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Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids

by Cameroon Association of Active Youths
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Grow hope for 150 Cameroon schoolkids
Children sowing seeds
Children sowing seeds

Cameroon has a high prevalence of micronutrient deficiency, causing a type of malnutrition known as “Hidden Hunger” because its effects are not visible and are often not easy to detect. Cameroon farmers often do not understand the risks associated with the overuse or misuse of pesticides in degrading both human health and the environment. With this in mind, the need for education is vital. The Growing Gardens Project is expected to assist Cameroon school children by providing nutritional food for schools. Children learn to bank seeds and a Harvest Fair can generate income for tools and garden supplies sustaining the gardens in the future. By learning farming skills, it is hoped that more children will choose to work on the family farm after graduation rather than move to a life in impoverished cities.

This project also supports the objectives of CAMAAY’s “Supplying Clean Drinking Water” project as it encourages protection of the local water supply from the impacts of pollution associated with agriculture. Teaching these skills to school age children will assist in protecting the water supply into the future as these children, as adults, will have the knowledge to implement more sustainable farming practices.

From January until April, CAMAAY implemented a school gardening project in Government School Mbockenghas, Government School Tankiy, Government School Simonkoh, Government School Mbockenghas and Government School Ngiukei all of the Oku Sub-division Bui Division of the North West Region of Cameroon.

The main objective was to set up a sustainable school garden and train pupils and teachers as well as the community on how to use a sprayer, prepare a nursery and the garden areas to become suitable for the garden crops and also teach pupils the advantages of gardening in schools and in the community. CAMAAY and agricultural workers held a workshop with the teaching staff at each school to set the tone of the project.  This included outlining the key objectives and responsibilities of all involved stakeholders. The agricultural worker has now visited each school and worked with the children to help them plan their gardens and to teach them the skills required to setup and maintain their garden. Children have gained hands on experience in planning and setting up a garden. in the afore-mentioned schools and despite some minor challenges the project is tracking well.

Visiting schools for the evaluation
Visiting schools for the evaluation

CAMAAY have become the successful applicants of a grant from the Rhodes Scholars Southern African Forum which is administered by Rhodes Scholars who are currently studying at Oxford University. This grant will allow CAMAAY to extend the Growing Gardens project to additional schools in North-West Cameroon. 

The grant included an allocation to undertake an evaluation of the existing school gardens which have largely been funded through our supporters on GlobalGiving. With the help of our international volunteer, Joanne Yee, an evaluation framework and stakeholder questionnaire was designed.  It contained some performance questions that aim to assess the achievement against key objectives of the project.  Key learnings from this evaluation of the existing projects will be incorporated into the new projects to make them even stronger and more sustainable into the future.

The schools where the evaluation were undertaken include: Government School Gunda-Bessi – Batibo, Government School Ambo – Batibo, Government School Keonom – Batibo, Government School Wumukang – Batibo and Presbyterian Primary School – Bamendakwe.

The evaluation has indicated that there are three key challenges associated with the existing projects. 

1.       Water
The supply of water is intermittent, particularly in the dry season, as streams often dry out and schools don’t have onsite access to water.  They often need to collect it by walking long distances to a stream or by collecting rainwater during the rainy season. 

 2.       Economic sustainability
All of the school gardens still require external financial or inkind support to help the gardens progress.  The gardens continue due to the management of the teachers and the children, however they cannot grow large crops or extend the gardens further without further financial or in-kind support.

 3.       Stakeholder engagement
While this evaluation and previous report have indicated that the community are becoming interested in the gardens at the schools, the support and interest is still at low levels than hoped.  Newsletters have not been developed, as outlined within the original project plan, and technical or discussion sessions have only occasionally been held with the local community.  Without the engagement of the community the schools will need to continue to develop and maintain the gardens without the support of the community. 

Water security is a challenge throughout North-West Cameroon and the intermittent supply of water and distance to clean water sources provides a challenge for the productivity of our school gardens. The evaluation highlighted this as a key challenge and recommended that rainwater harvesting be investigated as an option to alleviate this challenge. This would involve setting up a system for collecting rainwater off the roof of the school and diverting it into storage in a tank.  We need to investigate to ensure that the roof material does not provide a source of contamination for the plants and humans in the case that this is elected to be used as a drinking water source.

Successful aid projects require that with time inputs from external sources can be withdrawn and the project would continue successfully.  CAMAAY will continue to work with the existing schools to develop approaches for creating sustainable gardens.  A reliable source of water is a key to achieving this.  This will assist the school to create enough crops so that seeds can be harvested and excess crops can be sold.  The funds from these activities can be used to support future growth of the garden.

A bimonthly newsletter will be produced to share learnings and activities with the local community.  This would also advertise relevant news such as training sessions being presented by volunteers and agricultural workers.  These newsletters can also be shared with local relevant councils and other authorities.  This will assist with growing the support of the local communities and the knowledge of what the gardens are trying to achieve.

CAMAAY are currently working through the recommendations within the evaluation and will monitor their progress as suitable actions are implemented.

Children learning to prepare the soil
Children learning to prepare the soil
Stakeholder interviews
Stakeholder interviews

As a result of your support, CAMAAY has successfully assisted 5 schools in setting up gardens in their schools in the Bali, Batibo and Oku regions.  These have become an important asset to children as they have taught children to grow nutritious food which improves their health and knowledge of sustainable farming practices.  Knowledge is being spread throughout the community as children are teaching their parents and parents are becoming more supportive of the gardens.  From time to time the gardens provide excess vegetables and seedlings for use at home thereby improving the nutrition of the extended family. Family and other members of the community are becoming more interested in improving their own farming skills as a result of what they see as success in the school gardens.

 As a result of the success of the existing project there has been significant interest from schools in other areas.  CAMAAY hope to continue to expand the project into other schools in North-West Cameroon.  

Prior to expanding the project to new schools CAMAAY want to stop, reflect and learn from the existing projects.  We want to see even further success in any future projects and we wish to review key aspects of the existing projects to incorporate learnings into new projects.

 This is a work in progress for CAMAAY.  We are currently developing an evaluation framework which sets the approach for undertaking a strategic assessment of the success of our projects against our project objectives.  First, we will review the objectives for our project, set key performance indicators and develop interview and assessment questions.  Then we will undertake the site assessments to interview people and review associated documents.

An evaluation report will summarise the key learnings which will be incorporated into any project extension that occurs in the future.

Bamendakwe school children working in their garden
Bamendakwe school children working in their garden

2016-2017 Summary Report for the Organic Vegetable Garden Project

A recent volunteer who has completed a review of the project across the 2016-2017 academic year has concluded that “CAMAAY school gardens have shown themselves to be successful and are having a major impact on nutrition education.”  Children are learning and engaged in developing gardening skills and are gaining a much better understanding of the importance of good nutrition.  This knowledge is being spread throughout the community as children are teaching their parents these life changing skills and knowledge.  Parents are really showing a great support for the projects by motivating their children, providing resources such as compost and allowing their children to take care of the gardens during the school holidays.  Overall, great strides are being made in educating children and their families and providing them with a healthier future.

Madam Evelyn, head teacher for the Presbyterian primary school Bamendakwe said that throughout the 2016-2017 academic year the school garden has achieved the following results:
• Children have improved knowledge of how to successfully grow vegetables, which will be a life and vocational skill;
• Children have more balanced diets which improved children’s physical and intellectual growth;
• Children have developed an interest in manual work;
• Children have been provided with nutritional education;
• The gardens have provided children with a practical learning field for school subjects such as biology and mathematics;
• A reduction in schools’ spending on food due to a food supply from the school garden;
• Improvement of family diet through the replication of what students learn at the school garden and pupils bringing seedlings to their family from school;
• Stepping up of crop production;  and
• Environmental protection through organic gardening and rainwater harvesting;

Families and parents are very much on board with the project and are indicating a real understanding of the importance of good nutrition.  Ms. Makai, whose daughter attends Presbyterian primary school Bamendakwe, stated that vegetables protected people from diseases such as blindness and kwashiorkor, and children who consume vegetables grow normally since vegetables contain essential nutrients for growth.  Ms. Ndowi, whose daughter also attends Presbyterian primary school Bamendakwe said, “The project has had a major impact on our community. When our children came home in the holidays, they asked us for plots to grow vegetables. When the crop was harvested, some of them were sold and we earned money to buy other items such as clothes.”

School authorities are also interested in school garden activities and the resultant benefits. Mr Tangi John, head teacher of government school Ambo, said despite the interruption of the school year, producing vegetables throughout the year gave children constant access to vegetables. Consequently, these children had a deep appreciation of the importance of what was taught.  Miss Susan a primary three teacher stated, “Thanks to the project now it is common knowledge that vegetables are essential to help to fight disease” and hence they decided to produce them in large quantities. We distributed them to our students to ensure that they stay healthy and to improve their learning capacity”.  Another head teacher described the school garden’s impact on the community. “We see parents and other members of the local community in the neighbourhood observe the different vegetables we grow in our school garden. They show great interest in improving their farming skills. We sometimes offer children some seeds or seedlings to be grown at home. The outcome is very positive because many parents are now aware of the importance of vegetables in their diet.”

Jessica, a volunteer from Germany working on the school garden, said she enjoyed her stay as a volunteer, learnt much on the local culture, had real fun with the children despite living in a new environment and far away from her family.

Mr Ernest Fru, teacher volunteer supervisor for Government School Ambo, said that despite the success of the project they had encountered the following challenges in their school garden this year:

• Problems related to bad weather and water shortages;
• Lack of compost, which is produced only in small quantities;
• Plant diseases, pest and predator problems, especially in the dry season;
• Lack of water conservation systems;
• Lack of agriculture technician in every school; and
• Lack of appropriate tools and clothes for school garden activities.

CAMAAY are looking forward to extending this project in the 2017-2018 academic year. We have received appeals from some schools in Jakiri and Oku subdivisions to extend the project to their schools.

Our former volunteer Peitro clements, initiated a partnership between CAMAAY and LA SCIMMIA IMPAZZITA, an Italian Association which was signed a few months ago. He is on his way back to Cameroon and with the support of some members of LA SCIMMIA IMPAZZITA, he will be bringing some vegetable seeds and one kilo of moringa seeds to be planted in some of the gardens for the 2016-2017 academic year.

In August, we shall also be hosting another volunteer from Switzerland by the name of Benjamin who will be giving a helping hand to the project during his one month stay in Cameroon.

The success of this project gives us hope for the future of Cameroon and we are looking forward to continued learning and achievement during the coming school academic year.

Our hard work
Our hard work

A recent volunteer from Germany submitted the following report:

I worked on the school gardens in six different primary schools, where I taught about healthy food, nutrition and the environment, as well as garden management. I visited each school (G.S Batibo, G.B.S Batibo, G.S Gunda- Bessi, G.S Keonom, G.S Ambo and G.S Kulabei) once a week for about one and a half hours, to either work practically in the garden or theoretically in class. I also tried to motivate the children to develop their own gardens at home or in their community, and to development their organization and cooperation skills.
Unfortunately, there was a teachers' strike in November that lasted until I left in February, which kept me from being able to follow through with ongoing management.
G.S Batibo: In this school, they have big classes, so I worked with over 70 children, even there were only two classes involved. Because of this it was very difficult to get any progress and the children did not really get into the idea of making a garden, and it was very hard to control them. We planted the nurslings right before the strike began, but there was a problem with finding someone to take care of the garden during the strike. No one felt responsible, so this garden wasn't watered or weeded or transplanted.
G.S Gunda- Bessi: In Gunda- Bessi the children were motivated and all teachers supported me when I needed help with anything. It was very easy to connect with these children and they were listening and following all my instructions. We made good progress and managed to find a useful balance between theoretical and practical lessons. After the strike started, children nearby came every morning to water the garden, so the nursery grew quite well. However, cows passed through the garden and ran over the beds, destroying parts of it.
G.B.S Batibo: The start in G.B.S Batibo was quite difficult, as there was a breakdown in communication which took some time to resolve, but after that, the garden went very well. We even managed to build a roof for our nursery (the only school where we managed to do this). After the strike, the teachers took care of the garden and they even prepared a transplanting right before the end of my stay.
G.S Keonom: Keonom was a highly motivated school in my project. There we tried to include as many children as possible, even if not everyone was responsible for the garden. It was very easy to work with these children because they were always happy to work and to learn. It was especially hard work, because of the climate and the quality of the soil in Keonom. But it was a challenge they managed and even after the strike, they didn't give up on the garden.
G.S Kulabei: In Kulabei the project just didn't work out. The children were unmotivated and they didn't care enough to bring their working tools. From week to week I just wasn't able to do anything but give instructions on how to do what I had done in practice with all the other schools. And since they never acted on my lessons, I eventually abandoned them.

 

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Organization Information

Cameroon Association of Active Youths

Location: Bamenda, north-west region - Cameroon
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Patrick Chung
Bamenda, north-west region Cameroon

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