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Market gardening


  • Researching the market
  • Deciding what to grow and how much
  • Deciding what inputs are needed
  • Financial management and budgeting; planning use of income
  • Keeping records; bookkeeping and accounting
  • Storing/ preserving/processing the product
  • Packaging and promoting the product
  • Packaging and promoting the product
  • Publicizing the project

A market garden project is suitable for older pupils, since it means going outside the school and handling cash. Younger children can prepare food for fund-raising activities such as bring-and-buy sales, food fairs or raffles of garden produce, or can take part in all-age “project teams”.

The practical purpose of a “market garden” project is to create income. If school funds are scarce, this is often one of the reasons why people value the school garden But a market garden is also an excellent educational opportunity to develop business skills. Simply taking goods to market and keeping records of takings builds responsibility Market research, budgeting, anticipating risks, drawing up a business plan and, above all, business thinking are a real education for life. They can make the difference between success and failure in the small agricultural enterprises many households depend on. They will also help students eventually to apply for and handle credit. Bank managers are always impressed by a well-thought-out business plan.

Nebiri School in Zimbabwe sold its mangoes at a discount to members of the community. But unscrupulous traders started buying up the mangoes in large quantities and re-selling them at a profit. Now the school has a rule that no one can buy more than four mangoes at a time.
(S. Ncube, personal communication, 2003)

However, children should not be working long hours in the garden, so it is not possible for the garden to make a great deal of money. In a market garden project, profit is not so much a goal as a token. It is needed for making the garden self-sufficient and helping the school fund. It is important for motivation, as a sign of a successful enterprise. Other powerful incentives are the opportunity for children to earn a little money for themselves, and to have a voice in what the profit is used for.

Old villager: “When I was a kid at school, we used to ask why we were growing food for the teachers to eat. Now the school is growing food again, but it's the kids who eat it.”
(M. Miller, personal communication, 2003)

It is essential that the project have the right image. Families and the community must see that the school is helping children learn useful skills, and not exploiting them for the school’s profit or (worse) for the benefit of teachers. Transparency in handling money is crucial. Pupils should keep the accounts and be able to explain them. Account books should be open to the public. The whole school and parents should know how income is spent.


The market garden project should be thought through from beginning to end. It will involve:

Whatever the scale, the process will be the same.

The classroom The project will involve meetings and discussions, and classroom-based lessons which can be directly applied in the enterprise. Schools should discuss with Business Studies teachers how a market garden project can be integrated into their normal curriculum. If there are no such specialists, amateurs with good business instincts can help instead.

Project management Who will run the project? Pupils should be involved in the whole process and to a large extent control it. The “project team” therefore means the students, guided by their teachers. Students should also be encouraged to seek advice from families. Teams will need to share the tasks and plan the strategy. They should know from the start that working together is not always easy, and that working in a team is part of the project. They should assess and utilize their members’ particular talents. For example, all these qualities are useful:

Once the product is decided on, the team will open a project file to record activities and decisions. This will be used for assessment and evaluation, motivation, publicity and avoiding future mistakes.

Size The project team should decide at the beginning on the approximate scale and duration of
the project - that is, how long it will take and how much time they can put in.


The team should start by thinking of several possible products, then do some market research, get product information and draw up product proposals.

1. Market research

For each promising product idea, the project team must find out in a practical way if there is a demand for it, who will buy it and where, what they are likely to pay, and when is the best time to sell (see the lesson outline Market research). To get this information they may visit markets, ask families, talk to stallholders and interview producers.

What kind of product can we sell? Students look around their immediate environment to find out:

They may consider herbs, seeds or seedlings, fruit or vegetables (raw or processed), ready-to-eat food, preserves or drinks, or crops that can be turned into artefacts - for example, gourds can be made into containers, bowls, dippers and ornaments.

What is its “added value” or selling point? New products are difficult to market. A well-known product with a new aspect has more chance. The team must ask what is special about their product, what makes it different. For example, people might want to buy it because it is:

If nutritional value is a selling point, the team will need advice on local nutritional needs and the nutritional value of various foods (see the Nutrition Factsheet Nutrients in foods). They may, for example, consult the home economics teacher or the local clinic.

Who will buy it and where? The project team should decide on the best “sales outlets” for them:

It is far more educational if the students are involved in the actual selling, rather than handing this over to a professional stallholder or shopkeeper. However, good arrangements can be made with local outlets. For example, local food producers may be interested in contributing to a weekly school stall if it attracts a lot of people. Restaurants or bars may be prepared to buy a particular product over a certain period. In such cases it is advisable for teachers to make the first approach, and then send in the students to negotiate if it looks as if they will be welcomed.

How much will they pay? When should we sell? The team must find out what prices are competitive, what the range of prices is and how prices change seasonally. They may decide to aim for an out-of-season product that will fetch higher prices, like the Mango Chews in the Box on page 68.

How do we promote it? Every product needs a name. A product can be promoted with a poster, by word of mouth, in a slogan, by sales talk over the counter. If the “selling point” is new to the buyers, it too will need promoting. For example, if the product is highly nutritious, then customers must be convinced of its nutritional value. And don’t neglect other virtues - it may also be delicious and cheap. Sales points usually come in threes!

Sales ideas are important. Promotion usually makes a difference. However it needs forethought and organization, and also usually entails costs. The project team should have some ideas at the beginning and develop them while the crops are growing.

2. Product information

The team will also need to discuss some technical and marketing questions in order to develop more complete product proposals and identify the inputs needed (see the lesson outline Product information). The discussion may also raise questions about important principles - for example, safe food, respect for the environment, investment in infrastructure, truth in advertising.

Can we grow it? How do we grow it? Are the crops easy to grow, hardy and reliable? Do they start from seeds or seedlings? How much work will be required? Will the crops come to harvest in time to package and sell them before the end of the school year?

Technical advice is also needed on how to get the best results - when to plant, how to cultivate, what pests and diseases to look out for and how to deal with them, when and how to harvest, how to store the crop (see Part 8: How do we grow things?).

The team should decide if they will adopt any principles apart from short-term profit. For example, will they insist that the project put back into the soil what it took out? Should it make improvements in the garden infrastructure?

How do we process it? If the product requires processing, what equipment will be needed? Can it be borrowed, bought, hired or made? How will students learn how to do the processing? What hygiene rules must be observed? If produce is to be stored, what kinds of containers are needed to protect it? The project team must go into all these questions. Environmental officers, Home Economics teachers, Food Safety inspectors or the Ministry of Health may be able to give advice.

How shall we package and label it? Packaging need not be costly, but it must be attractive and hygienic. If the product is for keeping, packaging should be airtight and pest-proof. Labelling is an important aspect of sales. It is also a highly educational activity that introduces students to legal obligations and to advertising strategies such as high-impact designs and arresting wording. Will there be lettering on containers or packaging? The project team must consider how it is to be done - by hand? printed? duplicated?

How much time will it take? Once the product team has gathered this information, they should estimate the time required for the project, both regularly and at periods of peak activity (e.g. harvesting, processing, packaging and sales). This may affect the scale and timing of the operation (for example, avoiding exam periods).

3. Product proposals

By doing the above research, some over-ambitious or unrealistic ideas can be eliminated. For the most promising products, the information collected can be summarized on an information sheet as in the Box below. This document is for the entrepreneurs themselves, not for the public.

Product information for Mango Chews

Name of productMango Chews
ProductSun-dried mango slices.
Kind of productSnacks for children to eat at school and at home.
Nutritional valueRich in vitamin A and high in energy, so very good for health.
Added value/selling pointsCan be eaten out of season and lasts a long time. Keeps you healthy. Delicious. Gives you energy to study.
Who will buy it and where?Students and families. Students will take them home and they will be sold at a school stall at break.
What will they pay?We estimate they will pay the same as they pay for cakes and buns from the street vendor - 20p.
When should we sell?Start selling two weeks after the fresh mangoes are finished.
Can we grow it? How do we grow it?The trees are already in the school grounds - no planting, cultivation or pruning is needed.
How do we harvest it?The mangoes should be picked when they are half ripe and not full of fibre. Pick by hand to protect the fruit. Choose perfect fruit.
How do we process it?
We will use a solar drier, which we have to build. a) We wash the fruit, peel it (with clean knife and clean hands) and cut into slices. The peel and stones go into the compost. b) We make a solution of 1 litre of water, 700 grams of sugar, 3 grams of potassium metabisulphite and 2 spoons of lemon juice for every 2 kilos of fruit. c) We soak the slices for 18 hours, then drain them. d) We put them on greased trays in the solar drier and dry for 3–4 days. e) We check for quality then weigh out 200 gram portions.
How do we package it?We put the fruit in cellophane bags and seal with a label giving name, weight, ingredients, origin, process date and storage life.
How do we promote it?
a) We keep the whole school informed of the project and have a competition for the best logo.
b) While the mangoes are fresh we make mango juice for students & remind them that they can have mangoes all the year if they wish.
c) We ask students to tell families our slogan: Mango Chews keep you healthy all year.
d) We give away free samples in the first two weeks of sales.
How much time will it take?
We will need ten hours a week for a month for preparation, 20 hours a week for the month of fruiting; five hours a week for six weeks during the sales period. This adds up to 150 hours (that is, 30 hours each for five people, 15 hours each for ten people).

(Adapted from FAO (no date) Rural Processing and Preserving Techniques)


The business plan is a document drawn up by the entrepreneur and reviewed by loan organizations or bank managers. Its purpose is to decide if a proposal will work financially - i.e. make a profit. It:

To draw up the business plan, the project team must find specific answers to these questions:

How much do we plan to produce? Estimating quantities is a good test of the team’s sense of realism and helps them to calculate the inputs needed. They should decide:

What will our costs be? What inputs will be needed? Where should we get them? What will they cost? It is important that costs are worked out in a businesslike way, as if this was a real micro-enterprise in the outside world. It will help students to think clearly about finance. For example:

What will we do with the profit? Once there is a firm prospect of a profit, the team should discuss what to do with it. Some possibilities are:

If the project team decides to contribute to the School Fund, make sure that this contribution is earmarked for a particular project and not simply “lost” in general-purpose expenditure. Everyone should know what was contributed by the market gardening group and what it was spent on.

What are the risks and how can we avoid them? To tackle this question, divide the project into stages and think of what might go wrong at each stage and how to fix it. For example:

After researching and discussing these questions, draw up the business plan (for an example, see the lesson outline Business plan). Put it in the project file.


Finally, the project needs an action plan (see Part 10). This will show all the project activities and put them in a time frame. Particularly important for young entrepreneurs are:

1. Objectives

A business enterprise generally measures its success by its profit. The project team must discuss if this is their only criterion. They may also want to adopt other aims or principles to guide their actions - e.g. truth in advertising, respect for the environment, investment in infrastructure, fame for the school. These will also be project objectives.

2. Keeping records

The project file should contain a complete record of the project, including:

Book-keeping The project team should learn to keep accounts and take turns at it (see the lesson outline Book-keeping). Short and simple accounts can be displayed, and the project team should be able to explain them.

Project journal A regular journal should be kept of project progress, including:

If the project is to be assessed, the team can compile a project portfolio.

Photographic record Take clear attractive photographs of the process and the product.

3. Publicizing the project

Marketing a product is already publicity. But if the project is successful, blow the trumpet a little more loudly! Students and teachers can talk about it to organizations, the whole school, youth groups, the parent-teacher association or the School Board. This promotes good food, gives young people business ideas, raises the reputation of the school, makes the team feel good, gives practice in making presentations, and attracts new sponsors.

All records are useful in publicizing the project, especially pictures, photographs, quotations and anecdotes. For local radio programmes or newspapers, prepare a half page of important points, and include a picture which will look good in black and white.

4. Evaluation

Evaluation should pick up the projections in the Business Plan (see the lesson outline Evaluation in Part 10). Some questions are:


Outputs: Ideas for suitable products
Business plans
List of needs

  • To encourage entrepreneurial spirit, product teams compete for a prize or a title (e.g. Entrepreneurs of the Year) or submit rival proposals for projects.
  • Have a competition for the name of the product, the logo and the packaging design.
  • Train students to make poster presentations of business plans to the Garden Group/parent-teacher association.
  • Encourage students to cultivate individual plots for pocket money and report on them at the end of the year. Have a competition for the best researched or the most profitable.
  • Set up a “token economy”. Pupils “sell” produce to the school food shop for tokens and “buy” produce with tokens earned by working in the garden.
  • Pay for work done “in kind” - children earn fruit and vegetables by extra weeding, making deliveries in the village, taking food to market, etc.
  • Invite local entrepreneurs, market gardeners and business people to talk about their problems and successes and to comment on students' product ideas and business plans.


Market gardening These lessons, which are for older children, take students through planning and carrying out a market gardening project.

1. Market research This introduction to market research needs a double lesson.

Objectives Students recognize the importance of market research, brainstorm product ideas and carry out simple market research.

Activities Students prepare by finding out about local cash crops, prices and outlets, and by thinking about market opportunities. In class they hear a cautionary tale about young entrepreneurs who did not do their market research, and analyse why they failed. They then brainstorm product ideas, considering a variety of products and outlets (see below), write ideas on cards and pin them up. They choose one “product idea paper” (PIP) and discuss five questions: a) What will be special about the product? b) Who will buy it and where? c) Which markets are best? d) What will customers pay? e) When is the best time to sell? For homework each group selects another promising PIP and researches the same five questions.

2. Product proposals Bring in “consultants” with real experience from the world of business.

Objectives Students learn to consult appropriate experts and to present product proposals.

Activities Students report on their market research, talk through their PIPs and say how successful they think these ideas might be. The class chooses the most promising idea(s) and finds names for them. The class may then divide into teams, each with special responsibility for production, accounts/records, sales and publicity. Those responsible for records file project ideas and record names of team members. For homework students research the selected crop(s) using the Crop Factsheet and consulting appropriate experts (e.g. horticulturists, smallholders, home economics teachers).

3. Product information Students gather the information needed for the business plan.

Objectives Students assemble essential information about the product and the inputs required; they recognize the roles in developing a product and what they involve.

Activities Students are introduced to the ten questions to be answered for creating a business plan (below) and check off those they have covered (1–3). They report on product information they have gathered and file it in the Project File. The class then deals with questions 4 to 6. They discuss the scale of production (how much land, how much time, what quantities) and makes rough numerical estimates. They draw up a list of the inputs required, where to obtain them and roughly what they will cost; these are recorded by the Records Team. Students discuss and decide who will be responsible for obtaining each input.

Questions for the business plan

  1. What are we going to produce?
  2. How do we do it?
  3. How and where will we sell our products?
  4. How much do we plan to produce?
  5. Where will we get our inputs?
  6. What will our costs be?
  7. What will our income be?
  8. How much profit do we expect to make?
  9. What are the risks and how can we avoid them?
  10. What will we do with the profit?

4. Profit budget This lesson deals with the big money questions (7 & 8 above).

Objectives Students estimate the profitability of possible products.

Activities Using the example below, students learn how to draw up a table of projected costs and income and calculate potential profit. Using their own list of inputs, they then do a cost analysis for their own project. They tick off questions 7 and 8. For homework they reflect on what risks the project might face and what should be done with any profit (questions 9 and 10).

Cost analysis of tomato project

INCOMEProductQuantitySale price per unitTotal value
Tomatoes50kg$2 per kg$100
TOTAL  $100
COSTSItemQuantity neededPrice per unitTotal cost
Seeds5 packets$2$10
Fertiliser5 bags$5$25
Paper bags100$10 per 100$10
Market licence1$5$5
Transport4 trips to market$3$12
Hire of tools  $4
TOTAL  $66

5. Business plan This lesson is for making the business plan presentable to the public.

Objectives Students anticipate risks, discuss what to do with profit, draw up a business plan and present it.

Activities Students describe the risks they have thought of, suggest how to avoid them and note down the ideas. They also discuss what they would like to do with the profit. Ideas are recorded, but final decisions are left to later in the project. Students are introduced to the Business Plan form (below). They write up their business plan and practise presenting it. Teams then outline their action priorities and make a note of what is to be done and who is to do it. To follow up, students make real presentations (e.g. to the parent-teacher association, the Garden Group, other classes).

The business plan form

Name of group .................................. Class .......................
Name of project & product ..................................
Project description .......................................................................
Period of project: from  .......... ............(month, year) to .........................
................ (month, year)
1. Estimate the profitability of the enterprise (attach the cost analysis)
2. Where will you get your inputs?............................................................................................
3. How and where will you sell your products?............................................................................................
4. What will you do with your profit?.............................................................................
5. What are the main risks, and how will you reduce them?.....................................................................................
(Adapted from Heney, 2000)

6. Marketing and publicity Promoting a product is very educational for the promoters!

Objectives Students become aware of the value of marketing and promotion, study and select marketing strategies and implement them in a coherent marketing programme.

Activities Students study some familiar products and their marketing strategies, and brainstorm ideas for their own product(s) (see below). They then select a few approaches which they think will have an impact in their context. To follow up, the publicity team prepares and presents a marketing plan.

Thinking of marketing strategies

7. Book-keeping and records Keeping accounts is useful even if there is very little cash flow.

Objectives Students keep track of daily income and expenditure, recognize the need for transparency in accounting and act on it.

Activities Students discuss the value of keeping accounts (as a reminder, for accountability, for transparency, to assess profitability). They follow the record of a market trader’s day, income and expenditure (see below), and understand that we add on the difference between income and expenditure on the right (so the two sides add up to the same) to check that we haven’t made a mistake. They then practise making the entries for other fictitious cash-flow scenarios. Finally, they receive a cash book for their own project and decide who will use it and how.

ELIZABETH’S CASH BOOK Elizabeth sells tomatoes, onions and okra in the market. This is one day’s page from her cash-book.
(N.B. The boxed 1000s mean notes)
Elizabeth starts with 8,000 cash in hand.
  In the morning she buys: 
- 2 baskets of tomatoes at 2,000 each 
- 1 bag of onions at 2,500 
- 1 basket of okra at 1,200

(Adapted from Heney, 2000)
  During the day she sells: 
- tomatoes for 1,000 
- onions for 600 
- okra for 400
She also takes 600 for herself to buy food for the household.
At the end of the day she has 1,700 left. So next day she starts with 1,700 cash in hand.


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