SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR – To officially start the 2020 Gulayan sa Paaralan, the DA Bicol High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) turned over P2.2M worth of farm equipment and garden tools to participating public elementary and secondary schools in Albay and Camarines Sur through the LGUs on June 19, 2020.

Due to the limitations on mobility brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, only the municipal Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs) assigned in HVCDP projects in Camarines Sur were invited to receive the equipment and garden tools consisting of 1 roll hose, 1 roll plastic twine, 1 plastic drum, 1 set garden tools 1pc. hand sprayer, 1 bag organic fertilizer and assorted vegetable seeds for the initial 148 schools.

These kindhearted AEWs agreed to deliver set of equipment to the schools in their areas.

For the province of Albay, Provincial Agriculturist Cheryl Rebeta personally received the package for the 200 participating schools.

Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez, OIC Chief of the Field Operations Division and regional coordinator of HVCDP which implements the Gulayan project, explained that the project is being implemented annually in partnership with the Department of Education.

Dr. Rodriguez added that for 2020, the HVCDP has targeted 945 schools for the Gulayan sa Paaralan. In Albay, 200 public elementary schools expressed their intent to establish vegetable nurseries; 100 schools in Cam. Norte; 305 in Camarines Sur; 90 in Catanduanes; 150 in Masbate; 100 in Sorsogon.

For the participating schools in the provinces of Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate, the equipment and garden tools will just be delivered to the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) which also committed to distribute the same to the schools.

Rodel P. Tornilla, DA Bicol Regional Executive Director, in his speech, underscored the importance of food production as a means for survival at this perilous time.

Director Tornilla also cited the serious issue of the ageing farmers in the country, whose average age is 57 years old. “We need more young blood to continue the noble job of our farmers. Agriculture related activities like vegetable gardening should be included again in the basic education curriculum to encourage the youth towards farming.”

He added that although the students will not physically report to the schools, Gulayan sa Paaralan can still be executed through the teachers and be included in the subjects through virtual demonstrations.

Reports from the participating schools submitted to the DA Bicol HVCDP showed Director Tornilla’s claim as some schools observed a reduction in the number of drop outs in their classes due to the students’ keen interest in growing their own vegetables and seeing them bear fruits. Most of the schools also used the produce in their feeding programs.

In 2019, a total of 920 schools participated in the Gulayan sa Paaralan, but a number of schools not included in the target of the HVCDP were also given various interventions like vegetable seeds and garden tools upon request. (Lovella P. Guarin/ PHOTO CREDITS: Eduardo Collantes, Jr. RAFIS 5)