Event objective

This side event is intended to provide an informal forum for discussion of FAO's growing engagement in promoting school and hospital gardens. The programme would initially be implemented with funding from TeleFood projects but eventually it would be mainstreamed within the broader framework of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS). The event will enable the sharing of experiences amongst participants from developing countries that have school or hospital garden programmes and projects. It will also provide an opportunity for other interested parties to inform themselves of FAO's aims for the school and hospital gardens initiative and to provide inputs into the development of the programme.

Many schools, hospitals and rural health centres have access to arable land that is not currently used to its full potential. At the same time, both school students and hospital patients often suffer from inadequate nutrition, both in terms of amount and quality. An initiative to promote small-scale, community-based projects in support of school and hospital gardens could have a great impact on the food security of these vulnerable populations.

School and Hospital Gardens can:

  • Reduce malnutrition and undernutrition through the targeted provision of food for regular meals or meal supplements, thereby raising school attendance and improving learning in the case of students, and hastening healing in the case of patients;
  • Serve as demonstrations through which innovations in agriculture can be introduced to the wider community;
  • Generate modest revenues for the school or hospital;
  • Improve the aesthetic appearance of the institution and contribute to the pride of its members.

In addition, School Gardens can:

  • Serve as laboratories for teaching agriculture, science, and nutrition, and
  • Be used for teaching children environmental awareness, including the causes of soil degradation and soil infertility, and the proper use of agricultural chemicals and other inputs.

Although school gardens, in particular, already operate in many developing countries, they often encounter serious problems, such as:

  • inadequate funding;
  • poor management;
  • lack of access to relevant technical advice and guidelines.

TeleFood Projects

Over 1000 projects have been implemented worldwide since 1997. Projects are small-scale (under US $ 10,000) and all funds are used for inputs (seeds, tools, construction materials, starter livestock, fertilisers, etc.). Projects are implemented in a year or less, and full participation by beneficiaries at all stages of planning, implementation, and reporting is encouraged. Over 50 TeleFood projects so far have funded school or hospital gardens.

Partnership Options

FAO can serve as a partner in the development of school and hospital gardens, through contributing:

  • Its experience in appraising and implementing small grass-roots projects, notably within the TeleFood programme;
  • Its expertise on technology and management solutions, which can be drawn upon through linking TeleFood and other grass-roots projects to the Special Programme for Food Security;
  • In-country monitoring through the FAO Representation or FAO projects, either directly or through an intermediary institution;
  • A wealth of high-quality educational materials;
  • A secure channel for transferring and accounting for funds.

Full support at the national level in developing countries from the Ministries for Education, Health, and Agriculture is essential for programme success. Participating schools and hospitals should volunteer to join the programme, on the basis of consensus within the community, rather than be appointed.

Beyond contributing funds, developed countries can also serve as partners. FAO has recently entered into an agreement with the French Ministry for Education to support school garden development. FAO is open to developing similar partnerships with governments in other developed countries and with NGOs.

In those countries in which the SPFS is operational, it can incubate school and hospital gardens projects using TeleFood funding: it can support project formulation, implementation and monitoring through building local management capacities.

Projects can easily be designed specifically to target HIV/AIDS patients and orphans, thus further increasing overall societal benefits.

Returns to investment from school and hospital gardens projects-both through increased income from the sale of garden produce and through greatly improved nutrition and food security-can far outweigh the modest initial project cost.


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FAO, 2002