Source: Farm Radio International
About 500 students at Dano C primary school in the province of Ioba, in the South-West region of Burkina Faso are currenting benefitting from their 1,000-square-metre school garden. The students grow tomatoes, onions, lettuce, sorrel, eggplant, and other vegetables where the produce from the garden is used to supplement lunch served to students. Some of the produce are sold which provides extra income to cover repairs and other expenses for the garden.
The principal of the School, Mr. Zoumana Fofana says the garden began four years ago and has helped to improve students’ health and academic performance. He adds that students have been sick less often since the launch of the garden, and that malnutrition has been avoided. In addition, there are virtually no school dropouts thanks to the garden vegetables that supplement the school lunch.
The bell rings, signalling that it’s midday at Dano C primary school. Sandrine, a student in CM1 (the fifth year of study), takes her plate to the lunchroom. Cabbage leaves and onion make a mound on her plate and the delicious smell of the vegetables whets her appetite. The 11-year-old says, “With this, I don’t go home anymore [to eat]. So I enjoy reviewing my lessons.”
Mr. Fofana calls the school garden the “laboratory where lessons in observation and language are held.” This is one reason why he believes the garden has contributed to good academic results.
The head nurse of the medical centre that serves students at Dano C primary school, Abdon Da, added that before the school started the lunch canteen and garden, more than 100 students visited the health centre each month. Youth were afflicted with diarrhea, dysentery, gastric ulcers, and malaria. But since the school started including vegetables from the garden in the lunch, the health centre has seen fewer young clients.
According to the head nurse, vegetables are part of the “protective” food group. They providing the vitamin A and iron that adolescents need.
In most rural families in Burkina Faso, children don’t eat breakfast, so school lunch is important. The plan is to increase the diversity of the meal and insist on a balanced mix of foods and nutrients. These benefits encourage teachers and students to invest time and energy in the school garden.
Principal Fofana says it wasn’t easy to start the garden project. He recalls the difficulties: “Some parents didn’t understand the value of the school garden. For them, their child comes to school to learn to read, not to engage in manual labour.”
But he is happy that few parents remain critical of the project. He notes that “the idea of a school garden has been discussed with the partners,” including parent associations, teachers, and the school management committee.
Ouattara Siaka is responsible for garden production. He says the students are organized into groups of 15 to 20 for morning and evening watering, tasks that don’t encroach on learning hours.
All the teachers recognize that the school garden helps with learning, making many subjects more concrete, particularly science, math, and language. Thus, the garden helps achieve academic success and transforms learning from the theoretical to the practical.
One of the student, Samsoudine Barry who is so proud of the school garden had this to say, “With the gardening, I learn to love working the land. Also, I better understand certain lessons when the teacher takes us to the garden for experiments.”