The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Manila-based Synergygroup Operations, Inc. (SGOI) have teamed up to implement the  Project in Rizal Province. They formalized their partnership in a signing ceremony held on 1 July 2022 at SEARCA in Los Baños, Laguna.

The SEL4E Project takes off from the success of the School-plus-Home Gardens Project (S+HGP) implemented by SEARCA in six elementary and high schools in Laguna wherein harvests from the school gardens provided fresh vegetables for the school-based feeding program and enhanced the food and nutrition security of the schoolchildren. From the six original pilot schools, there are now two additional adopted schools, 23 sister schools, and three brother schools.

A company that provides end-to-end maritime solutions with tailored services, SGOI has partnered with SEARCA for the project as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Aside from contributing financial resources to the project, SGOI will also engage its employees in community activities.

The agreement between SEARCA and SGOI for the SEL4E Project will be in force until December 2024.

During the signing ceremony, SGOI Director Krish Mundath commended SEARCA for its work in agricultural and rural development and its efforts to engage the youth in agriculture. “I think SEARCA’s vision of making farming and agriculture look glamorous to the young is a fantastic idea. They need to be pulled into this and attracted towards this very basic need because food will certainly go short in time,” Mundath said.

affirmed his appreciation of SGOI as a partner in the scaling up of SEARCA’s School-plus-Home Gardens Project “because SEARCA promotes the proactive engagement of industries and government agencies in academe-industry-government (AIG) interconnectivity models of research collaboration and co-sharing of financial resources.”

The SEL4E Project is expected to produce a cadre of trained and committed teachers and school heads in the participating schools as well as technical staff from municipal and barangay levels who will be able to sustain and scale up the project components. To do this, the project will boost the capacity of teachers and local government units (LGUs) by developing a core team with the added information, skills, and understanding for proper dissemination of the needed concepts and values to in the target schools.

A Trainers’ Training for School-plus-Home Gardens Program that will be implemented via blended or hybrid mode is one component of the project. The training modules will focus on sharing initiatives on school gardens, school gardens for food and nutrition, guiding concepts of the SEL4E Project, school gardens for education, and participatory visioning and goal setting.

The other project component is Home Gardening for Improving the Nutrition and Health of Children and their Families. It is a provincial-wide promotion of the home gardens in Rizal that involves scoping and organization, capacity building and garden planning and implementation, and strengthening of protocols.

To support the project, SEARCA and SGOI will develop partnerships among the LGUs of Rizal, and partner agencies. They will also form self-help groups among households involved in the project.