Posts Tagged ‘Developing Innovations in School Cultivation’


Three Inspiring People Who Have Met with Nourishing the Planet Among Reuters 10 Food Trailblazers

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By Alison Blackmore

Reuters AlertNet recently identified 10 individuals who are changing the food system at the grassroots. Based on nominations from leading NGOs and research institutes involved in nutrition and agriculture, including Nourishing the Planet, Reuters paid tribute to innovators worldwide who are finding ways to boost production without sacrificing food security for generations to come.

Women at work at the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA). (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Nourishing the Planet is thrilled to give special congratulations to three recipients who we have met with on the ground: Edward Mukiibi, co-founder of Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in Uganda, Reema Nanavaty, Director of Economic and Rural Development at the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, and Davinder Lamba, co-founder of the Mazingira Institute in Kenya. Their work is inspiring farmers, youth, and policymakers to create a more environmentally sustainable food system.

As the world looks to find ways to feed a population predicted to grow to 9 billion by 2050, it will be people like Mukiibi, Nanavaty, and Lamba who are finding ways to raise yields, improve nutrition, increase incomes, and protect the environment. From inspiring youth to become farmers, to giving poor women farmers a voice through organizing, to promoting urban farming—these  food trailblazers are finding the best solutions for their communities and creating new models for a sustainable food system.

To read more about Edward Mukiibi, Reema Nanavaty, and Davinder Lamba see Mazingira Institute and NEFSALF: Training a New Breed of Farmers, Looking Inside the Gates to Feed the City from Within: An Interview with Diana Lee-Smith, Nourishing the Planet Spends a Day with SEWA, Women farmers key to end food insecurity, Youth Deserve Gold Medals for Sustainability, How to Keep Kids “Down on the Farm”, Conversations With Farmers: Discussing the School Garden with a DISC Project Student, and Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Youth Deserve Gold Medals for Sustainability

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Over 1,000 young athletes from 70 nations will compete in the first ever Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Not only will they compete for coveted medals, they will cooperate in various hands-on workshops as part of a Culture and Education Program that includes the Youth Olympic Games Sustainability Project.

DISC is working in Uganda to change young people's relationship to, and respect for, agriculture. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

As we prepare to cheer the young athletes of the Winter Youth Olympics, let us also applaud the young leaders of sustainability efforts across the globe. Dedicating their time and energy to making the world better for themselves and for generations to come, they are not motivated by medals but deserve them nonetheless. Nourishing the Planet would like to honor 10 medal-worthy organizations and their youth-focused sustainability efforts:

1. Bridges to Understanding: Using digital technology and storytelling, Bridges to Understanding seeks to empower young people, promote mutual understanding across cultures, and cultivate a sense of global citizenship among youth. Students who participate are taught how to use cameras and editing software to create stories about their cultures and communities. These stories are shared online with other participating students in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Peru, South Africa, and the United States. While students in Kalleda, India, post videos about local water pollution, they can simultaneously watch videos from Seattle, Washington, about children who are learning to grow corn, squash, and beans using traditional Native American methods.



To Bring an End to Hunger, Finding What Really Works

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Check out this episode of Link TV on innovations in agriculture, featuring Danielle Nierenberg, Nourishing the Planet co-Project Director, as well as State of the World 2011 contributing authors Edward Mukiibi, co-founder and Project Coordinator of Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in Uganda and Sithembile Ndema, program manager for the Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in South Africa.


Link-TV-WARM-FANRPAN-Worldwatch-Nourishing-the-PlanetBoth Mukiibi and Ndema describe how the projects they are working on are helping to empower farmers to be better able to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. In Uganda, the DISC project instills greater environmental awareness and understanding of nutrition, indigenous vegetables, and food culture in Uganda’s youth by establishing vegetable gardens at pre-school, day, and boarding schools.

“Young people are all moving to the town to look for jobs,” says Mukiibi. But for many people in Africa, agriculture is the best means of improving diets and incomes. Mukiibi hopes that by teaching young farmers to appreciate agriculture from a young age, he’ll help to provide them with the tools they’ll need to care for themselves and their families.  His work is gaining popularity and momentum. “We started with three schools in 2006 and currently we are working with 17 schools and 13 school gardens,” says Mukiibi.  “These gardens have been created and managed by the students, the teachers, and the parents.”

In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, women make up 80 percent of small scale farmers, yet often women do not have access to the land, credit or resources they need to feed their families and earn money. FANRPAN’s Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project recently launched a series of Theatre for Policy Advocacy (TPA) campaigns in rural Malawi, using an interactive model to strengthen the ability of women farmers to advocate for better for themselves and their families. ”What we are doing is we are using theater as a way of engaging women farmers as a way of getting involved and getting them to open up about the challenges they are facing, says Ndema.“We want them to be a part of the process of trying to address those challenges.”


State of the World 2011 is full of similar stories of success and hope in sustainable agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. To read more or to purchase State of the World 2011 at a 20 percent discountClick HERE now and enter promotion code “NtPB20” . To watch the one minute book trailer click HERE.


Complete Video of the State of the World 2011 Symposium Available Online Now

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For those unable to join the Worldwatch Institute’s 15th Annual State of the World Symposium, hosted at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC on January 19th, 2011, full live stream coverage is available online now.


Sithembile Ndema speaks at the State of the World 2011 Symposium on January 19th, 2011. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

The video features keynote speakers and panelists, who include Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World; Hans Herren, President, Millennium Institute; Sara Scherr, President and CEO, Ecoagriculture Partners; Catherine Alston, Cocoa Livelihoods Program Coordinator, World Cocoa Foundation; Edward Mukiibi, co-founder and Project Coordinator, Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in Uganda; Sithembile Ndema, WARM Project Coordinator, Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in South Africa; and Stephanie Hanson, Director of Policy and Outreach, One Acre Fund.


Video Spotlight of the Week

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Each week Nourishing the Planet features a video to give you the inside scoop on the different projects we see on the ground that are working to alleviate hunger and poverty. We showcase past favorites and some brand new videos you’ve never seen.  Check out Nourishing the Planet’s Youtube channel to see more.

This video features Edward Mukiibi of Project DISC (Developing Innovations in School Cultivation) who will be joining us this Wednesday for the State of the World Symposium all the way from Uganda.


Nourishing the Planet & Slow Food in Vancouver Sun

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Nourishing the Planet has had its first Canadian op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun! Co-authored by Slow Food International’s director of international development and Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group member Shayna Bailey and NtP’s co-project director Danielle Nierenberg, the article details how the value and popularity of eating local food is spreading to a global audience.

The op-ed describes the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project in Uganda and Mangeons Local in Senegal and their efforts to help school children learn about local agriculture and the culinary traditions of their countries. With support from organizations like Slow Food International, they are engaging the next generation of farmers.

For more about Nourishing the Planet’s work with Slow Food International and projects they support see: Reigniting an Interest in Local food, Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group: Shayna Bailey, How to Keep Kids ”Down on the Farm”, and Innovation of the Week: Agriculture Education in School.


Keeping Up With Nourishing the Planet

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Senior Researcher and Nourishing the Planet co-Project Director, Danielle Nierenberg spoke at the European Commission's Green Week in Brussels last week. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Almost a year into the Nourishing the Planet project, Senior Researcher, Danielle Nierenberg, has traveled to over 17 countries and visited 130 projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

She is highlighting stories of hope and success in environmentally sustainable food production—including Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (Project DISC), an organization that teaches children how to cook and grow indigenous vegetables outside of Kampala, Uganda; The African LIFE Network, a pastoralist group in Samburu, Kenya that is finding ways to adapt to climate change; and Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD), an organization that promotes environmentally sustainable, affordable and socially just innovations to reduce poverty and increase food production in Accra, Ghana— and has put together a number of great resources to share with you!

For more on the current state of global hunger and poverty, and the goals of the Nourishing the Planet project, download our updated Nourishing the Planet project powerpoint presentation on the Worldwatch Institute website.  Now with audio narration by Danielle Nierenberg, it also includes some successful and environmentally sustainable agriculture innovations which will be featured in State of the World 2011: Nourishing the Planet.

Check out the powerpoint presentation and video highlights from Danielle’s talk on sustainable meat production and consumption at the European Commission’s Green Week in Brussels last week.

Share your knowledge and experience with the Nourishing the Planet team by filling out our online agriculture innovations survey, available in French and English.

And remember you can receive regular updates from Nourishing the Planet by subscribing to our newsletter and blog!


Innovation of the Week: Homegrown Solutions to Alleviating Hunger and Poverty

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Danielle (right) with Mary Naku, a 19 year-old student at the Sirapollo Kaggwass Secondary School in Uganda who is learning farming skills from DISC. (Photo: Bernard Pollack)

“We’ve got hundreds of local foods, almost 600 that we’ve categorized through our research,” said Kristof Nordin in a January interview with Nourishing the Planet project co-Director, Danielle Nierenberg, at the permaculture project he runs in Malawi with his wife, Stacia (see also: Malawi’s Real Miracle). “But we are starving because we are only planting one crop: maize, which came originally from America.”

Many efforts to combat hunger and drought across Africa emphasize boosting yields of staple crops such as maize, wheat, cassava, and rice, which can provide much-needed calories as well as income to millions of farmers. These staples, however, lack many essential micronutrients, including Vitamin A, thiamin, and niacin. That is why many communities rely on indigenous vegetables such as amaranth, dika, moringa, and baobab to add both nutrients and taste to staple foods. These vegetables are rich in vitamins and nutrients and are often naturally resistant to local pests and climatic fluctuations, making them an important tool in the fight against hunger and poverty.

“We are not saying stop growing maize, we grow maize as well,” continued Kristof. “But we try to show people how it can be part of an integrated system, how that integrated agriculture can be part of a balanced diet.”

Greater variety can lead to a better tasting diet, too, according to Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, the World Vegetable Center’s Regional Director for Africa in Arusha, Tanzania. “None of the staple crops would be palatable without vegetables,” he told Danielle when she visited the center last November. For almost 20 years now, the Center—part of the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center based in Taiwan—has been working in Africa to breed cultivars that best suit farmers’ needs (see Listening to Farmers).

In addition to providing the vitamins and nutrients needed for a complete diet, indigenous vegetables are more affordable and accessible to farmers who might otherwise be forced to pay for costly imported staple crops and the inputs they require. According to the Center’s website, vegetable production also generates more income on and off the farm than most other agricultural enterprises.

Indigenous vegetables help to preserve culture and traditions as well. “If a person doesn’t know how to cook or prepare food, they don’t know how to eat,” said Edward Mukiibi, a coordinator with the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project in Uganda, in a December interview with Danielle. The DISC project, founded by Edward and Roger Sserunjogi in 2006, hopes to instill greater environmental awareness and appreciation for food, nutrition, and gastronomy by establishing school gardens at 15 preschool, day, and boarding schools. By focusing on indigenous vegetables, the project not only preserves Ugandan culture, but also shows kids how agriculture can be a way to improve diets, livelihoods, and food security (see How to Keep Kids Down on the Farm).

Sylvia Banda is another cultural pioneer. She founded Sylva Professional Catering Services in 1986 in part because she was tired of seeing Western-style foods preferred over traditional Zambian fare like chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves) and impwa (dry garden eggplant) (see Winrock International and Sylva Professional Catering Services Ltd).What started as a catering business grew into a restaurant, cooking school, and hotel, with training programs that teach farmers in Zambia, mostly women, to grow indigenous crops. Sylva’s company purchases the surplus crops from the farmers it trains and uses them in the traditional meals prepared by her facilities, improving local livelihoods and keeping the profits in the local economy.

“When I first met some of these families, their children were at home while school was in session,” Sylvia said during a Community Food Enterprise Panel and Discussion hosted by Winrock International in Washington, D.C., in January. “They told me that they didn’t have money to pay for education. But after becoming suppliers for my business, the families can afford to send their children to school and even to buy things like furniture for their houses.”

Women who grow vegetable gardens in Kibera slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya, were among the best prepared for the country’s 2007 food crisis, despite being some of the poorest members of society. Their gardens provided family meals at a time when no other food was coming into the city. With food prices on the rise in Africa and the impacts of climate change becoming more significant, home gardens raising indigenous vegetables that are resistant to extreme weather and are rich in vitamins and nutrients have become even more important (see Vertical Farms: Finding Creative Ways to Grow Food in Kibera).

As these examples illustrate, most parts of sub-Saharan Africa “have everything they need right here,” according to Kristof.

To read more about the benefits of indigenous vegetables as crops, see Listening to Farmers, Keeping Weeds for Nutrition and Taste, Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture, Valuing What They Already Have, Creating a Well-Rounded Food Revolution, and Cultivating Food Security in Africa.


Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture

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(photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

(photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

This is the third in a three-part series of blogs about my visit with DISC project schools in Mukono District, Uganda. You can read the first two by clicking here and here.

One thing you immediately notice upon meeting Edward Mukiibi and Roger Sserunjogi is their passion for kids and agriculture. Their eyes both lit up whenever they talked about the students who are part of DISC, Developing Innovations in School Cultivation, a project they founded after graduating from Makere University in Kampala. When we met Edward, he had just gotten back from the World Food Summit in Rome, where he was representing Slow Food International’s Youth Delegation. He works during the week at the Ugandan Organic Certification Company. Roger is a school teacher and administrator at Sunrise School, where DISC launched its pilot project in 2006.

Edward says that after fulfilling their goals of being able to go to university, he and Roger wanted to “help other people realize their dreams.” And they wanted to spread their “passion for producing local foods to the next generation.” By focusing on school gardens, Edward and Roger are helping not only feed children, but are also revitalizing an interest in—and cultivation of—African indigenous vegetables. The schools don’t use any hybrid seeds, but rely on what is locally available. Students and teachers at DISC project schools are taught how to save seed from local varieties of amaranth, sumiwiki, maize, African eggplant, and other local crops to grow in school gardens. They learn how to both dry the seeds and how to store them for the next season. With support from Slow Food International, DISC is establishing a seed bank to, according to Edward, “preserve the world’s best vegetables.”

Improving nutrition is especially important for boarding school students, who eat all of their meals at school. These children come from all over Uganda and DISC tries to make them feel at home by growing varieties of crops that are familiar to them from both the lowlands and highlands. According to Edward, “a child needs to see what she’s used to” in order to appreciate its importance.

At both day and boarding schools, students work with school chefs to learn how to cook foods—giving them the opportunity to understand food production literally from farm to table. And unlike most other schools in Uganda, DISC project schools get local fruits with their breakfast and can harvest their own desert at lunchtime. DISC is planning the “Year of Fruits” for the next school year, which begins in January or February depending on the school—each school will be planting its own fruit trees on campus.

Roger explained that in addition to the monkeys who live around Sunrise School and who like to eat some of the crops from their garden, the biggest challenges for DISC involve transportation and equipment for the schools. Because DISC doesn’t have its own vehicle, the coordinators, who need to evaluate gardens and make sure that the children are actually getting the food they help grow, often have to scramble to find transportation. And they lack good ways for the schools to communicate with one another about disease outbreaks and other problems.

But as the project receives more interest—from teachers, students, parents, and policy-makers (the local extension officer for the National Agricultural Advisory Services is a member of the local Slow Food convivium)—and more funding, they’re likely to overcome these challenges and make farming a more viable option for youth in Mikuni and other parts of Uganda.