About this tool
This tool is about setting up school gardens around primary and secondary schools in cocoa growing communities. Setting up school gardens can:
- Address malnutrition, particularly of schoolchildren in the community.
- Serve as the basis for experiential learning in primary and secondary schools, making education more useful in a rural context.
- Improve school enrolment and successful completion.
This tool should be read in the context of education improvement, cocoa and food production.
When to use this tool?
- When you want to address malnutrition in children and, indirectly, in parents, teachers and other community members
- When you want to increase awareness of the importance of nutrition
- When you want to improve the quality of education (both curriculum content and teaching methods), to make it more relevant to young people in cocoa growing communities
- When you want to invest in future generations of cocoa farmers
- When you want to engage the private sector in long-term community development, and in the improvement of schools
How did this tool come about?
This tool is based on the experiences of AgroEco/Louis Bolk Institute (LBI) in Ghana, who set up 10 school gardens in cocoa growing districts. This account shows what steps were taken, what challenges they faced and how this model can be replicated in other countries.
Steps to use this tool
Step 1: Defining your stakeholders
Step 2: Stakeholder analysis
Step 3: Defining the type of garden to be established
Step 4: Establishing the school garden
Step 5: Garden management
Step 6: Developing a school garden curriculum
Agro Eco LBI (2011). Organic Junior Farmer Field and Life School; Facilitator’s Manual (116p)
Bryson, J. (1995) Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations (rev. edn), San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass.
Centre for Ecoliteracy (2007). Getting started; a guide for creating school gardens as outdoor class rooms
FAO (2004). School gardens concept note; Improving child nutrition and education through the promotion of school garden programmes.
FAO (2005). Setting up and running a school garden; a manual for teachers, parents and communities.
FAO (2010). A new deal for school gardens.
USAid, African Education Initiative (2008). Teacher’s Guide to School Gardens Rwanda. First edition
USDA FAS/BMGF (2009). Assessment of Local Production for Schoolfeeding in Ghana, Kenya, Mali and Rwanda.
– School gardens can improve nutrition and quality of education while increasing school enrollment.
– Local commitment and a third party with long-term commitment to the community are needed for success. School gardens are an easy entry point for industry to work with the community in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Why this tool?
There are several reasons why school gardens can be set up as part of a cocoa community development program:
Improving the nutritional status of children in cocoa growing communities:
- School gardens can produce vegetables and other nutritious crops for school lunches. In the long term, this addresses malnutrition and stunting among students while in the short term, a better diet improves their ability to learn.
- Children and parents are both involved in the school garden and learn about food production. Lessons learnt can therefore be applied at home, and kitchen gardens set up.
In Ghana, the main reason for setting up school gardens was to improve the low quality school lunches that were provided for children.
According to experiences in Ghana, parents are enthusiastic and apply lessons learned at home.
Improving school enrollment and quality of education:
- A good quality school lunch is an incentive for parents to send their children to school, increasing enrollment and attendance.
- The school garden offers an experiential learning environment. Children observe, learn and practice what they learn. Life skills are an important part of the curriculum.
Making education more useful for the rural population or future farmers:
- Children learn the basic skills necessary for farming. Teaching about farming is rare in cocoa villages, and if taught, is very theoretical.
- Children learn about food, nutrition and health in a participatory, experiential way.
When to set up school gardens?
Schools in rural West Africa are often underfunded, overpopulated and understaffed. Lack of motivated staff and lack of (nutritious) school lunches are some of the challenges faced by rural schools.
The quality of education, school enrollment and attendance are the responsibilities of local and national government. If the cocoa industry is interested in improving schools in cocoa growing communities, setting up school gardens can be a good entry point. The schools will benefit from increased investment from the industry, and industry will likely benefit in the long term from the schools and the type of education the students receive. Parents find education important, and will appreciate the cocoa industry’s attention; it will increase their loyalty towards the buyer of the bean.
In Ghana, ten school gardens were set up in a project with an international NGO, a local NGO and the Ministry of Agriculture (MOFA). Four years later, only four of the ten schools still have a garden.
The success of a school garden depends on the continued presence of a committed and influential leader (for example, a school director, teacher or extension officer who is willing to “pull the cart”). The gardens that disappeared did so as soon as the main supporters left.
To keep in mind
There are some potential challenges that need to be addressed in the design of a school garden project.
- To make a school garden project sustainable, local commitment is required, backed up by a third-party with long term commitment to the community.
- The experiences described in this tool cannot automatically be applied to any other context. While reading and using this tool, the local situation should be kept in mind at all times.
Examples of challenges in school garden projects:
- Once the funding ended, the school garden was abandoned.
- Inputs for the school garden were used for teachers’ private plots, or the gardens were considered private property.
- Children were working in the gardens during school hours.
Step 6: Development of the curriculum
- The curriculum for the school garden should fit the size, purpose and commitment of different stakeholders.
- The development of the curriculum requires the commitment of teachers.
- It is suggested that in the school gardens, no separation of tasks between boys and girls be implemented.
The curriculum for the school garden should fit the size, purpose and commitment of different stakeholders. In its initial stages, the garden could be leveraged for existing courses and lessons, such as Biology. This could continue even after specific gardening lessons start. The school garden lessons should focus on:
- Experiential learning (learning by doing, and reflecting on that learning)
- Learning about food crops, and their growth
- Learning about nutrition and healthy foods
- Hygiene, food production and preparation
- Life skills such as team work, responsibility for one piece of the garden, decision making etc.
In Ghana, a manual was developed for the school gardens. It included a combination of farming topics and life skills (for example, comparing the process of keeping plants free from diseases, and keeping humans free from diseases). Links to nutrition, health and hygiene were made in the curriculum, and the garden work itself was part of life skills training.
The Ghana curriculum is available in English and French. If interested, please contact: B.vanElzakker@Louisbolk.org
Training of teachers
The development of the curriculum requires the commitment of teachers. For most teachers, experiential learning will be very different from their traditional ways of teaching. Besides training on content, teachers therefore also need training on different types of facilitation and hands-on education skills.
Gender and teaching
On the cocoa farm, work is often gendered; men and women have separate tasks. It is suggested that in the school gardens, no separation of tasks between boys and girls be implemented. Children should work in small mixed groups and experience all tasks. Work should be equally distributed so that both boys and girls reap the benefits of their crops.
Practical summary of the school garden
Table 3 summarizes the school garden implementation process.
Table 3: School garden in a nutshell
|Costs/resources/activities to set up garden||Parties involved/responsible||Implementation process pre-requisites|
|Land||Local authorities ideally provide land from the community, to be used by the school for free.||Meetings with local authorities to select a piece of land and to define the terms of rental.|
|Setting up and maintaining the garden (besides the school and the children)||Parents and parental committees||Create commitment among parents, and create learning opportunities for them to also benefit from the garden.|
|Neighbors of the school garden.||Create commitment so they can watch the garden after school hours. Ensure they benefit from the garden, for improved commitment.|
|Equipment/tools||Schools buy equipment with the revenues from sales. If insufficient, it can be bought by the school board or donated by an LBC.|
|Seeds||Local seed providers can provide this for free, as part of their CSR program (see the garden as a demo site). In Ghana, these are the LBCs.||Create linkages with seed and other input suppliers. In other countries, cooperatives could play a role in this.|
|Packaging materials||Schools buy materials with the revenues from sales. If insufficient, they can be bought by the school board or grants from parents.n|
|Sustainability of the garden||Conduct a proper stakeholder analysis to ensure that critical stakeholders support the garden in the long term.||A third party such as cocoa traders and/or LBC (Ghana case) should be on board.|
Example of a budget
The budget below comes from the program in Ghana. It consists of 10 school gardens in one cocoa district and concerns a three year project. This project was implemented by an international NGO, a local NGO and MOFA.
The main costs are for curriculum development and for teacher training. In most cases, teachers will have little knowledge of vegetable growing; training is therefore essential. The training in Ghana was done in six group sessions during the first year, for two teachers per school in the program. During the second year two more sessions were organized.
The start-up investments are relatively high. For maximum efficiency, exchange visits should be organized for shared learning. These exchanges have proven very effective.
The following budget provides the costs in Ghana for the tool’s activities. The budget per school garden is approximately US$12,600.
Table 4: Example of budget for setting up 10 school gardens (in US$)
The assumption is that in the long term, the school garden is paid for via the sales of vegetables to the school canteen or to food vendors. However, continued financial support and involvement from cocoa buyers or other local actors such as NGOs was still needed in the Ghana case, and gardens were not entirely self-sufficient.
The different steps in setting up a school garden require not only certain skills, but also the legitimacy to act and the commitment of key stakeholders.
Table 5: Capacities needed for setting up a school garden
|Capacities needed||Suggested way of addressing this|
|Stakeholder interview skills||A local partner organization would be best positioned to conduct these types of interviews.|
|Stakeholder analysis skills||A local partner organization would be best to conduct the first type of analysis, which can then be discussed with the company.|
|Capacity to translate findings from interviews into concrete actions||Another third party with experience in school gardens could be asked to work on this.|
|Legitimacy of the company to work directly with the school||The company needs to be aware of whether or not the school is open to the school garden project.|
|Commitment from teachers and director||Creating the right incentives, especially in the long term.|
Step 5: Garden management
- The involvement of parents and neighbors is essential for the sustainability of the school garden.
Parents and neighbors should be involved in managing and maintaining the garden. The involvement of parents improves the sustainability of the gardens. When parents both set up and maintain the gardens, continuity is improved. Neighbors can keep an eye on the garden outside school hours. However, in Ghana, without clear benefits, neighbors and parents were not interested in further assistance when the novelty of the garden had worn off.
Activities that parents can be involved in are:
- Setting up the garden. This includes very practical work like making the beds or keyhole gardens, or constructing the garden fence.
- Growing the vegetables and making sure that they are watered regularly, including outside of school times. As a start, during the first few years, a number of parents could be invited to participate in trainings for the teachers. Where there is interest, the trainers can also provide Farmer Field School classes to parents on a regular basis.
- Teaching new teachers (and other interested people in the community) about vegetable production. Not all parents can do this, but those with knowledge can contribute. This has, in some instances, triggered the emergence of ‘after school garden clubs’, or what some like to call Farmer Field Schools. These clubs can be spontaneous meetings, or can become more formal and regular. This will not only make the school and its garden popular but will also encourage participants to apply some lessons learned at home as well.
Parents in Ghana, both through their own experiences and children’s stories, have increasingly been involved in kitchen gardening at home. Some families started to grow vegetables for the school (earning a minimal payment from the school board); others started to sell more on the local market, and a few became suppliers of nearby restaurants.
Step 4: School garden set up
- The location and size of the plot, the facilities, preparation and planting are the main aspects that should be taken into consideration when setting up the school garden.
There are several issues that are important to keep in mind when setting up a school garden. The following are examples of what elements should be put in place while setting up a garden:
Location and size
- The school garden should ideally be within or near the school so children do not need to walk far to reach it. Land is often the main problem for schools, as land ownership is complex. Many schools do not have enough space to establish a garden. This is another reason why contacting local leaders is essential. They may play a key role in dedicating some land near the school for the garden.
- The minimum size for a school garden is 50 square meters. However, up to 1000 square meters may better fit a school’s requirements. The school garden may either consist of a few beds where children grow some vegetables or operate more like a farm where all classes regularly work and learn.
- The garden should be slightly sloping for better drainage, to avoid stagnant water after heavy rain.
- Depending on the size and the location of the garden there should be sanitary facilities such as toilets and appropriate drainage systems.
- There should be water for watering plants, washing vegetables, washing hands after garden work, toilet use and before eating lunch. However, making a borehole can be costly; in Ghana prices range from US$3,000-7,000.
- The garden should ideally be fenced off to protect it against animals. A living fence is an inexpensive and effective barrier. As labor rather than cost is the most important input for a living fence, the contribution of the parents/families of the children is essential.
How to prepare the plot?
- One can grow vegetables in soil, in raised beds or in keyhole gardens. Constructing these requires some heavy work and is more of a job for parents.
- Seed capital is needed to buy an initial set of seeds. Schools should opt for open pollinated varieties for seed saving, to avoid having to buy expensive (hybrid) seeds every year. Tools for digging, hoeing, watering and weeding will be needed, but children should not use heavy or sharp tools.
- Some fruit trees, like papaya, can be planted in the garden as they do not give much shade. Other trees (e.g. mango or avocado pear) are better planted outside or on the edge of the garden.
- The garden needs to be guarded regularly, ideally by a ground-keeper. As the garden is supposed to be an example for children, it needs to be clean. Equipment should be locked up, gates closed, plants watered over the weekend etc.
Step 3: Defining the type of garden to establish
- All stakeholders can jointly decide what type of garden to make. The selection of crops can be developed with the assistance of local extension agents. Based on cropping patterns, seasonality, necessary inputs and nutritional value, a cropping scheme can be developed.
Depending on the space available and the ambition of the school and the other stakeholders, a selection can be made for the type of garden in terms of size and the level of effort required. Examples of the available choices are:
- Small scale kitchen gardening, using, for example, keyhole gardens. This means that the garden remains small. The practices in the school kitchen garden can be replicated in the home.
- Mixed cropping of different vegetables (permaculture) using old car tires. This allows for learning at different levels about different types of crops.
- Vegetable production in raised beds, with a particular vegetable in each. This is a more commercially oriented way of managing a school garden. Surplus products from this garden can be sold if required.
A pre-condition for all three options is that the vegetables chosen to grow on the fields are nutritious. Sixty percent of children in cocoa communities have stunted growth. They eat plenty of carbohydrates, but too little animal protein, fruits and vegetables. Through the school gardens, the nutritional value of school lunches can be improved. The selection of vegetables to grow in a garden should therefore depend on their nutritional value. When practices learned at school are implemented at home, a greater impact can be expected. Aspects of hygiene, cooking practices and sanitation also determine the quantity of vitamins and minerals that are absorbed. This is why the school garden curriculum includes these types of life skills lessons.
Lists of nutritious crops can be developed with the assistance of local extension agents. Based on cropping patterns, seasonality, necessary inputs and nutritional value, a cropping scheme can be developed using Table 2 below.
Table 2: Table for developing a cropping scheme
|Type of crop/fruitn||Nutritional value||When does it grow? When does it yield?||What inputs are needed?|
Some points of attention:
- It is advisable not to use chemicals, for the safety of the children. When good agricultural practices are used, vegetables can be grown without chemical pesticides.
- The involvement of the teachers and parents is essential. Teachers occasionally run pesticide shops, and use this opportunity to sell their own pesticides in the school garden. Avoid the usage of pesticides to prevent this conflict of interest.
- The cropping scheme should take into account the school calendar, such as holidays and other festivities, when harvesting is difficult.
Step 2: Stakeholder analysis
- Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) are a good and simple way to conduct a stakeholder analysis.
- The findings of the KIIs can be used to map stakeholders’ interests.
- The Bryson matrix can be used to prioritize stakeholders and analyze the power or influence of each stakeholder group.
A simple way to conduct a stakeholder analysis is to conduct Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) with representatives of the stakeholder groups that have been identified (see resources: How to conduct KIIs).
Guiding questions that can be used for stakeholder interviews are:
- What role do you play in relation to the school? What do you think of the school and how it functions?
- How do you influence particular aspects of the school? (for example: allocation of resources, development and implementation of school policies).
- What do you think of a school garden project? Are you interested in it? Would you like to be part of it, and if so, how?
- What you think other actors can contribute to the school garden project? And why them?
- How are the different actors related to each other? Whom do you trust and whom do you distrust?
Important steps to guide your stakeholder analysis are (see the Appendix for more information):
- Understanding the school’s situation and context
- Understanding the links between the schools, the parents and the children
- Understanding the role of local leaders
- Understanding the link between the private sector and the schools (in the case of Ghana: Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs))
- Understanding the role of NGOs
- Understanding the role national ministries can and are willing to play
MOFA, as well as the Ministry of Education, have been involved in the school garden projects in Ghana.
Extension agents of MOFA worked with the schools to set up the gardens and to train the teachers in gardening. In the beginning, there were some difficulties with extension workers, as they were not used to providing extension services to children. Extension workers usually promote the use of agro chemicals, which are not suitable for children to work with. However, in Ghana there are examples of dedicated extension agents who were able to adjust to these specific projects.
After the interviews, the findings can be included in a table such as the one below.
Table 1: Table mapping different interests of stakeholder groups
|Stakeholder group||Impact on/Interest in|
|Policies in school||Finance allocation||Content of lessons||School garden||Etc.|
Once the interests of all stakeholders are mapped, they can be prioritized. There are many different methodologies available for this process. A common approach is to map the interests, power or influence of each stakeholder group on a quadrant like the one below (Bryson, 1995). This can inform whom to work with and how to make the project a success.
Figure 1: Bryson Matrix: Mapping interests
A school garden needs at least two dedicated teachers. Teachers are often in the upper left quadrant in the Bryson matrix. Getting them into the quadrant in the upper right is therefore essential; the strategy for this must be determined according to the particular context.
Plan and engage
After the stakeholder analysis, the next step is to define the engagement strategy for different stakeholders. Some will be directly involved, others are only needed for support.
In Ghana, school gardens were linked to the national school feeding program. The national program creates school canteens or works with a Caterer Model for local procurement; it therefore relied on school garden vegetables for school lunches.
Step 1: Defining your stakeholders
- Start with stakeholder mapping and analysis.
- Commitment from multiple stakeholders and visibility in the community is important. Local ownership is key.
- Involve parents in garden management and maintenance to improve continuity.
In and around the school, many different actors play a significant role in how schools function and develop. Examples of stakeholders are: teachers, parents, local organizations, churches, businesses and local NGOs.
Before setting up a garden, careful stakeholder mapping and analysis is necessary to create local ownership, build commitment and define roles and responsibilities.
When local actors play a significant role, the project will be more sustainable and it will create clarity and transparency around user rights and ownership issues.
A stakeholder is anybody who can affect or is affected by a strategy or project. Some definitions suggest that stakeholders are those who have the power to impact a project in some way.
Brainstorming is a great way to identify stakeholders. Sitting together with a group of people who know the context will help to capture every name, organization or type of stakeholder present.
In the school gardens of Ghana, the following stakeholders were mapped:
- The teachers
- The director of the school
- The school board
- The parental committees at schools
- The parents of children going to the school
- The children going to school
- The local leaders
- The Licensed Buying Companies
- Non-Governmental Organizations
- Ministry of Agriculture
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Education
- The people in the community
- People living around the garden in particular
Stakeholder lists: Generic lists are a good starting point to identify potential stakeholders.
While some local actors may be very happy with new initiatives coming to the school in their village, others may not. Efforts from the private sector can be seen as a threat.
For example: A headmaster may be struggling to make ends meet. He or she has been attempting to save money to build a toilet block and may therefore not be pleased with a rich sponsor coming in to pay for something else without understanding his or her priorities.
Money comes with decision-making power. To make a program successful, stakeholders should work together. It is therefore essential to understand the priorities of these stakeholders.