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The Big Impact of a BIG Project: A Pantawid Pamilya Gulayan sa Barangay Story

As the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program continues to address extreme poverty and hunger, strategies and interventions are continuously introduced to help raise awareness, improve level of well-being, and promote sustainability of activities. Of these strategies, the Bio-Intensive Garden (BIG) stands out as one that effectively mitigates the impacts of food scarcity and malnourishment. As a compliance with the GAA FY 2018, it aims to help partner beneficiaries toward nutrient sufficiency, and food security and stability.

 

In Divisoria Elementary School of the City of Santiago, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (Pantawid Program) beneficiaries set up their Bio-Intensive Garden as part of the Gulayan sa Paaralan project of the Department of Education (DepEd). The garden started on October 2017 which was further intensified in February 2018 after a series of Family Development Sessions conducted by the City Action Team (CAT). The area was provided by the school and the barangay.

 

The local government unit played a role through the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) by providing the seeds complemented by the beneficiaries themselves from their own seed stock. Depending on the season, the group cultivates pechay, eggplant, string beans, snap beans, squash, bitter gourd, upo and kangkong. Technical assistance is provided by the local officials in the management of the garden and setting up of a workable schedule for weeding and maintenance.

The group set up a schedule for the maintenance of the garden and would sometimes even be joined by other (Non-Pantawid) parents during DepEd’s Brigada Eskwela which promotes camaraderie as the activity provides a venue for parents to mingle and share information regarding the program. The schedule of weeding is synchronized to be conducted after the Family Development Sessions when lessons are still fresh in their minds and retention is still high.

 

The Pantawid beneficiaries pride themselves with setting up an organic garden. Fertilizers used come from biodegradable households wastes collected from door to door and applied during monthly weeding sessions. This has greatly encouraged households in waste segregation. Chemical herbicides are avoided, instead, they opt for manual weeding and removal of bugs and other insects. Plant diseases are treated using the knowledge on various home remedies that have been passed on from generation to generation.

 

The BIG project serves a dual purpose, first as a source of nourishment. Harvest from the garden is made into nutritious meal that is served to the children for lunch. Second, with the parents at hand during the maintenance and harvesting of vegetables, their continuous presence in the school grounds enable them to closely monitor their children’s attendance and academic standing in school. Teachers have even commended this strategy as they are able to provide feedback about the children’s progress and ensure that they remain in school for the duration of the school year.

 

Given its positive impact, the same activity was replicated at Divisoria High School where the parents and their children work together to maintain the communal garden. This has led them to be hailed as best implementers of the Brigada Eskwela by the DepEd for the whole region.

 

To Rizalyn Abale, one of the more active members of the group, the BIG activities have made an impact on her as well. Being a 34-year old stay-at-home mother of 3, she desires to help augment the family income especially since her husband is a seasonal farm labourer and earns a meagre amount that is not enough to provide for all of the family’s needs.

She sells halo-halo during the day and barbecue in the afternoon, yet it only adds little to their income since she would still have to buy the ingredients from the market. During the first harvest she kept some of the seeds and started her own backyard garden. Planting squash, string beans, eggplant and sweet potato, she integrated the knowledge she received from Family Development Sessions (FDS) on marketing and started selling her vegetables from door-to-door.

 

Syempre mas malaki naman ang kinikita ko sa mga gulay dahil hindi ko na binibili ang mga materyales ko, (I earn more from selling vegetables because I don’t have to buy my materials)” she happily laments. “Mas mainam pa ang sariwang gulay kaysa sa karne, mas masustansiya para sa mga lumalaking bata (Plus freshly picked vegetables are a healthier option than meat especially for growing children).” She has become an advocate for backyard gardening and has continued to encourage family and friends into setting up their own.

 

Though their backyard is limited in space, they were able to maximize the limited space by intercropping. Now with BIG, she is assured that food is always in their home.

 

### Story by CAT Santiago

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