During my “etude du milieu” I introduced myself to the director of Somyaga Primary School A. We were discussing the needs of the school when I noticed pictures of students watering plants on his wall. I asked if they had a school garden. He replied that they used to a few years ago but someone stole the fencing so animals ate all the plants and they couldn’t afford to buy a new fence to keep the animals out. Soon after, I found out about the USAID and Peace Corps garden training I immediately thought about Primary School A. The school staff nearly jumped for joy when I told them. We decided that the 3rd grade teacher who had been previously in charge of the garden should attend the training with the president of the parent’s association since teachers often get moved to different schools and the president could take charge in such a case. After the training, I worked with the school staff and the parent’s association to decide how big the garden would be, the use of the products, and how we could sustain the garden for future students.
Our garden would have three goals – to improve the nutrition of the government provided lunches, to teach nutrition and service-learning education, and to foster a sense of solidarity among the students. We agreed that we would utilize the 5th grade students to be the main leaders of the garden but have a schedule for all of the grades to practice maintenance. We would divide the 5th grade class into teams for watering and have one team be the accountants of the garden when we would eventually sell 50% our products in order to be able to upkeep the garden in future. We also decided to cement the bottom of the fence to prevent people from stealing it.Once we received the money for our grant, I, the parent’s association’s presi-dent and the 3rd grade teacher went to our local town to buy supplies. We then hired the mason of the community to put in and cement the fence. In the meantime, I met with the entire parent’s association to discuss the garden and the importance of nutrition. I used images to quiz them about food groups and I also had them demonstrate how to make oral rehydration salt. I also met with the school staff to discuss the various ways they could use the garden in their academic programs. Lastly I did an interactive nutrition education lesson with the 5th grade class.After the fence was set up, the students began preparing the garden beds and making compost. They then started planting and making nurseries of egg-plants, cucumber and moringa. We are now waiting for the fruits to blossom so we can sell them in the community. I think what makes this project so successful is that the school staff, parent’s association and the students have really taken initiative in garden upkeep. Even during the weekends and breaks students come to water the plants.
Volunteer Leanne Demery