you feed a child well, you can help him think well.”
STRONG, intelligent and
capable people usually have one thing in common: good nutrition
at an early age. Oriental Negros Governor George P. Arnaiz
realized this early and conceived a program in 2002 dubbed
GPAK, or Gulayan at Palaisdaan Alay sa Kabataan.
The concept was simple:
Children were given garden tools, fertilizers, and vegetable
seedlings to be planted on unused lots in their schools.
Ponds were also built so
they can tend tilapia fingerlings. The harvests provide the
children and their families the required vitamin and protein
Before GPAK, the province
devoted 1,456 hectares for vegetable production. Upon implementation,
an additional 139.31 hectares were used for growing vegetables–contributing
9.7% to the total vegetable area and 668 metric tons of 8.4%
A total of 41 vegetable
varieties were planted. Twenty-three tilapia ponds were set
up in schools with a total land area of 900 square meters
and can raise 4,500 fingerlings yearly.
The ponds have so far already
produced 1.8 metric tons of fresh tilapia, serving the protein
requirements of the community.
GPAK thus helped solved
the malnutrition problem of Oriental Negros, with cases steadily
falling to 23% of the province’s population from 39%
in 2002 and 27% in 2003.
GPAK also helps promote
environmental protection by teaching students environment-friendly
technologies such as vermiculture.
Food produced under the
program are thus safer and more nutritious.
As an offshoot of the program, parents are now being encouraged
to cultivate their own vegetable gardens at home. The seedlings
are being distributed through their children from the schools.
The Parent Teachers and Community Associations (PTCA) have
volunteered to conduct information drives in starting vegetable
gardens and tilapia ponds at home.
Schools have also benefited
from the program. Revenues generated from the sale of vegetables
range from P3,000 to P18,000 a year. The income will fund
various school programs and other necessary infrastructure.
While initiated by the provincial
government, GPAK has already taken a life of its own. The
community has started owning the program and has been creative
in solving their own problems.
“If you feed a child
well, you can help him think well. And that is what we are
doing through GPAK,” said Governor Arnaiz.