Setting up and running a school garden
A MANUAL FOR TEACHERS, PARENTS AND COMMUNITIES
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School children in China: R. Faidutti.
School garden in Panama: Jesús Bulux, Instituto de Nutrición de Centro América
y Panamá and Pan American Health Organization.
Vegetables and fruit: Mel Futter.
Ethiopian children: R. Faidutti.
Illustration: Mel Futter.
J. Morgante/R. Magini.
The keys to the development of children and their future livelihoods are adequate nutrition and education. These priorities are reflected in the first and second Millennium Development Goals. The reality facing millions of children, however, is that these goals are far from being met.
Children who go to school hungry cannot learn well. They have decreased physical activity, diminished cognitive abilities, and reduced resistance to infections. Their school performance is often poor and they may drop out of school early. In the long term, chronic malnutrition decreases individual potential and has adverse affects on productivity, incomes and national development. Thus, a country’s future hinges on its children and youth.
Investments in nutrition and in education are essential to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition. FAO believes that schools can make an important contribution to countries’ efforts to overcome hunger and malnutrition, and that school gardens can help to improve the nutrition and education of children and their families in both rural and urban areas. In this regard, it is important to stress that school gardens are a platform for learning. They should not be regarded as bulk sources of food or income, but rather as a way to better nutrition and education.
FAO encourages schools to create learning gardens of moderate size, which can be easily managed by students, teachers and parents, but which include a variety of nutritious vegetables and fruits, as well as occasionally some small-scale livestock such as chickens or rabbits. Production methods are kept simple so that they can be easily replicated by students and parents at their homes.
Food systems are the unifying concept. “From plot to pot”, students learn how to grow, tend, harvest and prepare nutritious seasonal produce, in the educational settings of the classroom, the garden, the kitchen, the school cafeteria and the home. The experience promotes the environmental, social and physical well being of the school community and fosters a better understanding of how the natural world sustains us. Links with home gardens reinforce the concept and open the way for the exchange of knowledge and experience between the school and the community.
Such food-based strategies have the merit of sustainability: they create long-term dietary habits and put food choices into the hands of the consumer. A strong education component ensures that the effects go beyond the immediate time and place, to children’s families and future families.
Nutrition concerns also link the developed and the developing worlds, which share many dietary problems. For example, the need to change perceptions of fruits and vegetables and to learn how they are best grown, prepared and eaten is common to many communities, rich and poor, and may be critical in building community health in both. This makes for meaningful joint efforts and exchanges of experience, ideas and teaching materials.
FAO has prepared this Manual to assist school teachers, parents and communities. It draws on experiences and best practices of running school gardens all over the world. Classroom lessons are linked with practical learning in the garden about nature and the environment, food production and marketing, food processing and preparation and making healthy food choices.
We hope that the Manual will be a useful tool for all those who wish to start or improve a school garden with the aim of helping school children to grow in both mind and body.
Food and Nutrition Division
Plant Production and Protection Division
The Manual and accompanying materials were prepared by the Nutrition Programmes Service of the Food and Nutrition Division in consultation with the Crop and Grassland Service of the Plant Production and Protection Division in FAO.
Ellen Muehlhoff of the Food and Nutrition Division had overall responsibility for developing and guiding the preparation of this publication. She also served as technical editor. Alison Hodder of the Plant Production and Protection Division advised on the horticultural sections. Special thanks are due to Jane Sherman, who is the main author of this text. Her expertise in education and experiential learning and her writing skills are highly appreciated. Chris Landon-Lane’s broad experience in horticulture and practical approach to small-scale gardening enriched the horticulture sections and fact sheets.
Substantial technical contributions were provided by Jennifer Heney of the Agricultural Support Systems Division in FAO. Valuable comments and contributions were also received from: Fiorella Cerruti of the School Feeding Service, World Food Programme (WFP); Lavinia Gasperini of the Research, Extension and Training Division; Corinna Bothe, Fintan Scanlan and Alberta Mascaretti of the Field Operations Division; and Hitomi Sato of the Plant Production and Protection Division.
We would also like to express our very special appreciation to all the head masters and mistresses, school teachers and educators in different parts of the world who made this publication possible, in particular:
Buzz Bezuidenhout, BMW SEED (School Environmental Education Development) Programme, South Africa
Asha Choday, head teacher, Maranda School, Kenya
Jackie Greenhouse, head teacher and Linda Carr, garden manager, Manorbier School, Wales
Patrick Lloyd-Lister, group health educator, Harmony Gold Mine, South Africa
Mark Miller, project coordinator, Gate Project (Garden-based agriculture for Toledo’s Environment), Jamaica
Sylvester Ncube, head teacher, Nebiri School, Zimbabwe
Claudette Power, head teacher, and Miss James, garden manager, Sligoville School, Jamaica
Charles Ssekyewa, senior lecturer in Agriculture and coordinator of Seeds for Africa school gardens project, Martyrs University, Uganda
Simon Zayo, garden master, Negande School, Zimbabwe
We thank the community of Komga, South Africa, for their support and enthusiatic contributions to the photos and final preparation of the book, especially Errol Muller of Komga Market, Ronel Vorster and staff of the East Cape Co-op, the children of Draaibosch, the Flannigan family and Government Kobese.
Further acknowledgements are due to Brett Shapiro and Rosemary Allison for editing and proofreading. Mel Futter was responsible for design and layout, and unless otherwise stated within the publication, provided all photography and illustration.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome,
© FAO 2005
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This electronic document has been scanned using optical character recognition (OCR) software. FAO declines all responsibility for any discrepancies that may exist between the present document and its original printed version.
PART 1: WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?
Running a garden project
PART 2: WHO WILL HELP US?
Involving the family and community
PART 3: WHAT IS OUR GARDEN FOR?
Aims and principles
PART 4: WHERE DO WE START?
Raising environmental awareness
PART 5: WHAT DOES OUR GARDEN NEED?
The garden site
PART 6: WHAT SHALL WE GROW TO EAT?
PART 7: WHAT SHALL WE GROW TO SELL?
PART 8: HOW DO WE GROW THINGS?
PART 9: HOW WILL WE EAT OUR GARDEN FOOD?
Preparing, processing, promoting
PART 10: WHAT’S THE PLAN?
Planning the project
PART 11: HOW DO WE GET GOING?
Organizing the work
PART 12: HOW DO WE KEEP GOING?
Motivation and ownership
Beans, Peas and their cousins
Cabbage and its cousins
Dark green leaves
Tropical Fruit Tree
1. Hunger and malnutrition
2. A healthy diet for schoolchildren
3. Nutrients in foods
4. Energy and nutrient needs
Beneficial garden creatures
Conserving and preserving garden foods
Nutrients and fertilisers
Planting and transplanting
Protecting the garden
Snacks and drinks from the garden