Veggie project weathers Pablo, sustains award-winning performance

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NABUNTURAN, Compostela Valley -- Any devastation is a life-changing situation but vegetable project here is an exemption.

Typhoon Pablo had flattened almost everything but a school's vegetable project here just won't give up its roots.

In January 2012, the Manat Central Elementary School (MCES) here was conferred for the second time as the most outstanding school for their exemplary performance in implementing the Department of Agriculture's - Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (DA-GPP).


The program aims to encourage public schools to utilize vacant areas in their schools for planting vegetables to raise awareness of its nutritional value to child's development and learning process.

The MCES mobilized its pupils, teachers, and parents and successfully established vegetable gardens that bested other 151 elementary and secondary schools competing in the entire Davao region.

"The recognition inspired us to sustain the project. Responses from the community were also encouraging as more parents volunteered to be part of project," said MCES school Principal Allan Guerta.

However, in early part of December 2012, the town was hit by Typhoon Pablo which the community did not expect as they have never been hit by a typhoon before.

"Our vegetable gardens were devastated as fallen trees were everywhere within our school premises. Even our classrooms were not spared," Guerta said.

The wrath of Typhoon Pablo brought havoc to farm areas, which destroyed the main source of income of the residents. Most of the household lack food and malnutrition increased.

Despite the devastation, MCES's resiliency prevailed and was even more determined to push for rebuilding the project as vegetable's short gestation could immediately provide them food.

The school mobilized the community and solicited the support of the local government units, the DA-High Value Crops Development Program and the private sector particularly the seed companies to revive their vegetable gardening project. Aside from restoring their project, the school community also conducted stress debriefing to their school children with the help from project stakeholders.

"Our PTA (Parents-Teachers' Association), DA, DepEd, and seed companies gave their support to we were able to re-establish our school gardens. DA also conducted training on production of organic fertilizers and biological pesticides,” Guerta said.

Adopting the GPP project of MCES, families whose farms and livelihood were destroyed also established vegetable gardens in their own backyards and eventually were able to provide their sustenance especially during the critical rehabilitation period.

"After three months from rehabilitation, our PTA started to have feeding programs out of organic vegetables harvested from our own gardens. Our pupils including the parents were able to eat pesticide-free vegetables," Guerta said.

Through their regular feeding program, the number of malnourished pupils has significantly decreased by 43 percent.

Neighboring schools and communities also adopted the backyard gardening project to overcome shortage of food as a result of Pablo's devastation," said municipal agriculturist Ofelia Tomada.

"At least 90 percent of the household in the community is now tending to their own vegetable gardens. Housewives have also made vegetables part of their household menu," Tomada said.

When another award season has officially opened in October this year, the MCES school gardening program has fully recovered and ready to make a clean breast with other GPP contenders both in the division and regional levels.

In the awarding ceremony held on December 16, MCES has sustained its standing as the best GPP program implementer in Davao region.

"The regional evaluators were not only impressed but surprised that when they evaluated the school's vegetable gardens there were no traces of devastation. It seems like that they have seen the same scenarios or even better from the previous years," said DA regional director Remelyn Recoter.

Recoter said it is inspiring to note that despite the devastation, the school and community has not only revived their project but continued to shine as a model to GPP implementers to other schools and communities in the region.

"The case of Manat is a living testament that there is no devastation that cannot be surpassed if they all work together and we hope that those communities devastated by the recent Super Typhoon Yolanda can take this as an inspiration," she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 23, 2014.


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