The SNV learn project has helped 15 schools in Kamuli district achieve 75% parent provided school feeding, exceeding the 50% (4,500 children) project target.
With 8,200 out of a total enrolment of 11,000 school going children now having parent provided mid-day meals in less than two years of project implementation, the results are promising. the project validates the SNV vision of empowering people to pursue their own sustainable development by working with them to identify and address their needs.
There are currently over 8 million children in primary schools in Uganda. A majority of these schools are in rural areas where half of the children study on empty stomachs. Whereas the government requires that the parents and caretakers of these children take responsibility for feeding their children while at school, many parents cannot afford to provide mid-day meals for their children. Several factors including food insecurity, poverty, distance between home and school have been cited as reasons for the parents' inability to provide mid-day meals. This leads to irregular school attendance and high dropout rates.
The SNV learning and earning through school gardens project is anchored on the SNV school garden model which uses school gardens to engage and mobilise school managers, parents and community members to participate more actively in the education of their children. School gardens serve as an entry point to interest rural parents (mainly farmers) to come to the school on a regular basis to learn good agriculture practices from the school demonstration gardens. This not only equips them with knowledge of the good agricultural practices that they need to increase their food productivity, but also exposes them to the school environment and gives them time to discuss and find local solutions to the issues affecting the learning outcomes of their children. The uniqueness of the school garden model is that it addresses the household food and nutrition security issues affecting the parents and the school related issues affecting the learning of their children at the same time.
The LEARN project was launched in the districts of Nwoya and Abim in Acholi region; Agago and Nakapiripiriti in Karamoja region and Kamuli in Busoga region. The two year project which started in 2014 aims at improving food and nutritional security for 3,000 households of school-going children in the five districts. Uptake and buy in of the project in Kamuli district has been high with the project exceeding most of its targets. Local politicians advocated for the project and community members have adopted the good agricultural practices taught in the school gardens at their households.
Parent teacher associations have also been revitalised with parents taking an active role in supporting development initiatives in schools and participating in construction works in schools as well as contributing funds. Parents have also joined saving and loan association schemes to generate revenue towards school fees and development projects in the school. The project is also mentoring pupils to love agriculture by encouraging them to join entrepreneurship clubs where they are taught how to set goals and targets, leadership and marketing skills and agriculture as a business. 800 pupils (400 girls) in Kamuli district have so far completed the entrepreneurship coaching course. Each school entrepreneurship club has set up its garden and its members are learning good agricultural practices.
“I was afraid to grow many vegetables because I didn’t know how to manage them well or how to control pests from destroying my crops. I learnt from the school garden how to plant my vegetables in rows and that I could use my farm yard manure as fertilizer. I am the happiest woman in this village because I can now grow my maize and vegetables and earn more than I used to get. My sweat is paying off!” said Jessica Namwebya, a parent in St.Patrick primary school Kamuli district and one of the early adopters of good agricultural practices.