Why school farms still excite me

Amy Yaroslaw, a trustee of a little bit of HOPE in the UK, explains why schools farm still excite her…

I recently had the privilege of sharing the positive impact of school farms at a little bit of HOPE’s annual evening of inspiration. The farms are one of our longest running projects, but they still really excite me. They are a classic example of one project positively affecting the lives of so many people.

School Farm 3I am currently training to be a primary school teacher. Going from registration to break time seems long enough without anything to eat; my tummy soon signals to wrap up a lesson! But most children in Butaleja, the district of Uganda that we serve, go the whole day without lunch. Not only does food stop hunger, it also helps concentration and focus; this then has an impact on the ability of the children to learn.

So why aren’t the children taking lunch?
Unlike England, most food in Uganda is eaten hot. With no constant electricity supply it is not possible to cook food and store it in the fridge for the day. Nor can it be heated up in a microwave. Food needs to be eaten when cooked. Also, most children walk to school; this can be a great distance. There is not time to go home, prepare and cook food, then get back to school.

School Farm 2So what is a little bit of HOPE doing about this?
The idea behind school farms is that a school has an onsite farm. Students, parents and members of the community run the farm. The produce of the farm then goes towards providing students with a lunch. Any surplus is sold to fund next year’s crops and support hiring a cook.

In January we hired Fred, an agricultural expert. Fred has experience and knowledge, so is helping to build school farms from the ground upwards. He hopes that the farms will become an education centre for the whole community. Not only will the children be farming and learning skills, but parents and community members will also pitch in and gain some training. The skills learnt can then be applied to smallholdings at home, hopefully increasing their security against nature and therefore improving their productivity. Parents should then produce a surplus of food for themselves. They can bring this surplus to school to supplement the food produced on the school farm or it can be sold to raise money for school fees or materials for the next year.

School Farm 1Fred is currently connecting people. School staff, senior management committees and Parent-Teacher Associations to ensure everyone is not only informed, but involved in what is happening. A lot of the harvest needs to be collected during the school holidays; strategies have to be made for this to happen.

This project has so many benefits: it is community based; it solves a common problem; the children benefit directly; the community benefit; it is self sustainable… The list is endless! We are hoping to secure a model that works in our current four schools before we roll it out to more schools so more children can benefit.

I know the next time I tuck in to my cheese and chutney sandwich I’ll spare a thought for how fortunate I am that I have never had to study or work a day without food.