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Laguna schools to turn gardens green with veggies

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — Come school year 2017-2018, 20 elementary and four high schools in six pilot towns in this province will again turn verdant with popular vegetable varieties under an expanded School and Home Garden Program being implemented jointly by government entities and a Southeast Asian center based here.

Piloted in 2016 and this year, the program has turned out to be successful, encouraging its proponents to continue.

Consider this: hundreds of elementary pupils and high school students covered by the program are now heavier and taller – a far cry from the malnourished situation many of them were in before it was launched.

Officially named “Participatory Action Research on School- and Community-based Food and Nutrition Program for Literacy, Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development,” the project took off through the joint initiative of government and Asian institutions.

For the implementation of the program, the Department of Education (DepEd)-Laguna, the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture and the University of the Philippines-Los Baños signed a memorandum of agreement through DepEd-Laguna schools division superintendent Josilyn Solana, SEARCA director Gil Saguiguit Jr. and UPLB chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr.

The program was supported during its preliminary phase by the Asian Development Bank and the Thailand-based Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization secretariat.

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Also involved were the local government units of the six towns (Alaminos, Cabuyao, Majayjay, Nagcarlan, Pila and Sta. Cruz) where the elementary and high schools are located.

The Los Baños-basedDepartment of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry-Economic Gardens provided the seeds of the vegetable varieties used in the production activities.

During the pilot year, however, the schools produced the seeds to be used in the succeeding vegetable production season.

The crops planted included improved varieties of  saluyot, okra, ampalaya (bitter gourd), upo (gourd), alugbati, carrots, lettuce, pechay, radish and eggplant.

The gardens’ harvests were used in DepEd’s School-based Feeding Program.

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