Primary School students grow food for school lunches!
Previously, Nyada Primary School in Kapelebyong District, Uganda, had a lack of clean, safe water, sanitation facilities and school meal provisions. Furthermore, students often arrived on an empty stomach and struggled to concentrate. Odeke James, a P5 student, said:
“Before, this programme we used to study on an empty stomach and I could not even concentrate in class… Sometimes even I used to dodge classes and instead be outside on the road looking for some mangoes to chew. So to cut a long story short, it was indeed a big problem!”
The groundwork had already been laid by the charity “Just A Drop” who had successfully installed a new borehole and latrine. The access to clean, safe water and good sanitation facilities was a huge improvement for the school, however the issue of hunger and nutrition still needed to be addressed.
In February 2022, Signpost International, in partnership with Voluntary Action for Development (VAD), started a 12 month long project to develop a feeding programme which would provide a daily nutritious meal for students and teachers. In addition, they helped set up a sustainable agricultural programme which would equip students and teachers with the land, tools and knowledge to grow and harvest their own food.
We were able to provide the school with a pair of oxen and an ox plough, 20 hand hoes, 5 forked hoes, 2 wheel barrows and 2 watering cans which would enable the students and teachers to cultivate the land. The students, teachers and School Management Committee undertook agricultural training in the best agronomic practices, sustainable agriculture and post-harvest handling of crops.
Furthermore, an Agricultural Club was formed to empower the students and teachers to have the tools and knowledge to continue growing and harvesting crops once Signpost International and VAD had passed over the management of the project. Robert Okot, a P5 student, writes:
“I now know how to plant in rows, spacing of the crops, intercropping and how to plant cassava. In addition, leading the whole club has taught me to be a good leader and exemplary and this has been shown with my participation in all agriculture activities at school.”
Despite challenges of a global pandemic, teacher strikes, organisational staff changes and extreme hot weather and rain fall due to climate change, they surpassed their target of cultivating 5 acres and were able to plant on 11 acres! They planted maize, sorghum (grain used for making a local porridge) green gram (small bean/pea), and cassava (root vegetable and the staple of most people in sub Saharan Africa), in addition to vegetables.
In January 2023, the school reported that they were able to harvest a 10 sacks of maize, 5 sacks of beans, 3 sacks of green gram, 3 sacks of sorghum and cassava was still to be harvested! Each sack weighed 100kg which is just over 2.1 tonnes of food!
The provision of drying racks, a new food store, a kitchen and energy saving stoves ensured that the crops were able to become nutritious healthy meals which now fill the students and teachers stomachs! While the students waited for their crops to mature and be harvested, parents contributed food for the meals. The community awareness of the importance of school lunches is essential for the sustainability of the project. Headteacher Mr Osege Alex John concludes:
“I will ensure that teachers and pupils continue to participate in agriculture, such that we continuously promote this programme at Nyada, lunch is well served at school which motivates my pupils to concentrate in class thus improved academic performance and my teachers have been motivated to conduct extra lessons especially to the candidate pupils”.
While the main beneficiaries of the project are the 784 students, 9 teachers and 30 staff, a further 1,644 individuals have benefited from the project and will continue to do so! Furthermore, because of the provision of food and cooking facilities on site, they have been able to open a boarding section of the school which enables children from further afield to receive education.
It really is a farm to fork (or hand!) project!
Read more about our Hunger & Nutrition projects here.
Photos of Nyada Primary School Feeding Programme at the beginning of the project (April 2022):
Taken by Liam Johnson from Man Alive Studios.
Photos of Nyada Primary School Feeding Programme at the end of the project (February 2023):
Photos taken by Just a Drop.