Tinabunan ES’s Gulayan getting ‘BIG’ger, pioneers nutrition model as sentinel school

By: Christian Mespher A. Hernandez
Gulayan Tinabunan
Mr. Rolando B. Talon Jr., EPS-EPP/TLE, explains to Dr. Julian Gonzalez, IIRR Advisor, the roles of Tinabunan ES being a sentinel school as focal point for research on the 3-pronged school nutrition model (integration of school gardens, school feeding program and nutrition education).

Since being adopted by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in May 2015 as one of its 58 lighthouse schools, Tinabunan Elementary School, a barrio school in the Schools Division of Imus City, has seen its Gulayan sa Paaralan Program (GPP) achieve immense improvements using BIG standards.

Bio-Intensive Gardening or BIG is an an ecological approach to gardening which makes the best use of available natural resources and does not rely on any chemical inputs.

At the beginning of SY 2016-2017, aside from implementing BIG, Tinabunan ES has also started serving as 1 of 3 sentinel/model schools identified by IIRR to influence other schools across Region IV-A by integrating school nutrition model—a three-pronged approach towards addressing malnutrition among school children through gardening, supplementary feeding and nutrition education.

The two others are Sunnybrooke ES of SDO Cavite Province and Dasmariñas II Central ES of SDO Dasmariñas City.

All sentinel and lighthouse schools are guided by IIRR’s over-all project theme “Improving Food and Nutrition Security in the Philippines through School Interventions.”

According to Mrs. Marie Ann N. Galas, agriculture teacher, Tinabunan ES’s school gardens have been functioning as a lead example of climate-smart agriculture, repository for conserving crop varieties and indigenous vegetables for supplementary feeding, and an environmental science learning venue for school children, parents and other visitors.

Gulayan Tinabunan1

One major feature of BIG which they are currently applying is the planting of nitrogen-fixing trees such as kakawate (Gliricidia sepium) trees around the periphery of the garden wherein the leaves serve as source of green fertilizer while the trees around create a micro climate or cooling effect.

They also promote diversity with emphasis on nutritionally-dense 70% indigenous vegetables and 30% from commercial seed sources.

A total of 22 indigenous vegetables/crops are planted in their garden such as batao/hyacinth bean, sigarilyas/winged bean, patani/lima bean, kadios/pigeon pea, talinum/Philippine spinach, kulitis/amaranth, alugbati/malabar nightshade, Japanese malungay, uraro/arrow root, gabi/taro, kamote/sweet potato, ube/purple yam, roselle, native eggplant, cherry/ruby tomato, singkamas/turnip, saluyot/long-fruited jute, malunggay/moringa, luya/ginger, dahong sibuyas/green onions, tapilan/rice bean and paayap/cow pea.

“Tulung-tulong po kami rito. Effort talaga kasama ang mga parents saka mga bata. Nakakatuwa kasi maraming bumibisita sa amin kahit mga foreigners na kasama ng mga taga-IIRR para makita po ang garden namin, nito lang pong July 1 may bumisita from Myanmar,” Galas said.

Aside from Myanmar which praised Tinabunan ES’s garden as “extraordinary,” she had also welcomed other visitors from Nepal, Indonesia, Israel, Colombia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Galas said they were able to observe and benchmark the BIG practices and strategies like crop rotation, use of mulch (dried grass/leaves) to cover garden beds, intercropping, botanical pest control, installation of rainwater harvester, and cover cropping during summer.

The agriculture teacher also shared that the school now integrates nutrition education in their lesson plans as approved by the Regional and Division Offices, and make use of the harvested indigenous vegetables in supplementary feeding activities through the 15 developed recipes by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

As of this writing, another school garden in Tinabunan ES headed by Mr. Jesus Bergado is being improved to be an exclusive Bahay Kubo Garden as suggested by Mr. Rolando B. Talon Jr., SGOD focal person and supervisor in-charge of GPP. (Christian Mespher A. Hernandez, EPS II, SDO Imus City)