LEGAZPI CITY (PIA) - A total of 725 public schools in Albay will establish vegetable gardens under the Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) of the Department of Agriculture in Bicol (DA 5).
"The GPP aims to reduce malnutrition among our school children," DA 5 Program Coordinator and Field Operations Head Mary Grace Rodriguez said, explaining the rationale for the agency's relaunch of basic agriculture to elementary and high school students. "Even the teachers know that children who came to school hungry are not productive."
Rodriguez said the GPP is envisioned not only to solve malnutrition but also entice the younger generation to go into agriculture.
"We also want our children to appreciate agriculture since the average age of our farmers is 58-59 years old. That's how old they are," she said.
Christopher Dalaguit, DA 5's development officer, said the school-based program is a step forward in strengthening the agriculture sector in the province of Albay, in particular, and in the region, in general.
"I am hoping that the GPP will encourage the public especially the youth to learn vegetable farming and soil cultivation. I pray that through the efforts of local officials, authorities and the public, this event will lead to the success of the agriculture sector," he said.
Farming is also one way of teaching children to save and be self-reliant, said Michelle Ondevilla, GPP coordinator at San Jose Elementary School in Guinobatan, Albay.
"This program will be of big help to them to save on their everyday expenses since it can be a source of vegetables and other food," Ondevilla said. "They can also earn from selling it and have extra allowance in case their parents cannot give them."
"Likewise, teachers will not be buying vegetables for feeding programs since they can get it fresh from the gardens," she added.
Zosimo S. Amante Jr., GPP coordinator at Magpanambo Elementary School in Polangui, hopes to teach and inspire children to adapt gardening in their own backyards.
"Once our elementary children get used to farming and we teach them how to do it properly, time will come that they will apply it on their own residence and revive their drive to have backyard gardens for their family," he said.
Rodriguez said the GPP is a component of the Duterte administration's agenda of prioritizing agriculture to improve the economy and productivity of workers.
"Agriculture is the backbone of the economy," she said. "If our workers are not productive because of hunger, our economy will not be productive as well." (PIA5/Albay with a report from DA 5)