QC urban farming program expanded
- Rudy A. Fernandez () - August 7, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The expansion phase of the Quezon City government’s urban farming program is on.

Dubbed “The Joy of Urban Farming Program”, it is a continuation of Halamanan ng Bayan (Community Garden) program of former mayor and now Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

The new program was launched last year through the initiative of Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte with the full support of the city government headed by Mayor Herbert Bautista.A showcase program of the expanded program was inaugurated at the Quezon City Memorial Circle in Diliman, the hub of “The Joy of Urban Farming”.

Among those present during the ceremony were Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Mayor Bautista, Vice Mayor Belmonte, and Willy Co, president and general manager of Allied Botanical Corp. (ABC).

ABC, the country’s first fully Filipino-owned vegetable breeding company, supplies the program’s seed needs. It has also allocated a portion of its seed sales to support the city government’s urban farming program, according to Co.

So far, 33 base farms and 19 school farms have been set up, Belmonte reported.

“The city government hopes to replicate the garden in all barangays and schools in Quezon City,” she had earlier told The STAR’s Marianne Go.

Supportive of the Aquino administration’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), “The Joy Urban Farming Program” is backstopped by the Departments of Agriculture (DA), Education (DepEd), and Science and Technology (DOST); ABC; various offices and instrumentalities of the Quezon City government; Liga ng Barangay; and Gawad Kalinga.

The expanded urban gardening program also complements other government initiatives, among them DepEd’s “School-based Food and Nutrition Program (SFNP)” and “Oh My Gulay! (OM)” spearheaded by Sen. Edgardo J. Angara.

Through the initiative of Education Secretary Armin Luistro, the SFNP was crafted with technical assistance of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) headed by Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco and the UPLB-based Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA) headed by Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr.

The program’s underlying objective is to revive or generate interest in agriculture among children and their families by promoting the use of appropriate science-based technologies and practices in agriculture.

The SFNP addressed the nutritional needs of school children and consequently improves their educational performances. As Luistro emphasized at a program at SEARCA in Los Baños last November, the problems of poor nutrition among school children “results in absenteeism, poor school performance, and eventually dropping out.”

The program is centered on school gardens of locally adapted edible plants and tree species that the children themselves would grow. The participating schools are envisioned to become hubs of educational (experiential), nutritional, and economic activities in their respective communities.”

“It is in this context that DepEd, SEARCA, and UPLB would jointly formulate the full program design of the SFNP for guidance of all the participating schools,” then program proponents stated.

Last July 27-28, a planning workshop was held at SEARCA preparatory to the launch and implementation of the SFNP.

For its part, “Oh My Gulay!” is supported by DepEd, DA-Bureau of Agricultural Research, DOST, and Department of Health (DOH). Big companies, businessmen, philanthropists, and advocates from the private sector have also pledged to help ensure the success of the program.

In pushing the OMG!, Angara, himself a former Agriculture Secretary and UP president, has emphasized: “The link between heath and academic performance is undeniable. One out of every four Filipino preschool children is malnourished, so it’s no wonder that so many kids are doing poorly in school.”

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