SEARCA partners with DepEd Cavinti, Laguna in district-wide school and home gardens evaluation

  • By Zara Mae Estareja
  • 15 April 2024

CAVINTI, Philippines—The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) partnered with the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) Cavinti, Laguna Sub-office in implementing the fourth district-wide evaluation of the school and home gardens or the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) held from 25 to 26 March 2024.

Ms. Soledad Villanueva, public school district supervisor of Cavinti Sub-office and overall program chairperson with the SEARCA delegationMs. Soledad Villanueva, public school district supervisor of Cavinti Sub-office and overall program chairperson with the SEARCA delegation

With the theme "Sustaining School-plus-Home Gardens Program Through Continuous Partnership and Linkages," Ms. Soledad Villanueva, public school district supervisor of Cavinti Sub-office and overall program chairperson, expressed gratitude for the continuous and valuable support of SEARCA and their other partners during the opening program.

SEARCA Center Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio gave an aspirational message to the participating schools, highlighting the potential of transforming them into technology hubs that integrate traditional agricultural practices with modern technology to foster a holistic learning environment for the students. Moreover, he also stressed the importance of partnership in sustaining GPP and the need to further strengthen collaboration with the local government units and private sectors.

Among the school and home garden evaluators were three SEARCA staff members, with Ms. Anna Gale Vallez, program specialist of the Research and Thought Leadership Department, as the overall chairman of the board of judges. She was joined by Ms. Zara Mae Estareja, senior associate for public relations, Partnerships Unit, and Ms. Marilyn Jansalin, program associate, Office of the Deputy Director for Programs. With other judges and guests, they visited 15 primary schools, which were categorized into small, medium, and large based on school area and garden size, as well as four secondary schools. Criteria for judging the gardens included the diversity of vegetables planted; the adoption of innovative strategies and technologies; the establishment, maintenance, and sustainability of the garden; and its contribution to the school feeding program. Additionally, 11 home gardens were assessed based on sustainability and productivity.

Following a rigorous assessment, Sumucab Elementary School stood out as the winner in the small school category. It maximizes its small space by using creative and ingenious planting containers, such as bamboo poles, empty plastic bottles, and old clothes and shoes.

Sumucab Elementary School's gardenSumucab Elementary School's garden

Meanwhile, Layasin Elementary School claimed first place in the medium school category for its terraced vegetable garden. The school also produces its own organic fertilizer and pesticide from locally available materials, such as fermented plant juice (FPJ), fermented fruit juice (FFJ), oriental herb nutrient (OHN), and eggshell as source of calcium.

The entrance to Layasin Elementary School's gardenThe entrance to Layasin Elementary School's garden

Lumot Elementary School emerged as the winner in the large school category with its diverse garden, showcasing a variety of go, glow, and grow vegetables; herbs; flowers; and fruit-bearing trees. The school also established an aquaculture pond, a mushroom farm, and a poultry shed. It also featured innovative irrigation practices using plastic bottles and bamboo poles.

A diorama of Lumot Elementary School's gardenA diorama of Lumot Elementary School's garden

Lumot Elementary School’s innovative irrigation system using bamboo polesLumot Elementary School’s innovative irrigation system using bamboo poles

Among the secondary schools, Calminue Integrated National High School came first with its array of green and healthy vegetables ready for harvesting.

Calminue Integrated National High School's gardenCalminue Integrated National High School's garden

On the other hand, Sumucab Elementary School and Calminue Integrated National High School were awarded winners of the home gardens evaluation.

The winners received cash prizes from SEARCA and gardening tools from CBK Power Company Limited. All participating schools received propagation materials from the Center, with Cavinti Elementary School receiving gardening tools as the Hall of Famer. Other distinguished guests who graced the event were Cavinti Mayor Arrantlee Arroyo, Philippine DepEd - Division of Laguna Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Editha Atendido, and Cavinti Municipal Agriculturist Vina Lorraine Orolfo.

SEARCA, alongside UPLB and the Philippine DepEd - Division of Laguna, initiated the School-plus-Home Gardens Project, which was implemented from January 2016 to June 2017. This project aimed to improve the nutritional condition and dietary habits of school-aged children by increasing the production of locally adapted vegetables through school gardening, contributing to the community's food and nutrition security. Following its success, the Center implemented its offshoot projects, namely, the School-Plus-Home Gardens cum Biodiversity Enhancement and Enterprise (SHGBEE) in Palawan, Philippines and Cambodia, and the School Edible Landscaping for Entrepreneurship (SEL4E) in Rizal, Philippines.