1. Agriculture World

Edible Schools – A Joint Initiative by MSSRF and BGCI to Help Children Learn Basic Farming

Sugandh Bhatnagar
Sugandh Bhatnagar
School children with their harvest

A one of its kind initiative, Edible Schools has been launched by MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Kalpetta, Kerala in association with Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI) to connect and familiarize children with food crops and family farming. 

The goal of this program is to engage the children in food production and farming activities under the guidance of trained, interested and caring leaders, who lead the children into discovery and exploration of soil, water, biodiversity and the science of agriculture production and consumption, as per N. Anilkumar, Senior Director, MSSRF. 

This project was launched in 2 schools in Waynad - Hill Blooms SchoolMananthavady and Government High SchoolThrikaipetta, in January, 2021 and it is a huge success. The programme was initiated by developing a nutrition garden and fruit garden at both schools following COVID 19 protocols. 

These gardens were designed on approximately 870Sq.ft land and fruit trees were planted as part of the campus greening. The nutrition garden has been cultivated with mostly leafy greens such as Amaranthus, Spinach, Curry leaves and Moringa and the commonly consumed vegetables such as Brinjal, Okra, Beans and Cow peas as well as medicinal plants , fruit trees, wild food plants and larval hosts have also been planted. 

The first harvesting from the nutrition gardens at the edible schools was done in the month of March, 2021. Children along with their leaders gathered in their gardens to reap the produce. They were very excited to see their produce as well as fruit garden saplings of Guava, Custard Apple and Mango seeds growing into healthy trees. 

Although during pandemic the students couldn’t visit the school campuses much, the nutrition gardens have been extended to their homesteads. Two whatsapp groups have been formed to clear doubts of the student farmers. Training was given to the students for the collection and multiplication of the seeds of wild native trees like Venga, Njaval, Athi etc.  The seedlings planted by the students will be handed over to MSSRF and hence, the students will be a part of the reforestation programme. 

This exercise is helping the students learn the significance of native timber in restoration of the degraded land and becoming a member of United Nations Decadal motion on Eco- restoration. More such programmes should be undertaken by the schools throughout the country to teach children great appreciation for food and give them a sense of responsibility.

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