Home garden program mulled to ease food security problems
Ehda M. Dagooc (The Freeman) - March 30, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Taking advantage of the stay-at-home measure, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has inked a partnership deal with Department of Education (DepEd) to teach students in growing food in their own backyard.

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 a crisis 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 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 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,” said 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 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.

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.

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.

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