Sharing the commitment to achieving food and nutrition security while promoting sustainable agriculture, and restoring biodiversity or ‘BioAgversity,’ the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) together with the Regalo ng Kilit Foundation, Inc. convened the First International Conference on School plus Home Garden cum Biodiversity Enhancement Enterprise (SHGBEE1) on 8-12 November 2022 at Coron, Palawan, Philippines.
With the theme “Restoring Biodiversity, Regenerating Agriculture, and Building Businesses,” SHGBEE1 provided a platform for sharing of experiences and best practices related to school and home gardens and its contributions to biodiversity enhancement and enterprise development in the Southeast Asian region.
The plenary sessions underscored how school and home gardens can be an entry point for the youth to be engaged in biodiversity restoration and protection while improving nutrition, health, and economic well-being of their families and communities. Experts from the Philippines, Cambodia, and Thailand gave insights and shared experiences on the application of SHGBEE at the local and regional levels. The speakers also put emphasis on having a holistic approach in achieving sustainable agriculture – enhancing biological diversity while linking it to farming systems and business.
More than 30 research initiatives were presented during the parallel sessions, which focused on the following thematic areas: a) Paving the way for sustainable school and home gardens through Conservation Agriculture for Organic Agriculture (CA4OA); b) Promoting SHGBEE through experiential K-12 Lessons; c) Harmonizing S+HGP with Biodiversity Enhancement, Community Enterprise, and Sustainable Livelihoods; and d) Fostering an enabling environment for SHGBEE through sound policy and NGO and private sector engagements.
The studies highlighted different mechanisms to engage students on agriculture as well as local communities while the technologies presented have the potential to be scaled up to benefit more farmers especially since these aim to produce optimal results at a lower cost. Additionally, the programs and initiatives of the universities have been received positively and can be considered as best practices for other localities.
The Conference also featured a two-day mobile workshop, showcasing facilities and practices that aim to increase understanding and appreciation of the indispensability of biodiversity as well as the need to enhance and conserve it while sustainably producing food and supporting local tourism as alternative sources of income for household and the community.
The group visited the Green Roof Garden, the urban garden showcase of Coron Natural Farms (CNF). The garden houses around 2,000 high value crops in a 50 square meter area. It also features sustainable farming technologies such as hydroponics and other prototypes. The participants also went to the Claudio Sandoval South Elementary School Garden, one of SEARCA’s partner-schools in its School-Plus-Home-Gardens project (SHGP).
Another highlight of the mobile workshop was the visit to the Siete Pecados Marine Park (SPMP), a multi-awarded Marine Protected Area (MPA) and among the model MPAs in the Philippines. Locally managed by the community, the success of the SPMP management demonstrates the value of a close partnership among community members and the local government along with increased awareness on the importance of sustainable fisheries and marine biodiversity conservation. The participants also visited the Tagbanwa Ancestral Domain where local officials shared best practices in protecting biodiversity while managing tourism zones in ancestral lands and waters.
The conference also coincided with the celebration of the Kilit Festival. Kilit, a Blue-headed Racquet-tail Parrot that is endemic only in Palawan, was officially launched as Coron’s municipal flagship species during the event.
The conference gathered more than 50 teachers and researchers from local schools, state universities and colleges (SUCs) and other higher education institutions (HEIs); and partners from the business/private sector and from non-government organizations from Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, United States, and Spain.