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Main Elements of a National School Garden Programme

1. Clear Objectives: the objectives of a school garden programme should be well-defined, realistic and specifically tailored to the situation being addressed. The objectives may differ according to the type of school (primary, lower secondary, secondary, vocational, etc.). The type of garden eventually implemented will also depend on the objectives. The objectives should be discussed at length with all stakeholders to make sure that there is general agreement. In particular, the balance between learning and production should be clear. Parents' and students' expectations should be taken into consideration when defining the objectives.

2. Appropriate institutional arrangements: institutional arrangements are a very important element determining the success and sustainability of a school garden programme. Key players, including Ministries of Education, Agriculture and Environment, as well as students, PTAs, and other institutions such as NGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs) where appropriate, need to participate in programme planning and implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation. At the national level, the school garden programme contributes to address issues such as the revision of curricula, training of teachers and trainers, and legal issues such as access to land and allocation of funds. At the local level, the school garden programme, while based on the overall framework provided at the national level, would take due account of the community needs and ecological conditions through participatory processes, before implementation.

3. Training and development of training material: training of teachers and volunteers from the community in the planning, management and use of school gardens, and the preparation of practical guidelines and training materials, are essential elements of a successful programme. The institutions that will provide this “training of trainers” need to be determined and agreed upon from the outset of the programme. The participation of parents and members of the general community is key to successful school garden development and management and should be encouraged. Mechanisms for twinning the school gardens with local farmers who have gardening expertise, as well as with women's, youth or community groups, should be identified and developed. Possibilities for eventually twinning school gardens with garden-based farmer field schools in the community, or with schools in industrialized countries, should also be investigated and fostered to the extent feasible.

4. Adjustment of curricula to ensure time and proper integration of school gardening and related activities: school gardens may be part of regular curricular activities or extra- curricular activities. However, such options might differ from country to country and will reflect national priorities and choices related to the curricula. Basic subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics, science and arts can profit from the presence of a school garden and render the learning of these subjects more interesting for the children. Learning activities directly related to crop production (or small animal husbandry, fish culture, etc.), as well as nutrition, can be integrated as appropriate into general science and nature studies.

Land and water development and school garden operations: budgetary support towards the cost of land development such as fencing, drainage and small-scale irrigation needs to be calculated. The legal aspects related to these investments should be clearly spelled out (property and user rights, maintenance obligations, etc.). Elements of school garden operation and upkeep need to be identified and calculated. The project should envisage a clear process gradually leading to the material and financial sustainability of the school garden programme. This could take one or two years depending on the situation, and may need government support during this period. However, an “exit strategy” for the government's support needs to be identified.

Budgetary provisions: a national school garden programme, ideally supplementing an established ongoing school feeding programme, will entail the following costs, at a minimum:

Core programme costs:

Physical inputs for each school's garden:

5. Monitoring and evaluation: All stakeholders involved in the planning and implementation of school gardens should be involved in the monitoring and evaluation process. This applies to the national, regional, and local level and includes community involvement, and especially parents (e.g. through PTAs). Technical advice on garden development and management could come from local agricultural extension services, NGOs and CSOs such as farmers' organizations, as well as nearby farmer field schools which may include parents of students at the school. A school garden programme in support of household food security within the context of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security, ideally linked to nearby farmer field schools, can readily benefit from the monitoring and evaluation system that will already be in place for the SPFS.

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