Posts Tagged ‘Students’


Video Spotlight of the Week

Pin It

Each week Nourishing the Planet features a video to give you the inside scoop on the different projects 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.

In honor of our trip to India, this week’s video highlights an episode of Nourishing the Planet TV on Bridges to Understanding, an organization working to empower students in Kalleda, a small village in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, India.

Or click here to watch this video on YouTube.


An Alternative Source of Income to Preserve the Forest and Community

Pin It

Jules Adjime, the founder and Director of Les Compagnons Ruraux, grew up in the Kpalimé Cloud Forest, a few hours Southwest of Lome, Togo. He says that he and other people in the community began to notice changes. “Our mothers had to travel farther for firewood, our fathers couldn’t grow enough food for us.” And they started noticing higher temperatures in the previously cool area.

The organization helps teachers pass knowledge—and skills—on to their students. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Small lumber companies started operating in the air. The government, says Adjime, promoted timber extraction and encouraged companies from India, China, and elsewhere to clear forests—“knowing full well we are not a forest country.”  In total, forest covers about 386,000 hectares in Togo, only about 7 percent of the country’s land area.

And, in some cases, the communities themselves contributed to deforestation, using slash and burn methods to drive out grasscutters to eat or to give a quick—but unsustainable—boost of nutrients to soils.

But says Adjime, many of “the young people in the community have decided to invest in the situation” by becoming involved in Compagnons Ruraux. The group works with the communities surrounding the Kpalimé Cloud Forest, training farmers in agroforestry, intercropping, and organic agriculture methods. “We cannot only rehabilitate [the forests],” says Adjime, “but we have to take care of the communities around the forests.” Before you can encourage people to plant trees, says Adjime, “they need to eat.” (more…)


Innovation of the Week: Gathering the Food Growing at our Feet

Pin It

After many years of studying invasive plant species in Patagonia, Argentina, Dr. Eduardo Rapoport, Professor at the Universidad Nacional Del Camohue, realized that many of the “pests” he was cataloging were edible. “I found that, especially in areas disturbed by man, such as roads, back lots, and gardens, there are a great deal of unintentional food sources.” As a result, Dr. Rapoport found himself looking at these “pests, invaders, and weeds,” in a very different light.

Malezas Comestibles del Cono Sur or Edible Weeds of the Southern Continent, is a guidebook to 240 edible weeds. (Photo credit: Rapoport and Drausal)

“I gathered together a group of students and we set out to assess how many kilograms of wild-growing edible food could be found in a hectare of urban space,” said Dr. Rapoport. Starting with the airport and working through different parts of the city, Dr. Rapoport and his students found that the average amount of food per hectare was 1,300 kilograms—or about 3,400 pounds of food per acre.

Dr. Rapoport repeated the same study in Mexico in order to compare the results in temperate Patagonia with a tropical environment. He and his students found that there was an even greater wealth of food in that area—about 2,100 kilograms per hectare. “It was surprising,” said Dr. Rapoport, “and it was incredibly valuable. There are people who are going hungry and they are surrounded by plenty of food. They just don’t know it.”

Not only are there a wide variety of wild edible plants growing near  city streets, at schools, and in the public areas throughout South America, explains Dr. Rapoport,  but many of them are also incredibly productive. “These are weeds,” says Dr. Rapoport, “they multiply and grow quickly. We found that many of them could be harvested multiple times per season, meaning that a gatherer could get more than one meal from one plant over the course of a very short period of time.” (more…)


Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture

Pin It
(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.


Building Roots in Environmental Education

Pin It

rootsandshootsThis is the second in a two-part series about my visit to the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

After my initial disappointment of not being able to travel to Kigoma, Tanzania to visit the Jane Goodall Center’s projects in Gombe National Park—thanks to mechanical problems on Precision Air —I decided that there was still a lot to learn about the Institute’s work at the Dar headquarters. Nsaa-Iya Kihunrwa, the Director of JGI’s Roots and Shoots program, explained further how the Institute’s work has evolved over the last 15 years.

JGI first started working with school children in the early 1990s through Roots and Shoots, a program that trains students and teachers about conservation. They’re striving, according to Mr. Kinhunrwa, “to create a generation of conscientious adults” who care about the environment.

Through Roots and Shoots, JGI has worked with the Tanzania Ministry of Education to train teachers to use environmental themes in their classrooms. When children are learning about fish and other foods, for example, teachers are now using experiential learning—taking kids to fish markets, for example—to identify breeds and varieties and talk about conservation. These new ways of learning help students make the connections between what they eat and the health of the planet.

These skills will help train the next generation of farmers, teachers, laborers, and businesspeople in Kigoma and elsewhere in Tanzania not only to be more aware of environmental issues, but to also become conservationists and help preserve wildlife and biodiversity in the area.