Nutrition Clubs formed to empower pupils with practical skills in agriculture – Karamoja (Uganda)
Story by Catherine Cheptanui – Enrolled Nurse, AFI Karamoja Response.
Its lunchtime at Lokala Primary School and children are adding fresh vegetable cuts to the main course. This season, the gardens created by pupils are overflowing with nature’s bounty to supplement school meals.
Before the rainy seasons started, AFI provided selected schools with seeds & cuttings of their choice. The emphasis was on micronutrient and protein-rich food items, for instance, iron-rich beans, soybeans, Orange fleshed sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and cowpeas. Teachers used the already existing nutrition clubs to prepare land; plant, weed, and harvest then store the crop yields.
Pupils of Tokora Primary School weeding a garden of groundnuts
Vegetable gardening in schools is implemented by Andre Foods International (AFI) in partnership with United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) and the District Education Office under the community based supplementary feeding programme (CBSFP).
“The concept of school gardening has helped children supplement the UNWFP school meal program which has been the sole source of nourishment in our school”, Mr. Ochen Martin the headteacher at Lokala primary school said.
Children harvesting tomato with their teacher at Lokala Primary School
The vegetable gardening initiative also received wide support from school authorities. They provided farm inputs and implements like hoes, pangas, watering cans, and pesticides to facilitate efficient crop production. Pupils worked as a team to fence the gardens and protect them from straying animals and thieves.
A total of seven school gardens were harvested this year in Lokaala primary school, Cheptapoyo primary School, St. Marys Girls’ school, Tokora Primary School, Alamacar Primary School, Nakaale Primary School, and Natapararengan Primary School.
The pupils of Tokara Primary School showing off their bumper harvest of groundnuts
“Pupils are always excited to take part in the school gardening activities and this brings life to theoretical sessions shared in the classroom”, Mr. Musa an agriculture teacher at St. Mary Girls’ School spoke enthusiastically.
Karamoja region suffers from chronic food insecurity due to the combined impacts of high levels of poverty, low human development and unfavorable climatic and weather conditions. School going children alike have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables which makes it difficult for children to consume daily recommendations. It is against this backdrop that AFI started training school children to plant fast-maturing crops to supplement their school diet.
Although school gardening was initially designed to supplement school meals, the pupils have taken the concept to their homes.
“I shared the knowledge and skills learned with my mother at home who promised to support me set up the garden”, Says Akol Irene Racheal, a primary six pupil from Lokaala Primary School.
Lodim another pupil of Lokala Primary School used the knowledge acquired to set up a home kitchen garden of cowpeas. Part of the yield realized was consumed at home while part of it was sold and used to buy scholastic materials.