SEARCA to help develop gardens in Cambodia

The Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) will help develop edible landscaping in Cambodia with the Center of Excellence on Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Nutrition (CE SAIN) of the Royal University of Agriculture.

Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, said a training held at the CE-SAIN Agricultural Technology Park (ATP) in Siem Reap, Cambodia from May 23-25, 2023 aimed to inspire and motivate students about the science and art of crop production through school gardening.

Gregorio said five partner high schools in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap sent at least 20 high school teachers and school garden, and nutrition coordinators who have undergone training on technical know-how on crop production and garden setup structures applicable to ATPs and mini ATPs.

He said participants from Cambodia have seen edible landscaping as a relevant technology to setting up aesthetic garden structures in ATPs and mini ATPs.

The participants were introduced to edible landscaping that is a practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting that uses edible crops in a landscape design.

Edible landscaping enhances a garden set-up with unique ornamental components entwined with additional health, aesthetic and economic benefits.

With this, Gregorio said Cambodian students will appreciate the science of farming and the art elements and principles of landscape design as they learn the basic techniques for designing, implementing and maintaining edible landscape gardens.

Bryan Apacionado, assistant professor from the College of Agriculture and Food Science of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, led the lectures and hands-on activities.

Apacionado demonstrated how to produce organic concoctions and extracts as plant growth enhancers and sustainable alternatives to chemical-based fertilizers.

Nur Azura binti Adam, SEARCA's deputy director for programs, also lectured on beneficial insects and natural enemies, as well as principles of integrated pest management or IPM.

The training participants also visited mini-ATPs in Siem Reap, Cambodia and presented their updated action plans that will serve as inputs to SEARCA and CE SAIN's School-plus-Home Gardens cum Biodiversity Enhancement Enterprise (SHGBEE) participatory action research project in Cambodia.

Gregorio said this technical training on edible landscaping was one of the offshoots of the first collaborative capacity-building initiative of SEARCA and CE SAIN in 2021, a weekly online training ran from November 2021 to March 2022 dubbed the "Trainers' Training for Integrating SHGBEE in the Establishment of ATPs and Mini-ATPs in Cambodia."

He said the training was designed to educate and facilitate knowledge sharing on the establishment of school and home gardens; and integrate key concepts of agriculture, food and nutrition, biodiversity enhancement and entrepreneurship in lesson plans or academic curricula.

The training also aimed to promote strategies that will inspire and motivate the youth in Cambodia to pursue agriculture-related courses, Gregorio added.