The School-Plus-Home Gardens Project in the Philippines: A Participatory and Inclusive Model for Sustainable Development
School gardening has been increasingly popular in the past decade both in developed and developing countries. However, most school gardening projects focus on educational goals and aim to increase school children's knowledge of food systems and their acceptance of vegetable consumption. The School-Plus-Home Gardens Project (S+HGP), a collaboration among the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), and the Department of Education (DepEd) of the Philippines, district of Laguna, revived and redesigned DepEd's earlier school garden programs to an innovative approach focusing on nutrition, education, and economic well-being of school children, their families, and their communities. The S+HGP was piloted in six schools in the province of Laguna, Philippines with a model where harvests from the school gardens provided fresh vegetables for the school-based feeding program. The model also extended the gardening-feeding linkage to the establishment of food gardens in school children's homes. More than just establishing home gardens, the parents developed a greater sense of responsibility to ensure good nutrition for their children, while also saving on food expenses. It highlighted the multi-functionality of school gardens as learning laboratories for educating pupils, teachers, and parents about sustainability concepts and interconnections of food and nutrition, organic agriculture, edible landscaping, climate change, and solid waste management. Key project outcomes are discussed according to five categories, namely, socio-cultural, technical, economic/financial, environmental, and policy-institutional aspects. Mechanisms for sustaining and scaling up the initial success of the S+HGP were designed in a stepwise process, where the pilot schools took the lead to pay forward and share their knowledge with other schools, particularly, small schools in remote areas through intra-school and interdistrict networking. From the six original pilot schools in 2016, there are now two additional adopted schools, 23 sister schools, and three brother schools.