Sustainable school gardens and container gardening key incentives for food security

Please read the interesting message :


on my desertification blog :

This UN report describes the excellent work of the World Food Programme (WFP) ;

In partnership with the World Bank, WFP is working with nations to create the next generation of school meal programmes that are sustainable and effective – drawing, where possible, from the produce of local farmers,…..“.

The introduction of  free meal programmes not only ensures children are fed, but are crucial to keeping the poorest and most vulnerable in school while providing a boost to learning and health, …….

“The report noted that school meal programmes are most effective when twinned with other measures such as de-worming and provision of micronutrient-fortified snacks and biscuits, or vitamin supplements.  In many countries, such programmes – along with abolition of school fees – are key incentives for children to attend school, especially girls and the poorest. “.

I cannot agree more with the need for these “key incentives” to feed the hungry children and I feel very happy about the indication that school meal programmes are most effective when twinned with other measures (micronutrient-fortified snacks, vitamin supplements, de-worming, etc.), in particular when the produce of local farmers serves to compose the school meals.

However, I keep wondering why among these accompanying measures the decision-makers are not mentioning the lay-out of school gardens.

2006-12 : A splendid school garden in Draria (Algiers) with vegetables, fruit trees and ornamentals.

What can be more effective and sustainable in a food programme than to create opportunities for a local food production at the school premises themselves ?  No one will doubt about the high educational value of a school garden, where children can learn a lot about cultivating vegetables and fruits under the local circumstances.  No one will doubt about the “food security” involved for the school.

2006-12 : Draria school garden. The school director gets technical advice from consultant Bernard PERRAUT (SOS Vilages d’Enfants à Draria)

Imagine the pleasure for children to be enabled to grow their own daily fresh vegetables and fruits, and to use them as a valuable supplement to the school meals, provided by WFPs school meal programme.  Imagine the high value of “responsabilization” of the children, members of the “School Garden Board”.

2006-12 : School Garden Board, responsible for all the activities in and about the school garden in Draria (Algiers).

A very important aspect of a school garden is the tremendous opportunity to motivate the children for “container gardening”.  Using plastic bottles, plastic bags, yoghurt pots and the like, these youngsters are experimenting themselves the growth of different species, growing all kinds of vegetables and even trees in many different “containers”, only using a minimum of irrigation water (less evapotranspiration).

2009-11 : Schoolchildren learn how to plant Moringa tree seeds in plastic bottles at a school in Smara Refugee Camp (S.W. Algeria), a resumption of a work that was done before.(Photo Eng. Taleb BRAHIM)

It is never my intention to deny the importance of WFP’s fantastic work, e.g. the magnificent one performed in Tindouf (Algeria).  I only hope that,  in the future, school gardens will be added as a measure to be twinned with the school meal programme.

Remember the Chinese proberb : “Don’ give this man a fish, but teach him how to fish” !

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.