Rationale/ Background of the Study
The Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) is one of the flagship programs being implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd) nationwide. It was established to support the government’s initiative to prevent hunger and malnutrition among school children. In 2016, the Department focused on strengthening the implementation of the GPP to address malnutrition, promote vegetable production and consumption among school children, and encourage all schools to have their own garden to supplement the School-based Feeding Program (SBFP).
Also in the same year, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) implemented the project, “A Participatory Action Research on School and Community-based Food and Nutrition Program for Literacy, Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development”, commonly known as the School-plus-Home Gardens Project (S+HGP) in the province of Laguna. The project components include the following: 1) education or literacy (to increase knowledge and improve skills of students and teachers on food production and nutrition through experiential learning activities), 2) economics (to reduce food expenses, create savings, and provide an alternative source of income for families to alleviate poverty), and 3) nutrition (to increase diversity and availability of food to meet the nutritional needs of children).
In 2019, SEARCA, through the Regalo ng Kilit Foundation, conducted a scoping activity to some of the schools in Busuanga and Coron to assess the viability of implementing the model in the target schools and map out the resources and technical capacity-building needs of stakeholders. In 2020, SEARCA, in partnership with the Kansas State University (KSU), the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), DepEd-Busuanga, and DepEd-Coron, conducted the “E-training on School-plus-Home Gardens cum Biodiversity Enhancement (SHGBE) for Busuanga Island” to serve as platform to educate, exchange knowledge and experiences, and create awareness that shall strengthen the initiation of S+HGP in support of the GPP. Following these endeavors, a rescoping activity and a workshop was conducted on 20-22 April 2022 to revalidate and update the school garden action plans towards sustainability.
School gardening can be considered as one of the solutions to resolve malnourishment among school children and instill in them the importance and contribution of vegetable gardening activities to food and nutrition security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development. However, there are also constraints related to school gardening that were brought up during the workshop. Among the concerns include the following:
These issues would be addressed by providing technical assistance on the aspects of crop and vegetable production and soil productivity that would complement DepEd's programs and the LGU's intention to promote vegetable production techniques from land preparation to caring and maintenance of crops towards food security, thus a training-workshop on vegetable production was conducted to increase the capacity of LGU and other stakeholders in providing technical assistance on crop production and improving soil productivity in the school gardening activities of target schools.
Given the abovementioned activities, it is imperative that the school and home garden-related activities in Busuanga Island be sustained through multi-sectoral approaches and capacity development of all stakeholders concerned.
The general objective of the proposal is to scale out S+HG model through multi-stakeholder participation in improving the nutrition and health of children and their families in Busuanga Island by increasing production of locally adapted vegetables through school gardening and consequently contribute to the community’s food and nutrition security as well as to its biodiversity enhancement in Busuanga Island, Palawan.
Specifically, it aims to:
Approach and Methodology
Phase 1: Scoping and Organization
A pre-project implementation levelling-off workshop will be organized among the DepEd Palawan Division; the participating schools; Municipal Governments of Busuanga and Coron; and SEARCA. Specifically, the workshop aims to validate the project deliverables; develop the project logical framework; identify activities to be undertaken and tasking; formulate sustainability plan of the project; define institutional arrangements; and identify immediate next steps.
A project steering committee (PSC) composed of key persons from DepED – SDO Palawan, District Offices, LGUs, and SEARCA will be organized. Each institution shall assign a focal person who will facilitate project-related activities and lead the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the project.
A baseline form is prepared and will be distributed to all public elementary and high schools in Busuanga and Coron Districts (inland and coastal) (Appendix 1). The baseline activity will determine the existing garden structures, facilities, and practices related to school gardening. Additionally, a baseline study on the nutritional status of selected Grade 4 students under SBFP will be conducted. Initial data on weight and height of selected children will be gathered.
Each school will identify at least one cooperating partner in the implementation of S+HGP. The partners must have at least one child who is a beneficiary of the SBFP. The selected partners will be given kits including seeds, crop production guides, and other IEC materials relevant to the project implementation.
Phase 2: Capacity Building, Garden Establishment and Maintenance
For School Gardens
School Garden Establishment
The school garden and action plans initially prepared during the training/workshop will be used as guide in the establishment of the gardens. Initial planting materials will be sourced from concerned government agencies (e.g., DENR, DA, BPI, etc.), but seed saving/preservation will be practiced and nurseries will be established as a sustainable source of seeds and planting materials. The schools, on the other hand, will prepare the organic plant nutrients (e.g., FPJ, FFJ, FAA, Calcium, etc.) and organic plant pesticides. The schools will provide initial stocks of these to the partner home/community gardens.
Writeshop on Developing Lesson Plans
SEARCA aims to develop the existing school gardens as a learning farm where students can learn not only agriculture and gardening principles but also relate it to other subject matters like English, Science and Mathematics. The initially prepared lesson plans during the SHGBE e-training will be reviewed and compiled. These can be enhanced through a face-to-face writeshop for the development and updating of lesson plans aligned with DepEd’s learning modules for education’s new normal set-up and alternative learning delivery modalities. The compiled lesson plans will be submitted to DepEd Palawan for evaluation by PSDS and SDS.
Cross visits, Monitoring, and Evaluation
Several M&E visits will be conducted during the project implementation: mid- and end- evaluation.
For Home/Community Gardens
Home/Community Garden Establishment
The host/pilot school will provide initial stocks of vegetable seeds, organic plant nutrients (e.g., FPJ, FFJ, FAA, Calcium, etc.), and organic plant pesticides to each partner home/community. Also, the trained personnel from each school is expected to re-echo the learnings to their communities.
Technical Trainings – topics include the following:
Phase 3: Post-production and Value-adding Phase
Harvesting of Produce
School garden produce will be recorded using the prescribed DepEd GPP form. SEARCA will train the coordinators on the use and recording of such form.
Assessment of Garden Produce and Utilization
The team intends to teach the coordinators on proper data gathering, integration and simple economic analysis (cost and return) for them to monitor the performance and project values derived from the gardening activities.
Endline Study on Nutrition
Final data on weight and height of selected Grade 4 students under SBFP will be gathered for a pre-post analysis (paired t-test) of the intervention. Data from a small control group may also be used to come up with a with-and-without analysis.
Advocacy Campaign to increase vegetable production and consumption
To create awareness among learners and other stakeholders about the importance of GPP and S+HGP, advocacy campaigns such as cooking contest and recipe development will be encouraged at the school levels.
Development of Upscaling Strategy
Sustainability plan and upscaling strategy will be developed by the DepEd Palawan and recipient schools. Process documentation and monitoring and evaluation will be an integral part of the project. Several information, education, and communication (IEC) materials will be produced and disseminated to the target beneficiaries.