Nutrition is an important part of everyone’s life, but for growing children, getting the right balance of proteins, micro-nutrients, carbohydrates, and fat is vitally important. Maintaining a healthy diet is directly linked to all aspects of a child’s physical and mental development and for the students at Crossroads Springs Primary School in Hamisi, Kenya getting enough of the good stuff as been a challenge. Out of the 323 HIV affected children attending the school only 36 can afford to pay their school fees, which means this is an institution limited resources is already stretched. Since the school serves predominately HIV positive and affected orphans, it means that the children’s need for good nutrition is that much greater.
Development in Gardening (DIG), in partnership with Crossroads Spring Institute, the Segal Family and Starbucks’ International Youth Foundation have set out to establish a large scale vegetable production garden to significantly improve the micro-nutrients going into the school’s kitchen. In addition to the vegetable production farm, a learning garden is being established on the school’s property to teach valuable small scale agriculture skills to the students. The hope is that with the vegetable production farm, DIG will be able to ensure these children will be well nourished throughout their critical school years. Then, with the skills they learn through actively working in the school club garden those same students will be able to continue nourishing their bodies into the future.
While DIG has been busy working out the environmental challenges of the land for the production garden, i.e. terracing for dealing with rain water runoff, water conservation, and soil improvement, DIG has simultaneously begun the school’s club garden which is now growing with full force. Twenty-five students ranging from ages eight to twelve have helped establish the school garden club who meet regularly to learn, practice, and transform their plot of land on school property into a productive learning garden.
When asked about what they’re doing there, the students will tell you about measuring and digging raised garden beds. Why small scale agriculture is important especially for those living in population dense environments like Hamisi. They will show you what has been planted in their garden and where you can find it; they’ll teach you how to check the compost pile and how you know when it’s time to turn it. But my favorite question to ask is what they are most looking forward to eating, which is almost always answered back as skumawiki, a local green that’s full of iron and calcium. The enthusiasm and work ethic of these kids has been amazing. With a little help from their agriculture teacher, Nicholas, and a few select groundsmen the garden club have become some of DIG’s star students. The kids have chosen to plant various local greens, cow peas, spinach, onions, green peas, green beans, peppers, and herbs and couldn’t be more excited about their pending harvest. More land has been earmarked on school property for the club’s expansion, and we hope to involve more students in the farm in the near future.