DepEd, SEARCA renew partnership on agri education

THE Department of Education (DepEd) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) have renewed a long-term partnership to promote agriculture among Filipino learners and educators.

According to SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio, the partnership is for the two agencies to collaborate on several activities, including joint research, capacity building activities, and knowledge and information exchange that benefit both learners and educators in the Philippines.

The institutional cooperation between DepEd and SEARCA was formalized under a memorandum of understanding (MoU) during the Strategic Planning Workshop of the DepEd-Bureau of Learner Support Services or BLSS on June 29 in Tanza, Cavite.

Signatories to the agreement were Gregorio and then DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones with SEARCA Deputy Director for Administration Joselito Florendo and DepEd Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua as witnesses.

Gregorio noted that as part of the renewal of the partnership, SEARCA and DepEd are working to revitalize and scale up the School-plus-Home Gardens Project (S+HGP) which is a SEARCA initiative that complements DepEd's Gulayan sa Paaralan or GPP program.

On July 21, SEARCA conducted a training-workshop on vegetable production for teachers and local government units staff in Busuanga, Palawan with 44 school heads, GPP coordinators and agricultural extension workers from the region were trained by experts from Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI), one of SEARCA's partners.

Gregorio said the training – which was a partnership among SEARCA, DepEd, Kansas State University, Salvacion National High School in Busuanga, and Regalo ng Kilit Foundation – aims to enhance crop production and vegetable gardening activities to address food and nutrition insecurity and poverty in rural areas.

During the ceremonial MOU signing, he acknowledged the important role of DepEd in the country in promoting agriculture among the Filipino youth.

It was during a virtual event commemorating the 55th anniversary of SEARCA last year when graduate-level researches integrated into the curriculum of basic education was the call to action of Briones.

The former Education chief has expressed interest in translating the results of research and findings of SEARCA scientists and use them for basic education and for lessons that Filipino children can learn about sciences, arts and the wonders and beauty of the environment.

Gregorio noted that aligned with DepEd's mandate as a leader in curriculum and instruction, SEARCA prioritizes youth engagement in agricultural and rural development (ARD) as one of its seven priority areas geared to accelerate transformation through agricultural innovation.

He also expressed thanks to DepEd for its endless support to SEARCA in pursuit of its mission to uplift the lives of farming families and communities.

Undersecretary Pascua said SEARCA and DepEd have one common purpose.

"We want to develop and promote agriculture inside DepEd, and when I say inside DepEd, we hope to conduct training for teachers and administrative personnel to teach the basics of agriculture and utilize school sites as social laboratories for implementation of agriculture projects and hands-on activities," Pascua said.

Gregorio affirmed that DepEd's cooperation with SEARCA is a crucial step to maximize school and human resources as well as expand networks and mutually shared capacities.

SEARCA staff who joined Gregorio and Florendo in the signing ceremony were Ma. Victoria Bravo, executive assistant, office of the Deputy Director for programs; Nathan Felix, senior associate, public relations; and Katerina Vargas, senior associate, events and visitors.