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School gardens nourish pupils’ body and mind

/ 03:20 AM September 07, 2016

A program that promotes the maintenance of food gardens in homes and schools is rolling out in Laguna to integrate agricultural, nutrition and climate change concepts in school curricula.

Spearheaded by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca), the program that was launched last July was meant to foster a garden-based education and nutrition program among malnourished school children.

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“The declining interest of the youth in agriculture and malnutrition among schoolchildren are two of the pressing challenges in agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia,” says Searca director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr.

The program was designed to encompass three interrelated areas of intervention—learning by doing food production activities (education), improved food diversity and availability (nutrition), and savings on food costs and added income (economics).

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In partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Searca piloted the program in Cabuyao Central School in Cabuyao, San Andres Elementary School in Alaminos, Crisanto Guysayko Memorial Elementary School in Nagcarlan, Majayjay Elementary School in Majayjay, Labuin Elementary School in Pila, and Pedro Guevarra Memorial National High School in Sta. Cruz—all in Laguna.

“These schools were selected based on track record of success and dedicated staff for implementing such projects, availability of land for school gardens, and high prevalence of impoverished and nutritionally deficient pupils and households,” Saguiguit says.

The Searca director highlights the importance of school gardens to meet the nutritional needs of school children, heighten the appreciation for agriculture among the youth, and protect the environment.

School gardens also serve as “an alternative source of food and income for rural families to address the looming problems of rural poverty and hunger, which prevent access of many school children to quality education,” he says.

For the preliminary phase, Searca has lined up planning workshops on the preparation of garden plans and curricula review assessment of existing school gardens, as well as a baseline study on the nutritional status of children. The garden inputs and structures were also acquired.

This phase is funded by the Asian Development Bank through the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Secretariat.

Grades 4 and 7 teachers of Mathematics, English, Science, Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan and Technology and Livelihood Education integrate the concepts of organic agriculture, nutrition and climate change in the lesson plans of the said subjects under the current Department of Education curricula.

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To help enhance lesson plans, the teachers review the concepts of organic agriculture and nutrition and are given an overview of climate change implications for nutrition. They also take up bio-intensive gardening techniques with a field visit to the crop museum of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in Silang, Cavite.

Saguigit said the succeeding phases, which Searca was funding, involved the establishment and maintenance of the school gardens, development of training manuals, organization of core groups and establishment of linkages, and cross-visits and monitoring of project sites.

“The latter stages will include an end-line study on the nutritional status of children, awarding of outstanding school gardens, and development of upscaling strategy will be undertaken,” he says.

“Seaca will also source funding for a study tour to a similar initiative in Indonesia where representatives from each of the six pilot schools will have the opportunity to see, appreciate and learn from the Indonesian school garden models,” he adds.

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