Morong, Rizal – In a groundbreaking initiative, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) partnered with the Department of Education Schools Division of Rizal (DepEd–Rizal) to organize a three-day training program on sustainable food production for schools and communities. Conducted under the project, School Edible Landscaping for Entrepreneurship (SEL4E) in Rizal Province, the training was held on 24–26 January 2024, at Tomas Claudio Memorial Elementary School (TCMES) and Morong National High School (MNHS) in Morong, Rizal, with a vision of establishing home gardening as a cornerstone for improving the food and nutrition security of school children and their families in the Province. The training provided a dynamic platform for at least 50 participants including school heads, Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) coordinators, Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP) and Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) department heads, barangay officials, and parents to delve into sustainable agricultural practices.
At the beginning of the session, Dr. Grace Ancheta, the public schools district supervisor of Morong Sub-Office, set an optimistic tone by expressing her enthusiasm for the collaboration. She emphasized the crucial role of empowering local communities through sustainable agriculture and highlighted the potential for lasting positive impacts on the region. Dr. Gerlie Tatlonghari, head of SEARCA's Research and Thought Leadership Department (RTLD), provided additional insights, highlighting the significance of the SEL4E project in addressing immediate nutritional needs and improving long-term health outcomes for children and families.
Ms. Anna Gale Vallez, program specialist of SEARCA-RTLD, provided a comprehensive overview of the SEL4E project, shedding light on its strategic focus. The initiative aims not only to impart knowledge but also to actively involve building partnerships among local government units and agencies, enhancing educational capacities, and promoting sustainable farming practices deeply rooted in the community.
Facilitated discussions were led by Mr. Antonio Flores II, technical consultant of the SEL4E project and Mr. Justin Paolo Interno, a resource person cum facilitator. The modules covered crucial aspects of sustainable agriculture such as agroecology, container gardening, waste management, soil fertility, seed saving, vegetable production techniques, and garden ecology management. The training also engaged participants in garden tours and hands-on activities such as soil testing, land preparation, transplanting, hydroponics, and preparation of natural farm inputs.
In the closing session, Mr. Flores encouraged participants to reflect on their experiences and actively engage in collaborative planning for the future of community gardens in the province. Mrs. Alegria Belga, head teacher of Tanay-Sampaloc National High School, expressed her gratitude by stating that the training has truly opened their eyes to the possibilities of sustainable agriculture. She added that they feel equipped and inspired to contribute to the success of the school and community gardens in the province. This testimonial resonated with the theme of training, where active engagement fostered a substantial sense of shared responsibility and commitment among the participants. As the program concluded, Ms. Vallez stressed the importance of a sustained collaboration among its stakeholders for the future of schools and community gardens in Rizal Province.