In most developing countries there are school gardens, the best examples of which are usually the result of community-led initiatives or the dedication of particular teachers.
School gardens, both urban and rural, can have several interrelated objectives, including:
- increasing the relevance and quality of education for rural and urban children through active learning and through introduction of agriculture and nutrition knowledge and skills, including life skills, into the curriculum;
- providing school children with practical experience in food production and natural resource management, which serve as a source of innovation they can take home to their families and apply in their own household gardens and farms;
- improving school children's nutrition by supplementing school feeding programmes with a variety of fresh micronutrient and protein-rich products, and increasing children's knowledge of nutrition, to the benefit of the whole family.
Carefully designed, comprehensive national programmes and guidelines, which leave ample room for local adaptation and the full engagement of local communities, are an important basis to realize the full potential of school gardens.
At the national level, a school garden programme, to meet the above-mentioned objectives, should provide for:
- institutional arrangements which bring together and coordinate key players, especially Ministries of Education, Agriculture and Environment, to facilitate the development of a national policy framework and implementation guidelines, and provide technical support for programme planning and implementation;
- training of teachers, school canteen cooks and volunteers from within the community in the planning and management of school gardens and in their use for teaching and school feeding, as well as the preparation of practical training guidelines;
- integration of school gardening into the curriculum to ensure adequate time is available for school gardening and related teaching activities without compromising the rest of the curriculum;
- development of teaching materials, including textbooks, visual aids, and videos;
- budgetary support towards the cost of land development (e.g. fencing, irrigation, etc.) and elements of school garden operation and upkeep;
- budgetary provision for the core elements of school feeding programmes in all schools with a school garden;
- adequate monitoring and evaluation of the programme.
At the local level, the programme should provide for:
- means of engaging the community in which the school is located, e.g. through parent-teacher associations (PTAs), in the development and management of the school garden, including the provision of local expertise and advice, land and voluntary labour and possibly some inputs;
- a reliable source of technical advice on garden development and management, home economics and nutrition (e.g. from local agricultural extension services, health services, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and farmers' organizations).
FAO, in close collaboration with WFP, is prepared to assist governments in the preparation of school garden programmes, at national and local levels, as well as in resource mobilization. FAO may also serve as an intermediary in the development of garden based twinning arrangements between schools in developed and developing countries.