Let’s Go Farming: Who needs School Gardening Programme and nutritional education?

Let’s Go Farming: Who needs School Gardening Programme and nutritional education?

Food security and nutrition are basic human rights and fundamental to a healthy and productive life, yet hunger and malnutrition persist in developing countries. School garden programs with multiple interventions leverage on educational platforms to improve the nutritional behaviour and food security of students and their families are essential.

In Ghana, school gardening is not a new concept. Currently, just a few of the Ghana School Feeding Programmes schools (approximately 2%) have integrated a school garden into their curriculum (initiated by private sector players).

However, when Let’s Go Farming (LFG) School Gardening programme started its first season in Accra, investment was limited. One major concerns raised was Accra (perceived as having privileged schools and students) do not need nutrition behavioural change or school gardening. Many expressed the need for the programme to focus on the other regions (perceived to have low nutrition and impoverished).

For this reason, the producer of the LGF programme embarked on a regional tour in the Ashanti, Western and Ahafo regions for research to collect real data on who needs nutrition education, healthy life behavioural change and school gardening. From average of 10 students interviewed per class (from primary six to JHS 3) the average response compared to that of Schools in Accra has proved a lot of the perception wrong. Indeed, there is popular data that everyone quotes and there is researched data that is hardly shared.

Now I ask who needs nutritional education and school gardens? The table below shows data collected from schools in the Regions visited. These are per average 8 responses receive from 10 students in each school engaged.

Table 1. Shows meals taken by students

Meal Accra Private Schools (LGF) Other Region Schools
Breakfast Tea (with/out bread) Yam/plantain with palaver sauce
Lunch Spaghetti with chicken/Rice with sauce/Jollof + chicken Banku with Okro/Soup. Rice with beans sauce and fish/meat
Snack Box juice/Fizzy drinks/biscuit, pastries and sweets Fruits

Table 2. Shows gardening / farming knowledge of students

Gardening / Farming Accra Private Schools Other Regions
Soil preparation Knowledge based on class lesson Knowledge based on practical lesson at home (garden) or in the farm
Seeds / tubers to initiate food production Limited knowledge to basic fruits and vegetables used at home/consumed Wide knowledge including tubers and seeds care, application, spacing etc
Care for plants after germination Limited knowledge Wide knowledge based on practical experience
Best time to harvest basic vegetables Limited knowledge Wide knowledge based on passed in information from farmers in the family or experience
Own a garden or experience gardening/farming Average 1 out of 10 Average 8 out of 10

From these indicators provided, it is obvious that many implemented projects in this direction echos the popular data, had less research and developed in offices with no research in the field. This has eliminated intervention from the needing students (schools) from nutritional education and ability to grow their own food successfully (even basic vegetables and food crops). However, our educational system favours the Accra private schools as examinations are based more on literacy than practical (agriculture sscience).

This article advocates for change of perception and for more investment in multi-intervention school garden program – Let’s Go Farming programme (LGF). In its 4months implementation (August –Nov), the programme has established 12 school garden with at least 6 vegetable crops in 12 schools directly in Accra, established 200 plus home gardening through the Tv programme around the country and reached over 2million people through the nationwide broadcast of the programme. (This is from feedback received from the programme, data from television station and social media activity)

The Let’s Go Farming School gardening programme is an educational tool to teach students about agriculture, nutrition and health, and to equip them with the critical and holistic thinking to face challenges as environments change. The programme resumes early next year with its school gardening and nutritional education activities.

LGF believes that education contributes to breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition and brings positive social change. Educating children determines the nutrition of the next generation.

Agricultural and environmental education positively increases students’ knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the environment and food production system. It provides them with the ability to grow their own food for nutrition, and equips them for a possible career in agriculture.

Nutrition education positively influences children’s dietary behaviour. Nutrition knowledge is significantly linked to healthy eating, including fruit and vegetable consumption. Paired with school gardening, nutrition education significantly increased students’ consumption of fruit and vegetables, and vitamin A, C and fiber intake. Let us note other benefits of engaging children into the LGF school gardens, nutrition and agriculture;

  1. LGF School gardens give Hands-On Learning and Stimulates Behaviour Change. The LGF school garden is an educational tool for students to practice knowledge and skills learned in the classroom. Through hands on activities, school garden programs stimulate learning and behavioural change.
  2. LGF School Gardens as Part of a Food System. LGF School gardens are small food system engaged in the processes of food production, distribution and consumption. Food systems influence the quantity, quality and affordability of food, thus leading to outcomes in nutrition, health and quality of life. LGF school garden produces vegetables, which can be consumed by students through school meals, or by the family when fresh produce is distributed to students to take home.
  3. LGF School Gardens as an Entry Point for Household and Country Nutrition Sensitive Interventions. The school is a place of learning and a central part of the community, where there are regular interactions between students, parents, teachers, and community members. The school can be used as a platform to deliver school and community interventions aimed at improving nutrition and health outcomes. Through outreach and programme partnership, teachers and students can use the garden as a demonstration site for agricultural techniques and delivering nutrition messages to parents and the wider community and health-promoting phytonutrients to alleviate malnutrition in the household.

However, home garden programs require investment in agricultural training and nutrition education to achieve nutritional outcomes

  1. LGF promotes Environmental awareness and sustainability, e.g. cultivating fast growing trees.

Our appreciation to sponsors and partners; Business and Financial Times, World Food Programme Ghana Office, GeoDrill, Orange 107.9 FM, AgriSeed and Agricultural Development Bank – ADB.

LGF programme currently is raising funds to widen its impact and reach to other schools in Accra and around the country for season 2 next year. Corporate partnerships and/or adoption of one or more school for school gardening and nutritional education will go a long way to sustain our agricultural sector, manufacturing and trade sectors and importantly the general health and well-being of our children and future generation.

How can you help?

Invest in the LGF multi-intervention school garden program to improve student and household food security and nutrition in the country through funding, sponsorship, donation or grant. Your support would help us to successfully implement a school garden program, support monitoring and evaluation, training of teachers, teacher incentives, program materials, and promotional activities.

We also look forward to collaborating with ministries of agriculture, health and education, national school feeding programme offices, corporate Ghana, international organizations and multi-national companies in implementing and supervising the program to ensure ownership for the school garden program.

About the writer

Ewurama is the programme Lead for Let’s Go Farming Programme (LGF). The programme introduces kids to agriculture through the school gardening, nutritional education and food safety with hands on approach in a school yard/container gardening and nutritional games – NutriGo. Follow our school activities via our social media platforms: YouTube –LetsGoFarmingtv, Instagram and Facebook: Lgftv.ghana email us on [email protected]

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