Benefits of Starting a School Farm

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Students and teachers of Cape Coast School for the Deaf started a school garden in 2004. The school uses different gardening practices, traditional and modernized, to grow vegetables. Cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, okra, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, and cabbages are grown in-ground and within raised beds and EarthBoxes.

This new vegetable garden was a platform to undertake the practical component of the Ghana Education Service curriculum, which they're pursuing. As part of the learning activities they compared the rate of growth of the vegetables growing in the soil with those growing in containers and concluded that the plants grew faster in EarthBoxes.

The school garden has since expanded to become a school farm. Students added the rearing of pigs, rabbits and grasscutters (picture on left) to their activities. The school garden became a popular site for field trips by other schools and new friendships were being fostered. The agricultural science teachers of the school were linked with counterpart teachers in the United States through e-mail and webcast so they could exchange ideas.

Teachers helped students to look for best markets for their produce during harvest time. Some of the vegetables found their way into the school kitchen where all students could enjoy them. Most of the produce (including some piglets) were sold and a portion of the profits shared among members of the Agro-Youth club at the school. During a special Parent-Teacher Association event students were recognized with cash prizes for their activities.

Cape Coast School for the Deaf is an excellent example of how starting a school farm with TGC, using both traditional and modern growing practices, can benefit the lives of the participants involved. First is the academic acquisition of knowledge and skills and competencies that may prove crucial for sustainable livelihoods in the future; secondly, the benefit of having access to healthy food; thirdly, earning cash from selling produce; and finally, new friendships can be fostered between local and international neighbors.

Hunger and Poverty Reduction in Ghana

Monday, June 8, 2009

Although it is still officially classified as a low-income food deficit country, over the past two decades, Ghana has made significant progress both in halving poverty from 58 to 29 percent and in reducing undernourishment from 64 percent in 1979 to 18 percent in 2006. If this progress is sustained, the country will be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

However, these impressive national achievements conceal a wide socio-economic gap between the southern and northern sections of the country. Ghana’s northern regions face grim poverty and severe seasonal food shortages.

The main occupation in this area is rain-fed farming which is carried out at a subsistence level and is confined to a short rainy season. As a result, most people are vulnerable to chronic food insecurity and abject poverty for the most part of the year. Five out of ten people in the Northern Region are considered poor. The figure climbs up to nine out of ten people in the Upper West Region, the poorest part of the country. Nearly half of all children under five years of age are malnourished, more than twice the national average.

Recurrent natural disasters such as severe droughts and floods in 2007, coupled with global food and fuel price volatility in 2008, further heightened vulnerability to poverty, hunger and disease, as most people in northern Ghana were unable to cope and had resort to a reduction in the quality, and quantity of their meals.

Reported by World Food Programme, Country Profile for Ghana

Vegetable Production in Ghana, West Africa

Thursday, June 4, 2009

For Ghanaian students and teachers, the Growing Connection experience has translated into fresh food, cash, potential livelihood competencies and new friendships.

Ghana is a country of 23 million on the West African coast. Over 70 percent of its population live in rural areas— and over 60 percent of Ghana’s poor are farmers and food producers. Cape Coast is located a little over 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the capital city of Accra.

Ghanaian students have been growing fresh nutritious produce in Ghana as part of The Growing Connection since 2003, when TGC piloted the program at the Cape Coast School for the Deaf. Since 2003, 9 schools have joined TGC’s Ghanaian family, including 3 in the Cape Coast area.

TGC participants have had great success growing many different varieties of vegetables—both in EarthBoxes and using traditional gardening methods. While most of the sites began by growing simple gardens with two or three EarthBoxes or garden patches -many have grown into full sized school farms. Different types of vegetables and other food crops are cultivated, as well as crops to rear livestock.

The huge success of the TGC gardens in Ghana has had great influence on the students. Students have been able to learn about agriculture methods that are different than the traditional methods practiced in Ghana. Gardens have yielded so many crops, there is enough produce for the students to eat, cook with for other students, give away baskets to villagers and families, and sell at local marketplaces -giving the students not only the knowledge of growing vegetables, but also how to sell them and save the money they have earned.

Because of their successes in farming, one of TGC’s schools, The School for the Deaf in Cape Coast, was awarded the National Farmers' Day Award in December 2006 for having the best School Farm in Ghana for the Basic School category. They were awarded with a certificate personally from the President of Ghana and prizes were given to all of the students to share.

Schools in Ghana have connected with other Ghanaian schools and other members of TGC from around the world. Cape Coast schools have had the opportunity to visit other sites through TGC-sponsored school excursions. Students are learning from each other and their gardens, taking knowledge and new friendships back to their schools.