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Why More Filipinos Need to Plant Vegetables

According to a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO), the Philippines recorded the most food-insecure people in Southeast Asia at 59 million people, which represents more than half of the nation’s population. In a 2020 survey2 by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) during the pandemic, it was found that 62% of Filipino households experienced either eating less than they should, lacking nutritious food, skipping a meal, or not being able to eat at all for a whole day.

This indicates a big problem in food security and malnutrition in the country, requiring a collective effort from both the community and various stakeholders to address it. East-West Seed Philippines (EWS), one of the biggest vegetable seed companies in Asia, continues to take part in addressing this problem by leading a campaign through its VeggiEskwela initiative.

With its VeggieEskwela program, EWS, through the East-West Seed Foundation, aims to create awareness among Filipino families of the importance of eating nutritious food, encourage them to plant their own vegetables, and to make vegetables part of their daily meals by learning to enjoy eating them. The program offers various learning sessions and training programs that equip more Filipinos – from community members, teachers and students – to plant vegetables the right way.

“Our mission is to help Filipino families achieve better nutrition by empowering them with the skills and technical know-how to plant and harvest vegetables in their own gardens and make it a part of their every meal. VeggiEskwela is the main intervention program of EWS to help curb the country’s food security and nutrition problem,” shares Ma. Elena van Tooren, Managing Director of East-West Seed Foundation.

Launched in 2012 and formerly known as “Oh My Gulay- Tanim sa Kinabukasan”, the VeggiEskwela program has already trained 27,508 student beneficiaries, 2,849 teachers, and has established partnerships with 242 barangays and 1,323 schools nationwide. When the pandemic hit in 2020, VeggiEskwela shifted to an online learning initiative to reach more people while ensuring the safety of its participants. This led to the introduction of the VeggiEskwela Home Gardening Webinar series that offers 15 webinar topics on vegetable production, all designed to provide participants with knowledge and skills to successfully build their own vegetable home garden.

“VeggiEskwela has helped me learn new things about agriculture and has enhanced my skills,” says Vincent Cabigas, an agriculture student; while Grade 12 student, Irah Guiang, has this to share, “I was so hooked with the lessons that in just two hours, I finished seven episodes! The content kept me going!”

Other participants, like home gardeners Ronaldo Radovan and Cathy Castronuevo, highlight how the program has benefitted them. “The program is very informative. There are many new knowledge for me especially on creating concoction and pest management,” shared Rodovan, while Castronuevo said, “I learned many things like how many days are needed before transferring a seed and how to prepare and use fertilizers.”

With the goal to involve more people and communities in the campaign to address food security and nutrition problems, EWS has also partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) to expand the training capacity of the program with the introduction of VeggiEskwela: Training of Trainers initiative. This program was developed to train teachers by expanding their skills and empowering them to become trainers not only to their students but in their respective communities as well. This also supports the DepEd’s Gulayan sa Paaralan program which addresses malnutrition among school children by promoting vegetable production and consumption.

The VeggiEskwela Training of Trainers (TOT) is composed of five (5) online sessions designed to provide participants with the basic skills that will allow them to start their own home vegetable garden. They are also provided with vegetable seed samples and are required to complete hands-on assignments for an actual vegetable growing experience during the training. After the first half of 2021, 1,300 participants have already completed the program.

EWS Foundation also provides free online training modules on vegetable gardening at: https://www.eastwestseedfoundation.ph/veggieskwela.

EWS continues to work hard in its commitment to reach and train more Filipinos by partnering with other stakeholders to have more vegetable gardens in different areas across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

“If more Filipinos will actively learn to plant vegetables, we will be able to help address the food security and malnutrition problems in the country, one vegetable garden at a time” says van Tooren, on their call to rally more communities to start planting vegetables.

East-West Seed Philippines plays a crucial role in increasing Filipinos’ access to nutritious food by developing high-quality vegetable seeds for farmers and by also encouraging consumers to take an active part in food production. Learn more about the various programs of East-West Seed and how you can support the campaign to promote food security and better nutrition by visiting https://ph.eastwestseed.com.

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