A skills-based training on "climate smart" agriculture is being pushed into the education curriculum by South East Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
Because of the adverse effects of climate change, training among potential agriculturists, both amateur and professionals, now not only has to be "experiential." But this has to be "climate smart," based on the SEARCA project report from six trial sites.
Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA Director, said the piloting work in school gardens becomes tools by which the citizenry will learn to protect the environment, provide food needs of communities, and instill in the domestic workforce needed skills on agriculture.
"These pilot school gardens 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," said Saguiguit in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signing ceremony.
By being climate smart, the "pilot sites" in school gardens established under the SEARCA project, were put up with greenhouses and rainwater collection system.
The mini-greenhouses are sized five by four meters, serving as seeds nursery. Under greenhouses, seedlings are protected from excessive heat of the sun or from strong winds which is what characterizes climate change (increase in temperature by two to three degrees during a more extreme drought phenomenon 'El Nino').
The gardens have its own rainwater collection system. Water is conserved and supplies irrigation needs for growth of plants.
Since droughts become more destructive as a result of climate change, rainwater has to be collected, stored, and used as source of water when the severe drought phenomenon 'El Nino' occurs as what happened in the first half of 2016.
Now, rainwater also becomes a more abundant source of water during La Nina (more storms, stronger winds, greater hurricanes)-which may also become more prevalent in the rainy season due to climate change.
The pilot sites in Laguna-- where SEARCA is headquartered-- include Cabuyao Central School, Pedro Guevarra Memorial National High School, Labuin Elementary School, Crisanto Guysayko Memorial Elem School, Mayjayjay Elem School, and San Andres Elem. School. The MOA was signed by SEARCA with these six pilot schools.
To institutionalize the agriculture skills training, SEARCA has pushed for inclusion of lessons in the program into the basic education curriculum of the Department of Education (DepEd).
SEARCA has recommended moves to scale up climate-smart school and home gardens throughout Philippines and Indonesia. Phase 1 (preliminary stage) of the project had a total fund of $17,240 while Phase 2 (establishment of school and home gardens) and 3 (value adding), $17,285. SEARCA has allocated a total of $22,525 and ADB, $12,000.
Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) chancellor, said Filipinos, through this partnership with SEARCA, will benefit from UPLB's technical training on edible landscaping, nutrition, and organic agriculture.
The SEARCA program actually aligns well with DepEd's "Gulayan sa Paaralan"advocacy, according to Dr. Josilyn S. Solana, Laguna schools superintendent.
The project is also into an agreement on exchange of best practices with Indonesia through BIOTROP (Southeast Asian Regional Center for Tropical Biology).
Preparation of lesson plans for Grades 4 and 7 is now in its finalization stage. To be integrated into the DepEd's Science, Math, English, Home Economics, and Technology and Livelihood Entrepreneurship curriculum are nutrition, organic agriculture, and climate change concepts.
A teacher's manual will be piloted under the project up to December 2016.
In its Phase 1 accomplishment, a total of 600 square meter garden was put up in the high school level and 82 to 1,800 square meters of garden in the elementary level.
SEARCA has engaged in a dialogue with DepEd officials to promote the purchase and consumption of locally grown food in the community.
The gardens will also help grow the local economy and reduce carbon foot print.
The climate smart garden concept is also being integrated into farming-nutrition programs of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
"It will harmonize with other government programs related to food and nutrition self-sufficiency," said SEARCA.
The program likewise has links to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) flagship National Greening Program and related Adaptation and Mitigation to Climate Change and Solid Waste Management.
Malnourished children in six pilot sites are targeted to be helped through increase in supply of nutrients-filled food and improvement of dietary habits. The garden produce will be used in the feeding program of DepEd.
Another objective of the program is to widen diversity of available food as children's source of nutrition. Through trainings, it raises skills of both students and teachers on food production and nutrition. It creates food savings and additional income to families.
Families can reduce or stop dependency on school feeding programs as they learn to tend their own home gardens.
Source: Philippine Information Agency