The new golden rule: grow vegetables at school

A project to promote school gardens in Africa and Asia aims to raise community awareness of health issues and decrease malnutrition
By: AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center
Sept. 13, 2012 - PRLog -- In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, students in Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and the Philippines will soon find a new subject on the curriculum: vegetable cultivation.
“Vegetables Go to School: Promoting Food Security and Nutrition through School-based Approaches,” the opening phase of a planned 8-year project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), began building national capacities in the six countries to plan, implement and monitor vegetable school garden programs during an expert consultation on Home, School and other Public Facility Vegetable Gardens in Southeast Asia held in Bangkok from 27-30 August 2012.
The event, hosted by the ASEAN-AVRDC Regional Network for Vegetable Research and Development (AARNET) with funds from the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), brought together country representatives, teachers, researchers, gardening specialists and others to discuss strategies for developing and promoting home and public vegetable gardens with a focus on nutrition. Vegetable gardens can contribute to food and nutritional security as the global climate changes and causes fluctuations in agricultural and horticultural productivity.
AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center (, a leading international nonprofit agricultural research and development institute, will partner with government ministries of agriculture, education and health to develop gardens and education programs for schools in each country. The vegetable garden programs will be linked with other school-based health, nutrition and environmental initiatives to strengthen the ability of people in local communities to enhance their health and livelihoods by producing and consuming more vegetables.  

“School-based approaches are efficient and cost-effective because they build on the existing educational system to promote health and nutrition activities,” said Robert Holmer, project leader and AVRDC Regional Director, East and Southeast Asia. “A school is often the center of a community, and nearly everyone in the community has a connection to the school, so it is a good place to provide access to services, agricultural inputs, and information.”

Growing vegetables in school and home gardens is a proven method to actively engage students and families in improving their diets. Gardens encourage the consumption of a diversity of vegetables and fruit, which is particularly important when persuading children to favor a balanced and nutritious diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Vegetables provide the micronutrients needed for good health. A lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet causes physical stunting and mental impairment, leading to reduced potential for succeeding in education and in the workplace, and an increased susceptibility to common diseases. Worldwide, more than 2 billion people, particularly women and children, suffer from the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies.

People in the targeted countries seldom are able to consume the daily 400 g of fruit and vegetables recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization to provide adequate micronutrients for health. By producing their own vegetables, people can begin to take action to address the cost of or lack of access to regular supplies of nutritious food.  

Home gardens also offer opportunities for income generation through the sale of extra produce. Most of the rural and even urban poor can grow vegetables regardless of their land resources, educational status, cash investment capacity or gender, as land needs and input costs are small and family labor is usually sufficient. Even where land is not readily available, options such as container gardening can contribute to household meals.  

The Universities of Basel (Switzerland) and Freiburg (Germany) will develop a web-based platform to monitor, evaluate and analyze the impact of the project. To create synergy with complementary initiatives, the project will link with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Regional School Health Program in Southeast Asia, AVRDC’s home and public facility garden projects sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Indonesia, SDC Blue Schools Program in Burkina Faso and Nepal, and activities sponsored by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).
Source:AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center
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