THE Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) has started a garden-based education and nutrition project in five elementary schools and one high school in Laguna to help malnourished and impoverished children.
The nutrition project is a collaboration with the Department of Education-Division of Laguna (DepEd-Laguna) and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) under a memorandum of agreement signed in July to institutionalize cooperation in the implementation of school and home gardens.
Searca’s project titled “A Participatory Action Research on School- and Community-based Food and Nutrition Program for Literacy, Poverty Reduction, and Sustainable Development” was initially launched in pilot schools in Cabuyao, Alaminos, Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Pila and Santa Cruz towns.
One of the pilot projects in Majayjay Elementary School organic garden which includes the Searca-supported school garden, is a 100-square meter area with a small greenhouse equipped with a rainwater collection system that serves as a seedling nursery.
The garden has been planted with different vegetable crops based on the school garden design and plan prepared in April 2016 during the Seminar-Workshop on School Garden Planning. The garden produce will be used in the School-based Feeding Program of the DepEd.
Dr. Gil Saguiguit Jr., Searca director, said the project, which started in January, aims to improve the nutritional condition and dietary habits of school-aged children and contribute to the community’s food and nutrition security.
“These school and home gardens are being promoted as learning sites and source of nutritious food and savings or income for the school children, their families, and the participating schools,” Saguiguit said.
He also explained the importance of maintaining school and home gardens to heighten appreciation for agriculture among the youth, and to protect the environment.
“These gardens address the looming problems of rural poverty and hunger, which prevent access of many school children to quality education,” Saguiguit added.
For his part, Dr. Fernando Sanchez Jr., UPLB chancellor, acknowledged the significance of the school and home gardens project in translating UPLB’s commitment “to reach out to the Filipino people through knowledge and technology sharing.”
“Participating schools and communities will greatly benefit from the technical training and information on edible landscaping, nutrition, and organic agriculture that the UPLB staff will share with them,” Sanchez explained.
DepEd-Laguna led by schools division superintendent Dr. Josilyn Solana said SEARCA’s project aligns well with the “Gulayan sa Paaralan” (school vegetable farm) advocacy of DepEd.
“This is an opportunity to better equip selected teachers for training students, other teachers, and the community on the best practices in small-scale gardening, organic agriculture and innovative gardening techniques and methods,” Solana said.