Bio Intensive Gardening

IIRR’s Bio Intensive Gardening (BIG) standard for schools in the Philippines has also been adapted in Cambodia and South Sudan. The standard contains gardening principles and practices to enable schools to sustain their gardens and strengthen their links with school feeding programs. IIRR is working closely with the Department of Education in the province of Cavite, Philippines, spreading the practice to 373 public elementary schools and 36 day care centers in the province.

FACT: Hunger and malnutrition are threatening the poor more than ever before. At school and household level, there is a dire need to identify, learn, and disseminate appropriate technologies to support food security and nutrition programs.

PROBLEM: Most rural communities equate gardening with hard work and poor economic return. Reliance on external inputs makes gardening unsustainable for resource-poor families.

SOLUTION: Simple technology with BIG benefits.
The Bio Intensive Gardening (BIG) approach developed by IIRR has been tested, modified, and simplified over three decades. By keeping the cost low and sustainability high, we have made significant inroads in rural reconstruction.

EXAMPLE: One of our tried and true techniques involves the use of narrow deep dug beds fertilized entirely with green leaf manure from the local kakawate (Gliricidia) shrub. Similar fast-growing shrubs exist in every country.
A simple, low-external input and eco-friendly practice, BIG technology subscribes to a number of principles that make it particularly suitable to schools and poor households in combating hunger and malnutrition. BIG’s premise is that the sustainability and productivity of gardens largely depends on healthy soil and the availability of good quality seeds.

BIG therefore is: 

  • Environmentally friendly. By using only organic fertilizers like nitrogen-fixing plants or natural pesticides, BIG builds soil health.
  • Adaptive to local conditions. BIG uses locally available materials (indigenous seeds, crops).
  • Low cost. Does not require heavy use of chemical inputs like fertilizers or pesticides; uses recycled seeds or other plant materials
  • Intensive planting and year-round harvesting. A variety of vegetables and crops can be grown in a surprisingly small area, allowing for year-round harvests.
  • Contributes to household income. Excess food crops can be sold to generate income.
  • Young school kids are taught to grow and care for plants and their positive impact on environment and grow to become responsible citizens.

    Big on BIG

    Four million children ages 5-10 in the Philippines (FNRI-DOST, 2008) and many more children in developing countries are undernourished. In the Philippines, IIRR has experimented with an integrated and complementary approach to address child undernourishment. It combines use of vegetables from school Bio Intensive (BIG) gardens to supplement the school feeding program. Together with parents, teachers, the Department of Education and communities, IIRR’s Integrated Food and Nutrition Security uses schools and community Bio-Intensive Gardening as platforms for various interventions. Watch video