By Julio P. Yap Jr.

The maintenance of school gardens at the elementary and high school levels in the Philippines by students will be beneficial not only for their health and well-being but also that of the environment.

ABC marketing specialist Alan Cledera monitors the status of the vegetables being planted at the “Gulayan sa Paaralan.”

Various research has showed that children who are involved with school gardening and school farming tend to eat more fruits and vegetables. Researchers also found that these children are willing to taste and cook a greater variety of fruits and vegetables, and demonstrate improved behavior, both at home and in the classroom.

An advocacy: With these developments, Joni and Susan Sanchez of San Pablo City in Laguna decided to begin promoting school gardening in the province. So far, the couple has completed the installation of a school garden at the Prudencia D. Fule Memorial Elementary School (PDFMES) in Barangay San Nicolas, San Pablo City.

It was dubbed “Gulayan sa Paaralan,” and there, students will learn how to cultivate and maintain a school garden in an urban setting, and grow plants and vegetables using recycled plastic bottle containers. They will also have the opportunity to learn how to harvest the different varieties of vegetables that they cultivated.

The Sanchezes said that school gardens could become models to integrate nutrition, environmental sustainability, and educational values. Community-based initiatives, like school gardens, have been shown to be cost-effective, and can potentially have long term health benefits.

Under the program, the school children will also learn how to cultivate different vegetables using recyclables such as used plastic bottles, bamboo poles, and other discarded materials.

To encourage the younger generation to be involved in the farming and food production agenda of the government, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has proposed the inclusion of agriculture as a subject in the curriculum for elementary and high school students.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, says that establishing school gardens can encourage the younger generation to go back to farming. This, she believes, will address the problem of the decreasing number of people engaging in farming. “The problem is not the land, but the lack of farmers who will develop the lands.”

A practical approach: According to Joni Sanchez, installing and maintaining school gardens is not as complicated as others might think. He adds that many school gardens became successful because of the energy and cooperation of the students and school authorities themselves.

Among the strategies utilized in the school gardening program are hands-on training and the requisite support for parents and teachers. Hands-on training includes basic lectures on plotting, sowing, caring for the plants, and harvesting. The Sanchezes expect that more schools and students will be interested in setting up their own school gardens in the very near future.

They also emphasized that the productivity and success of a school garden largely depends on the materials which will be used, like quality seeds or planting materials, inputs, and proper farming technologies. To sustain the productivity of the school garden at the PDFMES, Joni Sanchez says that they used seeds and inputs sourced from the Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC), a company that remains committed to breeding and providing Filipino farmers with high quality vegetable seeds and innovative crop care products for efficient and productive farming systems.

Under the school gardening program, the students will learn the basics of farming from the technical personnel of ABC. This is in line with the company’s thrust to improve the appreciation of farming among Filipinos, particularly the youth, as part of its contribution to the country’s objective of boosting the agricultural sector. ABC says that it aims to create a better world, as expressed in the company’s motto: “Enhancing Agriculture to Improve Your Life!”

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2018 issue.