Sowing the seeds of potential in a Filipino community

Cultivating a healthy, #ZeroHunger attitude to food

Following a day at an organic farm, the schoolkids were experts in planting their own school garden. ©FAO/Mar Maningas


There is a well-known proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But an FAO-led project in the Philippines is proving just the opposite: that sometimes it takes a child – or children – to raise a village.

Around 80 km from Manila, on the south side of the province of Laguna, three communities have taken the lead from their young people in transforming their elementary schools – and, in one case, a wasteland – into small-scale gardens in order to supplement the food supply of local residents and schools.

It all began in 2017, with a partnership between FAO and a local NGO Yakap Kalikasan Tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Pilipinas, Inc. (also known as Yakap Kalikasan). The students of the three schools visited an organic farm where they were involved in sowing, cultivating and harvesting organic vegetables.

Besides basic gardening methods, there were demonstrations on composting, vertical gardeningand botanical pest control. A delicious lunch was prepared  using farm produce, thus planting the seed of an idea in the minds of these potential future farmers and agronomists.

A local garden is a simple yet powerful benefit to a community because it not only provides food for the community but also helps in developing a sustainable approach to food production and consumption.

The children could see endless possibilities beyond the simple purpose of using land for growing their own food. Brainstorming sessions generated a feast of innovative ideas, from making aromatic candles, providing salads to sell to local walkers and even a schedule to clean up the polluted lake shore.

Kapayapaan Integrated School (KIS), one of the project’s beneficiaries, started to grow its own organic kitchen garden and vertical wall in its grounds. Here students cultivate their own lettuce, cucumbers and beans, growing marigolds alongside the vegetables. These saffron-coloured flowers serve as a natural insect repellent and keep the crops safe from insects until harvest time.

“We are promoting organic gardening. Our harvests supply our school’s feeding programme while the excess produce is sold through our youth organization,” reports one of the young growers of the school garden initiative.

Left: The kids are growing lettuce and other vegetables, which are used in the school canteen and contribute to the household food supply. ©FAO/Mar Maningas Right: A brainstorming session by the kids produced a raft of innovative ideas to monetize their produce ©FAO/Mar Maningas

The Paciano–Rizal Elementary School is hoping to supplement its canteen ingredients with string beans, okra, eggplant and Chinese lettuce, all grown in beds behind the school buildings. The vegetables produced by the youth group are now being used in the school’s canteen.

Perhaps the biggest challenge and potential benefit of the project has been for the residents of Putho Tuntungin village. Their goal has been to transform wasteland into a combined communal and individual garden. The introduction of vertical farming is providing food for the families and income from the sales of excess produce.

With a little help from the Youth for Environment School Organization, the children learned how to develop their own gardens. The first step was to prepare the land to make it as fertile as possible by clearing the area and enhancing the soil to provide nutrients essential to the crops. The students also learned about the cultivation process from sowing the seeds to transplanting them into the separate vegetable beds, maintaining the seeds until they are ready to be harvested.

The first phase was the most difficult at KIS, but the kids responded to the challenge with energy, creativity and innovation. The youth group needed to clear the land of broken glass, construction debris, plastics and other garbage before the seedlings could be transferred into the ground. They watered the plants, weeded the garden and created their own environmentally-friendly forms of pest control such as using black pepper mixed with water as a homemade insect spray and scattering eggshells on the earth to boost the soil. They even built trellises for those crops that needed help in growing vertically.

Just as in any farm, not all of the crops were a raging success, however, the project allowed the youth to experience different sustainable farming practices to produce their own food.  

Mighty oaks – and in this case, salad crops – from little acorns and seedlings grow. ©FAO/Mar Maningas

The country’s Bureau of Plant Industry of the Department of Agriculture was impressed with the results of these youth-led projects, which included a social media campaign to increase awareness of local sustainable development. These projects attempt to address the twin problems of food security and the important benefits of maintaining a healthy diet both in school and at home. A welcome side-effect to these school gardens have been the creation of gardens in local residents’ homes.

The students hope that this initiative will continue and contribute to improving their prospects for a nutritious and food secure future. In fact, the local municipal agricultural officer has already promised to continue to fund the initiative, helping with training, providing seeds and funds, and even scholarships for those who want to follow a career in agriculture.

By investing in the future generation, FAO is empowering them to take action and be a part of the global goal to achieve Zero Hunger.

Learn more:

2. Zero hunger, 3. Good health and well-being