Sen. Villar SIPAG Farm Schools spur growth of urban agriculture

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As many people stay inside their homes in compliance with government measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 cases, people has turned to home gardening as a way to stay productive while passing time.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, advocate of urban gardening, couldn’t be more pleased with this development and referred to the blossoming of home agriculture as one of the positive outcomes brought about by the quarantine measures.

Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture and Food and director of the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (Villar SIPAG), built farm schools in Las Pinas and San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, to promote agriculture in urban areas.

The first Villar SIPAG farm school inaugurated in 2015 is located in a 4-hectare lot in the boundary of Las PiƱas City and Bacoor. The San Jose Del Monte Farm School, which opened in October 2016, sits in a 4-hectare land in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

Both schools have training areas, dormitories, farm houses and kitchen areas. Also featured are vermi- composting facilities, kitchen waste composting facilities, greenhouses, spaces for livestock production aquaculture and cacao plantation under coconut trees.

Three times a year, the training program on Agri-Crops Production are held in both farms. The 3-month course has 12 sessions and has about 200 participants per batch. The culmination of the program was marked by simple graduation rites and a harvest festival.

Unlike the other ‘training the trainors’ courses that can only accommodate 30 students per batch, agri-crops production courses are more open and accept up to 200 participants per batch. It caters to students, young professionals, civil servants, senior citizens, members of women’s, civic and church groups, among others.

Villar SIPAG gives this agri-crops training for free in partnership with East-West Seeds Foundation.

The site-based program seeks to capacitate participants with basic knowledge and skills on vegetable production–from land preparation to harvesting, including urban gardening and nutrition education.

Among the crops planted are eggplant, sili, tomatoes, sitaw, upo, patola, ampalaya, corn and kangkong.

“In my encounters with our training participants, I have always highlighted the importance of growing food even if it means planting in containers or small patches of land in their own backyards. Home gardening is a strategy in achieving food security and in making nutritious food accessible to every family,” Villar said.

The senator also pointed out that home gardening is a ready source of food, especially in periods of stress such as typhoons, occurrence of frost, volcanic eruption and during this health emergency.

She has always advocated for the growth of small family farms as a response to the projection of the United Nations Food and Agriculture stating that there will be food shortage by year 2050, and the world will be fed not by the big corporate farms but by the small family farms.

The Villar SIPAG Farm Schools also give free training opportunities to farmers in cooperation with other agencies such as the Farm Business School with the Agricultural Training Institute; Rice Seeds Production and Mechanization with PhilRice and PhilMech; Aquaculture Production with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; Livestock Production with the Bureau of Animal Industry; and cacao production intercropping with coconut with the Philippine Coconut Authority.

The Las Pinas Farm school caters to farmers from the National Capital Region, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon and Bicol Region while the Bulacan Farm caters to farmers in Northern and Central Luzon and the Cordillera Autonomous Region./Stacy Ang

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