Monday, June 11, 2012

School Gardens: Tackling Food Security in Guatemala

Pueblo a Pueblo School Gardens
In the rural and agricultural coffee producing communities where Pueblo a Pueblo works, most children spend their free time working in the fields alongside their parents harvesting coffee, avocados, and other local produce for commercial enterprises — leaving many families struggling to nourish themselves.  In these small-farm communities around Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands, food security and malnutrition are of grave concern.  Pueblo a Pueblo’s school garden project is supporting these families by providing the essential tools and knowledge necessary to practice sustainable, small-scale food production.  From the school garden, children are learning about gardening and taking this valuable knowledge home to their families and parents, encouraging the re-establishment of family gardening and sustainable food sources in their homes and community.

This year has been an exciting one for Pueblo a Pueblo, as we broke ground alongside teachers, parents, and community members to establish school gardens in 3 new schools in the Santiago, Atitlan region.  What started as a small idea has become a large reality.  The Organic School Garden Project is now being implemented in 6 municipal elementary schools, and it complements a school lunch program in each school.  Together, these programs form an integrated approach to school health and nutrition that provides 1,152 children with gardening and nutrition education and daily nutritious meals. Through our program, elementary school children are getting their hands dirty and exploring themes like garden maintenance, composting, and nutrition alongside energetic staff from the local villages. In each of our 6 gardens, worm compost bins, rain water catchment systems, and other gardening technologies keep the children engaged.  They are learning about cultivating, caring for, harvesting, consuming, and composting their own garden produce. This, together with a school meal, is keeping them food secure.
Pueblo a Pueblo teaching seedlings, recycling, gardening, food security
This year, the Organic School Garden Project continued to grow in size and impact, through new project implementation strategies, a new garden curriculum, expanded community involvement, and monitoring and evaluation systems. The garden project also expanded its reach this year as teacher training classes were held in 10 municipal schools in the region, providing them with the skills and seeds necessary to establish their own school gardens. These workshops focused on ways in which school gardens can be employed as a teaching tool and on ideas about how to transform small available spaces into creative urban garden areas.

In the coming year, Pueblo a Pueblo will expand the Organic School Garden Project and teacher training, providing new coffee communities with the tools they need to enable future generations to be healthy and food secure.   We envision this Edible Education as part of the core curriculum of every school we partner with. If we can provide every student with a nutritious lunch and interactive experiences in the classroom and the garden, we have the power to transform the health and values of these indigenous children and their families.