The Department of Agriculture (DA) is scaling up its urban agriculture program with a higher budget and more partnerships to aid in achieving food security.

The DA is increasing its budget for its National Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Program (NUPAP) next year while forging more partnerships to push for urban farming, DA program director Gerald Glenn Panganiban said during the launch of its partnership with Nestlé yesterday.

From P376 million this year, the DA sought to increase this to almost P500 million next year.

'It is only this year that we started to have a budget support. Previously, we only get contributions from Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) for training, a bit of budget from the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI)… But as a national program, the budget this year is still small considering its importance,' he said.

The proposed NUPAP budget will be spread out to all regions and will focus on production support such as provision of seeds, equipment and facilities, as well as training and information dissemination.

To sustain the program, the DA also forges partnerships with the private sector.

'We were running the program for two years without a budget. We cannot do this alone…we need partnerships with the private sector to make it sustainable,' Panganiban said.

As an example, the DA - through Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) - has partnered with Nestlé Philippines through the MAGGI Sarap Sustansya Advocacy to advance efforts to promote urban agriculture in Filipino communities to achieve food self-sufficiency, improving their access to and consumption of more plant-based food.

Under the three-year partnership, the DA and Nestlé established a MAGGI Sarap Sustansya Garden to the BPI center of excellence in Los Baños to serve as a demo farm and learning facility to share best practices in vegetable production.

This aims to help entrepreneurial individuals and communities who are interested in generating income from growing and selling their produce.

The MAGGI Sarap Sustansya garden will also be replicated in other satellite offices of the DA-BPI nationwide.

'We have five national research and development centers. We started in BPI Los Baños…Then we will have in the other four national centers in Baguio, Davao, Negros and Guimaras,' BPI assistant director Herminigilda Gabertan said.

She said these demo farms would help empower communities to have access to safe and nutritious food, grow their own food and gain livelihood by selling crops.

The partnership will also enable BPI and MAGGI to jointly conduct skills-building activities that demonstrate sustainable ways of growing vegetables in the home, or under-utilized areas of communities, schools and other urban spaces, while enriching families' abilities to create nutritious, delicious and balanced meals using their own homegrown produce.

MAGGI will be responsible for creating programs to engage with communities, which include on-ground and online workshops featuring expert agriculturists from BPI who will teach science-based methods of vegetable crop production in limited spaces.

Meanwhile, the MAGGI culinary team will coach participants on how to use their vegetable harvest in making Sarap Sustansya dishes that are delicious, nutritious, budget-friendly, and guided by the Pinggang Pinoy food plate model.

Under the agreement, MAGGI will produce and distribute learning materials on vegetable production and affordable plant-based recipes, as well as starter kits that contain planting essentials such as seed trays or basic implements; along with compost and various vegetable seeds produced by BPI.

'Nestlé Philippines believes in a collaborative approach to building communities, and we are proud to stand alongside the Department of Agriculture in inspiring a farm-to-fork movement among Filipino families and communities,' Nestlé Philippines corporate affairs head Joey Uy said.

'We believe that food security is key to the health of all, and that there's no better way to build a strong nation than by ensuring that healthy food is accessible to everyone,' he said.

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