MANILA The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), an extension service arm of the Department of Agriculture (DA), is going beyond providing training and farm inputs to food growers. The agency will now give free gardening space for interested citizens, so they can plant and harvest vegetables with its guidance.
"It's learning by doing," said ATI agriculturist Mark Nello Alvarez.
Learning vegetable-growing would enable people to do it where they live, he said.
ATI will provide the public training, inputs, and spaceall for freesince DA had already designated this institute's compound in Quezon City as a communal vegetable garden, said Alvarez.
The ATI could, thus, open up its compound to anyone interested in learning urban agriculture, he pointed out.
"People can already inform us of their intention to grow vegetables there," he said.
Alvarez said the ATI, the office of DA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Ranibai Dilangalen, Aboitiz Foundation Inc., and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. had signed this month the memorandum of agreement covering the compound's designation as a communal vegetable garden.
The signing was among the highlights of the Urban Agriculture-Pagkain Para sa Masa (UA-PPSM) program.
Last year, DA launched UA-PPSM in Quezon City's Barangay Bahay Toro and established there the program's pilot site.
UA-PPSM sites established since then are in Davao's Bago Aplaya and Cotabato City's Lugay-lugay area.
"Sa maliit na espasyo, may pagkain tayo" (We got food from a small space) is UA-PPSM's theme to highlight the possibility of producing food even in tight urban spaces.
Alvarez said people could write ATI about requesting permission to grow vegetables within the agency's compound.
He said they could start gardening anytime after receiving permission and inspecting the planting area that ATI would assign to them.
"We'll provide free seedlings for their initial planting and allow them to use our nursery and tools if necessary," he said.
ATI will also provide them technical assistance on proper growing and harvesting of vegetables, he added.
"After harvesting their produce, they can opt to grow vegetables repeatedly in their assigned areas," he said.
Alvarez clarified it is the growers' responsibility to look after what they planted in ATI's compound.
"They must water their plants, buy and apply fertilizer, guard against pests, and undertake other measures for these to grow well," he said.
He added those interested must also submit to ATI records of what they planted and harvested to help the agency monitor and assess its implementation of US-PPSM.
Aside from urban farming, DA said UA-PPSM's other components are mushroom culture and hydroponics/aquaponics.
Experts said hydroponics is the production of crops without using soil.
Aquaponics combines hydroponics and aquaculture or fish farming to grow fish and plants in one integrated system, they said.
The DA said Aboitiz Foundation Inc. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. had donated hydroponics/aquaponics technology farming system to ATI to support its UA-PPSM project.
"Food production need not be restricted to rural areas," noted Alvarez.
In 2016, ATI reported conducting in Metro Manila a roadshow aimed at encouraging urban families to plant vegetables in their own backyards.
The roadshow included free lectures and demonstrations on urban gardening.
Seedlings and other planting inputs distributed during the roadshow were aimed at helping urban families begin growing vegetables for their own consumption and even sale.
Source: Philippine News Agency