School feeding in Uganda looks slightly different from the programme in other ForAfrika countries. Whereas most children in our other programmes are younger and receive a bowl of highly nutritious food each school day, the children in senior primary and secondary schools in refugee settlements here are taught to plant and look after vegetable gardens.
Not only does it provide food for themselves and their families, but it also promotes entrepreneurship and life, behavioural and social skills.
In Imvepi and Omugu settlements students from both the refugee settlement and the local community are included in this activity. Students and teachers attend several training sessions, starting with the selection of an appropriate site. They also learn how to establish nursery beds and manage them and have also learnt how to establish “Mandela Gardens” that they can replicate at home.
These circular gardens, named after the Mandela Stadium in Uganda, are built to provide fresh vegetables, whatever the season.
Their design is not just attractive but clever too. They are built in such a way so as to conserve water, control soil erosion and weeds and to be easily manageable. They also only require a small piece of land, but can produce an ample harvest and even a surplus.
Seeds are planted in circular rows with enough space between them for the gardener to walk around and water them. The well in the middle saves any excess water and allows it to cool down on a hot day.
ForAfrika’s intervention is an extension of the school curriculum and students have shown an improvement in their agriculture grades, thanks to the practical component. Being actively involved has also had positive psychological effects, keeping children distracted from their trauma and giving them a sense of purpose.
They can also just have fun with their friends!
Currently they have planted vegetables such as onions, eggplants and cow peas in their land within the school premises and have been able to enjoy some delicious lunches. Soon they will be taught how to take the surplus to market and make some pocket money.
Connie Akware is Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant in Uganda
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