School Garden

Gardening:

Butete School Garden

Project Justification: In 2008, Village Makeover (WMO) began working in Cyanika, Rwanda in collaboration with several community partners. Rwanda is a low-income country that has made great economic strides following the 1994 genocide. Per capita income in 2007 was $343, up from $140 in 2007. However, food insecurity and malnutrition are still major problems, and the country ranked 167 out of 182 in the 2009 UNDP Human Development Report as a low-income, food deficit, and least developed country. High population density and population growth have contributed to soil erosion, deforestation, and decreased agricultural productivity. Approximately 22% of households are food-insecure with another 24% at risk of food insecurity. Maternal and child malnutrition are prevalent throughout the country, with 50% of children chronically malnourished and 1 in 4 children underweight.  

Background:  To address nutritional deficiencies and livelihood related concerns in Cyanika VMO, along with their in-country partner and a local Agronomist (William Mwangi), initiated the Butete School Garden Project in 2011.  The project was supported and approved by local government officials and school administrators. At garden initiation, approximately 50 community members assisted in tilling for cultivation, demonstrating strong community support for the project. A sophisticated gravity drip irrigation system was installed and commissioned along with approximately 24 raised beds.  Community members and students were trained as to drip irrigation maintenance, as well as the benefits of water conservation.

 

And one seedling plot adjacent to the garden with a fence.

 

Locally available materials were used in garden construction, and the school environmental club members were trained in nursery preparation, seed planting, irrigation, integrated pest management, and other sustainable agronomic practices. Nutrition education was also provided. (For more information about the training materials go to the health page.)  The garden has now been through several harvest seasons.  New seeds are planted at the end of September and are harvested through February.

 

General Project Objectives: 

• Empower students to grow a diverse array of nutrient-dense vegetable crops

• Demonstrate sustainable agricultural practices for organic gardening and vegetable crop production on a small-scale that can be replicated at home with students and community members

• Increase awareness of basic nutrition principles and the components of a balanced diet, while encouraging students to eat from the garden—improving the diversity of their diets

• Utilize garden space at the school as a community teaching site and demonstration space, eliminating risk for those involved and encouraging sustainable organic agricultural practices and production of non-commercial vegetable and fruit crops intended primarily for consumption

• Support livelihood improvement and empower youth at school through training in agricultural techniques, financial management, nutrition / health and project management

General Findings:  A program assessment was completed in July 2012. Between September 2011 and November 2012, the Butete School Garden Project successfully engaged 40 primary and secondary students in the care and maintenance of a school garden. The students were trained in good agricultural practices, drip irrigation maintenance, crop rotation, integrated pest management, composting, organic gardening, nutrition, and financial management. A variety of crops were successfully planted and harvested, including but not limited to: garden peas, French beans, red onions, leeks, carrots, cabbage, Swiss chard (spinach), peppers, and tomatoes. Club members received support from VMO, our in-country team, two school teachers, the Butete school principle, and members of the community.

 

While the project has faced challenges including extreme weather patterns and pests, including moles, and rapid turnover in the student population, the garden was largely successful, serving as a model for future school gardens, as well as a Cyanika community garden slated to begin in 2015. In 2013, the school garden project was put on hold due to the death of the schoolteacher, who was a champion of the project and leader of the student environmental club, as well as a change in school administration leadership.  VMO is thus considering investing resources in the community garden model as a means to alleviate pressure due to participant turnover.  The community garden will have all the same components with an added economic component (such as a farmer’s market).

Direct Impacts:  The school garden project had several direct impacts on students and community members.  First, introduction of a garden at the school and provision of nutritional training at the school encouraged students to take new skills and knowledge home to share with family members.  Numerous students reported setting up vegetable gardens at home and training others, suggesting that the project contributed to greater availability of diverse vegetable crops for consumption in the community overall. Use of the gravity filtration drip irrigation system made the garden quite unique and advanced for the community and has prompted some farmers to use this method in their agricultural production.

The Future:  A community garden project is scheduled to begin in 2015. The new garden and corresponding training sessions will encompass sustainable agricultural practices to use at home, nutrition principles and components of a balanced diet, as well as information about animal husbandry. This project will be sustained by selling the vegetable at an on-site farmers market as well as the central market place.

If you would like to donate to this start-up project please make note of that when donating.