SEARCA steps up home garden project

An agricultural think-tank has strengthened its partnerships for its School Plus Home Garden Project (S+HGP) as producing food became a pressing need during Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) is now replicating its S+HGP through partnerships, primarily with the Department of Education (DepEd).

The S+HGP has already expanded from the six pilot schools to 28 more educational institutions.

In its pilot work on S+HGP in six schools in Laguna, Searca found out that parents of schoolchildren also learned the multiple importance of home gardens.

“More than just establishing home gardens, the parents developed a greater sense of responsibility to ensure good nutrition for their children, while also saving on food expenses. It highlighted the multi-functionality of school gardens,” Searca said in a statement.

The project is also multi-functional as it also encompasses the promotion of environmental sustainability, organic agriculture, edible landscaping, climate change education and solid waste management, or the use of agricultural wastes as organic fertilizer.

The S+HGP also stresses the important role of local government units (LGUs) that can provide funds for a more unified and locality-wide home gardening initiative.

“Plus S+HGP promotes year-round production of nutritious food from both the school and home gardens, and (involving) LGUs to allocate funds, providing capacity building initiatives and services to maintain the school gardens or helping parents establish home gardens,” Searca said.

Searca Director Glenn Gregorio is also pushing for DepEd to including an agriculture subject or course in the K-12 curriculum, particularly in senior high school, where youngsters are trained on technical-vocational skills.

For her part, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said DepEd will explore urban-based gardening for schools like gardening on rooftops and pots.

“Make agriculture sexy like grafting. That is very interesting, kasi may (application) ng science iyan (Science has an application on that). Hindi ka lang nagtatanim at gumagawa ng (You are not just planting and making) organic fertilizers,” she said.