Innovation of the Week: Agriculture Education in School

A student with the DISC program in Uganda holds up his harvest.  (photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

A student with the DISC program in Uganda holds up his harvest. (photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

By Abby Massey

Founded in 2008, the Mangeons Local project in Senegal, supported by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, is currently working with two schools in Dakar to provide classes on food sources and agricultural methods and nutrition, as well as cooking lessons.

Slow Food International is a non-profit dedicated to preserving local food traditions and raising awareness of how food choices affect the rest of the world. The Foundation for Biodiversity was founded in 2003 to fund projects that preserve global food diversity. The goal of the Mangeon’s Local project is to expand its local food and agriculture education program to schools throughout Senegal, involving more children in cultivating local foods and preparing traditional meals.

Many African countries are reacting to irregular crop yields resulting from climate change, as well as to the availability of cheaper, subsidized food products such as grain from other countries, by importing more of their staple crops and depending less on local food production. As a result, local farmers are losing their livelihood, food security is compromised, and local traditions are disappearing. Farming households that were once self-sustaining are suddenly dependent on outside food sources that are often scarce or expensive.

“I did not know how gooseberries taste, but now I have tasted them today so I am going to have a bigger garden at home than the one at school,” said Nalweyiso Jovia, a student participating in the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) program in Uganda—a project that Danielle is visiting and will write about next week. Founded in 2006 by Edward Mukiibi, the leader of Slow Food Mukono, DISC aims to give children nutritional guidance while also instilling a respect for agriculture and a deeper understanding of where food comes from.

In Tanzania, Danielle spent time learning about the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots and Shoots program and how it seeks to make important connections between food and wildlife conservation in the classroom. Founded by Jane Goodall in the early 1990s, Roots and Shoots works with the Tanzanian Ministry of Education to train teachers to incorporate environmental themes into their classrooms and to get students out in the garden, market, or forest to engage directly with the material.

Teaching children about the connections between where their food comes from, the environment, and food security is an important and effective way “to create a generation of conscientious adults,” says Nsaa-Iya Kihunrwa, Director of Roots and Shoots. Just as importantly, it helps create a generation of potentially self-sustainable farmers, pastoralists, and consumers who will make nutritional decisions that nourish both their bodies and the planet.

Abby Massy is a Food & Agriculture Intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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