise on agriculture.
The S+HGP was piloted in six schools in the province of Laguna with a model where harvests from the school gardens provided fresh vegetables for the school-based feeding program.
"The model also extended the gardening-feeding linkage to the establishment of food gardens in the school children's homes. More than just establishing home gardens, the parents developed a greater sense of responsibility to ensure good nutrition for their children while also saving on food expenses," said Dr. Bessie M. Burgos of SEARCA.
She added that the project championed the multi-functionality of school gardens as learning laboratories for educating pupils, teachers, and parents about sustainability concepts and interconnections of food and nutrition, organic agriculture, edible landscaping, climate change, and solid waste management.
"Mechanisms for sustaining and scaling up the initial success of the S+HGP were designed in a stepwise process where the pilot schools took the lead to pay forward and share their knowledge to other schools, particularly small schools in remote areas through intra-school and inter-district networking," Dr. Burgos said.
The network has grown from the six original pilot schools in 2016 to additional two adopted schools and 25 brother and sister schools as of August 2018.
SEARCA is likewise poised to upscale the S+HGP throughout Southeast Asia after obtaining the endorsement of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) High Officials to the SEAMEO Council composed of Ministers of Education of the 11 Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.
The success of the S+HGP was also recognized when Labuin Elementary School won an international award for its exemplary achievements in education and sustainable development (ESD) stemming from its most successful implementation of S+HGP among the pilot schools. The 2017 SEAMEO-Japan ESD Award was conferred by SEAMEO and Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MEXT) with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Regional Bureau of Education.