The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) has partnered with the Nestle Philippines Incorporated to boost the campaign for the agency’s Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan Project that aims to promote vegetable production and consumption among schoolchildren.

On October 20, 2014 BPI Director and DA Assistant Secretary Paz Benavidez signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nestle Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs Edita de Leon at the BPI Office, Quezon City for the production and packaging of a harmonized manual on school gardening to be used by DA trainers and school teachers for the school veggie gardening project.

Benavidez said that the partnership confirms that the government and the private sector can collaborate to attain unified objective—in this case, to reduce the number of malnourished children and attain food security in the country.

To come up with the “Masustansiyang Pagtatanim” book, the DA-BPI has formed a technical working group assigned to formulate a single manual which will be used by different regions in training teachers on vegetable gardening.

Nestle on the other hand designed and packaged the manual into a colorful book that contains steps on gardening, making compost, as well as recipes that can help entice children to eat more vegetables.

Benavidez said that it is important for children to appreciate the importance of vegetables in their diet through planting even if there are only small spaces left for gardening especially in urban areas.

According to de Leon, the Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan Project is important to teach children about the importance of nutrition, adding that three out of five children in the country are malnourished. 

Based on the reports from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), the Philippines has the lowest vegetable consumption in Asia, which is about 110 grams per capita consumption in 2008, while the World Health Organization recommends 400 grams daily intake of vegetables or 150 kilograms per year.

“Nestle can contribute to the government’s effort of improving children’s nutrition through this partnership,” de Leon added.

The DA’s “Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan” which started in 2011, targets to establish vegetable gardens in at least 46, 000 public elementary and high schools all over the country by 2016.

BPI Crop Production Chief Dante Fidel said that the DA’s target has reached 83% of the targeted schools and is expected to speed up further with the creation of the new manual.

Through the project, the DA provides gardening tools and vegetable seeds including sitao, squash, eggplant, ampalaya, tomatoes, highland vegetables and indigenous vegetables to public schools through the Department of Education.

“Through the “Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan” initiative we aim to promote, increase production and boost consumption of locally-grown vegetables,” Benavidez said. (Cath Nanta, DA-AFID)