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Bio-intensive gardening cuts malnutrition in the Philippines

In response to the 1984 economic crisis in the Philippines, the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) developed a bio-intensive gardening program in the Province of Negros Occidental to increase food availability for Negros islanders.

Two years after bio-intensive gardening was introduced in 1986, the rate of malnutrition had dropped from 40% to 25%.

Bio-intensive gardening aims to rebuild and maintain soil fertility through nutrient cycling, diversified cropping and deep-bed preparation on small-scale plots (200-500 sq. feet). Bio-intensive gardens contain a diverse range of indigenous crops which minimizes the opportunities for pest outbreaks and preserves indigenous seed varieties. Families with these gardens can save cash that they would normally spend on food or non-food essentials for the family. Bio-intensive gardens may also produce enough food for families to sell the surplus and still meet their own nutritional needs.

The implementation of bio-intensive gardening (BIG) in Negros Occidental relied on four levels of training:

  • IIRR trained 150 indigenous garden promoters in the bio-intensive technique.
  • The promoters trained their neighbors.
  • IIRR provided training to other local agencies interested in bio-intensive gardening.
  • IIRR collaborated with the Department of Education, Culture and Sports to train 1,120 school teachers in BIG techniques. The teachers then set up demonstration gardens in 400 schools.

As a training aid for extensionists, IIRR developed a package of educational materials containing slides, flash cards and brochures. The IIRR training materials emphasize adaptation of the gardening technology to the ecological zone and to cultural and economic conditions, rather than adoption of a set of defined practises. The materials outline a basic approach, yet describe three tillage options for garden beds: double-dig, deep dug and raised bed. The training packet also contains a description of the bio-intensive method and its potential for sustainability.

"Bio-Intensive Approach to Small-Scale Household Food Production" training manual is free.


International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR)

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