Agri think tank strengthens partnerships on School +Home Garden needed in crises like Covid 19
March 26, 2020
An agricultural think-tank has strengthened its partnerships on its “School Plus Home Garden Project” (S+HGP) as farming is evidently a pressing need in light of crises like Covid 19 that poses critical food security concerns especially in urban areas.
While old school garden programs used to focus on just “educating” children on agriculture, the S+HGP of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in AGriculture (SEARCA) also stresses nutrition and economic and overall welfare of learners.
Thus, its application includes homes even in urban areas that are faced with food security problems particularly in crises as the lockdowns.
Incidentally, lockdowns—when people could hardly go out of their homes just to buy food– are implemented globally may lengthen indefinitely for a period of time.
SEARCA is now replicating its S+HGP through partnerships, primarily with the Department of Education (DepEd).
And this is open to other institutions even in urban areas that find it critically important to keep their own food gardens for food, sustainability—and many other purposes.
In its pilot work on S+HGP in six schools in Laguna, SEARCA found out even parents of schoolchildren 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,” according to Blesilda M. Calub, Leila S. Africa, and Bessie M. Burgos—SEARCA resource persons.
Such “multi-functionality” of great significance includes home gardens’ use to promote environmental sustainability, organic agriculture, edible landscaping, learning about climate change, and solid waste management (use of agricultural wastes as organic fertilizer).
The S+HGP easily expanded. From the 6 pilot schools in Laguna, S+HGP is also now in 2 adopted schools, 23 sister schools, and 3 brother schools, according to the SEARCA officials, along with team members Henry M. Custodio, Shun Nan Chiang, Ann Gale C. Valles, Elson IanNyl E. gAling, and Maria Katrina R. Punto
The S+HGP also stresses the important role in the local economy of local government units (LGU) that can provide funds for a more unified, LGU wide home gardening.
“Plus in 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,” said SEARCA.
SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio said an important function of home and school gardens is in opening minds of the youth in making them appreciate farming or agri-preneurship as a potential career, business, or profession.
Gregorio has pushed for SEARCA’s partnership with DepEd on including an agriculture subject or course into DepEd’s K-12 curriculum, particularly in senior high school, where youngsters are trained on technical-vocational skills.
Under the pilot study, the SEARCA program aimed to increase diversity and availability of food to meet the nutritional needs of children, increase knowledge and improve skills of students, teachers, and parents on food production and nutrition, reduce food expenses, create savings, and provide an alternative source of income for families to alleviate poverty.
Pilot program results
Under the pilot program, teachers learned to prepare cropping calendars, the sequence of plant specific crops based on good timing so harvest can be year-round. The top 10 most produced crops were mustard, pechay, okra, radish, lettuce, kulitis (amarathn), papaya, upo, patola, and talinum.
These are other positive results of the program, according to SEARCA report:
- The improved supply quality of fresh vegetables in the school-year studied had an estimated aggregate yield of 1,396 kilos valued at P42,559. Harvest per school ranged from 87-465 kilos depending on garden area with 19 to 77 percent used for school feeding, 0.5-36 percent shared with pupils and parent helpers, and 1-45 percent sold to other parents and teachers or cooked in class.
- There were significant increases in height, weight, and Body Mass Index (of participating students), translating to 33 percent rehabilitation rate from wasted to normal nutritional status among the pilot elementary schools and 44 percent rehabilitation rate in the secondary school.
- There was an increase from 49 to 55 percent in the proportion for studetns who ate vegetables.
- The program became a venue for learning environmental sustainability. Topics included producing organic fertilizer from segregated biodegradable wastes, and mulching to protect soil from erosion, conserve soil moisture, control weeds, and increase soil organic matter for soil carbon build up. The mini-greenhouse provided by the project was designed with a rainwater collection system to showcase a simple climate-smart strategy to adapt to climate change.
The S+HGP provided its participants garden inputs and tools, a mini greenhouse with rainwater collection system for schools, garden inputs, and tools. From these, the schools produced vegetable seedlings year-round.
“This used to be a major constraint because their practice of direct seeding exposed the seeds to too much rain, sunlight, or to insect pests. Capacity building for teachers included training on garden planning, edible landscaping, organic vegetable production and pest management, and vermicomposting,” SEARCA reported.
In Alaminos, the pilot school was provided by the LGU with a vermicomposting shed.
The S+HGP was funded by SEARCA and the Asian Development Bank-Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction through the SEAMEO College.
Meanwhile, SEARCA’s K-12 curriculum program already prepares youngsters for a more in-depth professional agri-preneurship career.
“The programs include faculty development — offering graduate scholarships in agriculture and allied degrees, short courses on agribusiness and agri-entrepreneurial mindset and education, and continuing education and professional licensure exams review services,” Gregorio said.
“The program shall embed upgraded agri-business context and examples in the K to 12 curriculum”.
DepEd Secretary Leonor M. Briones said the DepEd will explore urban-based gardening for schools in urban areas 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 added.
Briones reported that there are existing schools with little farms and school sites bigger in size and even have tilapia farms.
Gregorio said the Southeast Asian population is young — providing their respective countries many benefits because “they can become good leaders and the catalyst for economic, social, and cultural development” Melody Mendoza Aguiba