A Japanese humanitarian agency has adopted Bureau of Agricultural Research’s (BAR) edible landscaping (EL) program that encourages home-based organic vegetable planting to help reduce imports, enhance the environment, and raise food security.
The EL, a partnership between BAR and University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), has generated adopters including the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual, and Cultural Advancement (OISCA) of Japan.
Its aesthetic value and food security aims are hoped to have a significant impact locally.
“Edible landscaping may not be totally for commercial profitability. But it will raise consumption of vegetables and enhance food security. And we have an organic growing system that’s good for health and environment,” according to UPLB EL Project Leader Farnando C. Sanchez Jr.
BAR had budgeted P1 million for the first phase of the technology promotion of EL which initially had its site at the UPLB CA-Agripark.
“Instead of planting just ornamental plants, we want to encourage more households to plant vegetables in their front and back yards so we may provide for our homes’ basic needs, and we may be able to reduce our imports of vegetables,” said BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar.
A United Nations data quoted by the Factfish indicated that as of 2012 the Philippines had vegetable imports of $3.013 million (P142 million).
This project can have extensive livelihood opportunity wherever people want to keep healthy and eat fresh, organic vegetables.
“It offers an opportunity for about 34.2 percent of the total household population or 5.2 million families of the country that live below the poverty threshold especially for families in the cities that cannot afford the high cost of basic needs as food,” according to a BAR-UPLB report.
OISCA, a Tokyo-based organization established by Rev. Yonosuke Nakano, has already been engaged in vegetable planting even before it took up EL.
Its EL farm is in Tiaong, Quezon.
OISCA had a value addition in its vegetable farming from BAR-UPLB’s EL as the beautification function of its farm enhances attraction of young farmers into agriculture.
EL also enhances the environment as the greeneries avert emission of more carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming and climate change.
When it was founded in the Philippines in 1961, OISCA’s aim was to bring Japanese agriculturists to the Philippines to train Filipinos on agriculture.
OISCA as of 1983 had sent 336 Japanese agricultural experts to the Philippines and 245 Filipinos to Japan.
The EL’s two phases were implemented from November 2009 to September 2012.
Aside from potentially helping reduce the country’s vegetable imports, the EL has economic value for agritourism. Agritourism sites can charge visitors an entrance fee.
One agritourism model is that of the Benguet State University (BSU) which generates around P2 million yearly from its tourist site in its campus in Benguet. It is planted with organic strawberry and Arabica coffee. BSU charges P50 per entrant.
Aside from OISCA, the EL of BAR-UPLB has been demonstrated in the gardens of several institutions. These include a Rotary Club of Los Banos-assisted public school, UP Rural High School, and even at BAR’s own office site on Visayas Avenue, Quezon City.
Since EL was introduced by UPLB in 1999, EL was also adopted by a Laguna provincial program called “Food Always in the Home” which popularized vegetable gardening.
“Sooner some private companies adopted the same concept for their model nurseries. A real estate developer incorporate dthe concept for its farm lot subdivision in Tarlac, “ according to the BAR-UPLB’s “Technology Promotion and Commercialization of Edible Landscaping” (TP-CEL).
In Antipolo, in an aim to orient children who are now mostly ignorant on agriculture, a resort has also used edible landscaping as a better alternative to planting ornamental plants.
The concept of EL was presented at the Flora Filipina Conference in Manila in January 2009.
BAR has been supporting projects that boost consumption of vegetables in the country which is known to be among the lowest in Asia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) indicated the Philipines’ vegetable consumption of 60 kilos per person per year in 2007 was one of Asia’s lowest, reported the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
This results in chronic malnutrition especially in children with shortage in people’s intake of vitamins and minerals. The National Nutrition Survey (NNS) of 2008 reported 33 percent of Filipino children less than 10 years old were too short for their age classification. Stunting also affects 29 percent of five-year-olds.
NNS reported the Philippines’ average daily consumption per person of 110 grams of vegetables as of 2008 was lower than the 145 grams consumption in 1978.
Furthermore, consumption of fruits was also lower as of 2008 at 54 grams per person per day compared to 104 grams in 1978.
BAR and the Department of Agriculture previously had campaigns on raising Philippines’ vegetable consumption.
One of these was the “Oh My Gulay” which was implemented with the East and Southeast Asia of the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC) based in Taiwan.
This program aimed to support health programs on reduction of incidence of vitamins and minerals that are linked to contraction of heart diseases, cancers, diabetes, and other degenerative disease.
The country’s vegetable consumption is even far lower than WHO’s recommendation of 400 grams of vegetables and fruits per person per day or 150 kilos per year.
One of the reasons for low vegetable consumption may be the high price of vegetables.
Most vegetables are produced in farflung upland areas like Baguio and Nueva Vizcaya so that most urban residents do not have access to affordable vegetable.
“Vegetables and fruits can be more expensive than fish in the Philippines, and their prices fluctuate a lot,” according to Sheila Aclo de Lima of the AVRDC. “With these (space-friendly) methods (like container farming), underprivileged families can produce for themselves, and their vegetable and fruit consumption is resilient to weather and food crises.”
The EL project is not only about how to grow organic vegetables but on planning, design, and implementation of a landscape architecture program.
“Edible plants can provide the texture, color, and mass that we like to see in our garden as some of them are fine, dainty and lay, bright and attractive, tall growing or in prostate forms,” according to the TP-CEL report.
EL farms may have different shapes for the plots rather than just rectangular. These may be shaped as a circle, moon-shaped, square, or heart-shaped.
“A trellis does not need to be flat on top. Rather it can be in arch form or tunnel form to inject some novelty and excitement.”
An EL farm does not have to be very big. At the UPLB CA AGripark, the technology demonstration area was 2,900 square meters. At BAR’s building, the area only covered 10 by four meters or a total of 40 square meters.
A staff has to be hired to maintain the gardens at the CA AGripark. They have been trained to implement in the EL farms calendared planting, soil amendment, composting, companion cropping or best crop combinations, seedling production, chemical-free or organic vegetable production, and horticultural practices.
The CA Agripark had a Pinakbet Garden planted with the vegetables Ilocanos love like eggplant, ampalaya, camote. It had a Sinigang Garden planted with radish, okra, eggplant, tomato, gabi, and kangkong. It had a Kamote Kaleidoscope with different kamote varieties of different colors and interesting shapes, and Salad Republic (lettuce, tomato, chives, celery, chicharo and onion).
A Fruit Tree Miracle garden had miracle fruits like kalamansi, guava, chico, kalamias, and papaya.
The Herbs Garden had basil, tarragon, mint, viola, oregano, gainura, and gotokola.
Urban gardening or container gardening is encouraged in EL so that city dwellers may take advantage of the technology.
Any commercially available recyclable plastic container, clay pots, coconut shells, and other commonly available materials were used as pots to demonstrate to many that one does not have to have rich resources to put up this garden.
Those planted in these containers are lemon grass, gainura, lettuce, mustard, and pechay.
To enhance beautification, the perimeter fence at CA AGripark was planted with different vines like ampalaya, upo, patola, cucumber, and singkamas.
Factors to consider in the choice of plants are nutrition, preference, color, texture, scent and attractive physical characteristics.
While one expects to see mostly plants in EL particularly vegetables (called softscapes), hardscapes are needed to beautify an EL farm. These are trellises, signage, pots and containers, waterfalls, and lights.
The TP-CEL had listed several indigenous fruit trees in the country that have potential use for EL.
These are abiu, alingaro, ambarella, araza, ardisia, bago or melinjo, batuan, bitungol, black palm, Brazil cherry, chico-mamey, eleagnus, galo, guava, mulberry, Indian, Philippine chestnut, pitomba, and raspberry bush, among others.
While one initially thinks EL may have limited applications, as he investigates he is surprised that it has vast applications. It includes that for home, commercial, and humanitarian purposes. It can be in homes, parks, schools, business and government offices, and industrial sites.
Instead of chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers are recommended in EL sites.
To repel some types of insects, marigold, onion, and garlic are planted around the garden such as on walkways or around perimeter walls.
Some insects are also repelled with the use of chili and soap sprayed on plants. Bagging of fruits using paper, plastic, and other innovative materials is encouraged to prevent infestation.
Pruning or thinning out of flowers, fruits, and leaves not only enhances plant shape but also its fruiting productivity.
Ratooning, retaining the plant from new emerging roots, is also practiced as it saves replanting and fast growth compared to growing plants from new seeds. Kangkong is one of those that are being rationed.
Commercial farms aim to harvest massive plants at the same time in order to achieve economies of scale.
However, EL is ideal for staggered harvesting which is ideal for small consumption in families.
For any questions kindly contact Dr. Fernando Sanchez (UPLB), 0917-500-4035, Ms. Mara Valdeabella (BAR), 928-8505; for interview requests Ms. Analiza C. Mendoza, 0921-338-3816, 0916-266-6604 (Growthmagph).