RAGAY, CAMARINES SUR – Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, some public Elementary School grounds in the Bicol Region have turned into productive vegetable hubs. This is particularly true in Banga Elementary School this municipality.

The physical absence of the kids in schools has not become a hindrance in maintaining the Gulayan sa Paaralan (GPP) garden as they were sustained by the strong alliance and concerted efforts of the school heads, teachers, parents, barangay councils and Sanggunian Kabataan, and the continuous support from the Local Government Units (LGU) and the Department of Agriculture – High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP)

In Banga Elementary School in Ragay, the Gulayan sa Paaralan was implemented in the Yungib Integrated Farm inside the school premises. The Yungib Integrated Farm has received PhilGAP certification from the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry on November 20, 2021 for their commodities – lettuce, pechay, corn, upo, eggplant, string beans and squash. Furthermore, the Integrated Farm obtained a Business Permit registration from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)

Edgar E. Sarit, Principal of Banga ES  said that their school through the Gulayan sa Paaralan aims to help every learner’s family to have a source of healthy food which are not laced with synthetic fertilizer. The principal is an Organic Agriculture advocate and at the same time Division Evaluator of GPP.

Naging advocacy ko na ang GPP dahil napakalaki ng tulong nito sa mga komunidad. Although (GPP) was institutionalized in the Department of Education (DepEd) in 2012. Banga ES started to establish GPP in 2016. Previously, ornamental plants were predominant in this school and it was very hard to transform it into a food production area. But gradually, the teachers, the parents and school children embraced my advocacy. The DA and LGU also supported us and provided us interventions by way of farm implements such as wheel barrow, garden tools, plastic much, and assorted vegetable seeds from  the DA –HVCDP under its Gulayan sa Paaralan project,” the Principal  added.

“Trainings and continued monitoring by the Municipal Agriculture Office also helped us a lot. Our school is also compliant with Good Agricultural Practices and we are very thankful to the DA Regional Office for the recent PhilGAP certification we have received,” he said.

Sarit also said that the school children replicated the GPP in their households and were amazed of the good impact of having “plantita and plantitos” in their homes.

Daisy Verata, former GPP coordinator of the same school said that as one of the strategies in eliciting support from the students before the pandemic,   she incorporated the GPP in the subject Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP) which has four components: 1) Information Communication and Technology, 2) Agri-fishery and Arts, 3) Home Economics, and Industrial Arts.

Cristy M. Penaflorida, the current GPP coordinator said that they used recycled materials as pots like sacks, tires and plastic bottles as the school does not have funds for the materials needed in the GPP. But the sales from the produce in the school gardens helped finance some materials such as seedling trays, paints and other landscaping materials.

Rowell D. Derain, SK President of Bgy. Banga Caves said that he together with seven other SK offices, established the Millennial Guardians Association on August 2021. At present, it has over 80 members composed of youths and parents.

Tulong tulong po kami sa pagtatanim sa vacant lot na pinahiram sa amin ni Principal Edgar Sarit. Hinikayat din po namin ang mga kabataan na magtanim para hindi lang po sila puro sa gadgets nakafocus. We started planting cash crops  sa mga vacant lots ng school using the vegetable seeds from Municipal Agriculture Office,” he added.

The harvested vegetables were sold to the community and the sales went to the coffers of the association.

Ang magandang tulong ng Gulayan sa Paaralan sa mga kabataan ay natuto sila sa pagtatanim at sa pagkain ng masustansiyang mga gulay. Nagsilbi ding bonding time namin ang pagmaintain ng garden plots, pag-bubungkal ng lupa, at pag-aani. Napaka-ganda po ng aming nabuong asosasyon nang dahil sa Gulayan sa Paaralan,” Derain stressed.

Even the barangay captain and barangay kagawad were impressed with the feats of the Banga ES. Barangay Kagawad Carmelita P. De Villa, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture said “kung makikita ng ibang paaralan, matutularan nila ang Banga ES, kaya ikinararangal ng barangay ang GPP sa Yungib Integrated Farm kung saan ang Punong Guro, mga guro, magulang, kabataan, ay nagkaisa sa pagtataguyod ng GPP.”

Banga Elem. School was 1st place in the Southern Zone Search for GPP Best Implementer in CY 2019-20 conducted by the DepEd Region V, Schools Division of Camarines Sur, Ragay District Southern Zone.

Liza Marie Paet, the High Value Crops Development Program Coordinator and Organic Agriculture Program focal person of Ragay, Camarines Sur said that GPP is very helpful especially to nearby households because the prices of vegetables at Yungib Integrated Farm and Ragay ES are much lower than that of public markets more so if the vegetables came from other regions/municipalities.

“Our goal is to have more GAP certified farms in Ragay to promote food security. In GAP , farmers are taught on responsible usage and handling of inorganic or chemical fertilizers and pesticides which promotes good health for the farmers and the consumers as well as environmental safety,” Paet added.  (Lovella P. Guarin DA RAFIS 5 / Photo credits: Eduardo Collantes, Jr. and Ramon Adversario, Jr.)