500 Kids in Punjab Turn Farmprenuers, Grow Organic Veggies in School Grounds! #WATWB

Excessive pesticide and fertilizer use in Punjab since the last 30-40 years has led to the accumulation of dangerous levels of toxins which are contributing to increased health problems in rural communities. The schools in Punjab provide a solution.

Since last one year, close to 500 students across 70 government schools in Punjab’s Mansa district have been quietly setting an example in healthy living that the entire nation should learn from.

In their mid-day meals, these kids have been consuming organic vegetables.

So how did these schools manage to serve organic veggies and fruits to its children?

All the vegetables that are consumed in mid-day meals are grown and harvested by the students in the backyards of their schools as part of their curriculum.

In an innovative way to imbibe practical knowledge and lead a healthier life, students from classes 5 to 10 are being taught to grow vegetables like brinjals, mushrooms, chillies, bitter gourd, pumpkins and leafy vegetables.

This change in syllabi is part of a project called ‘Edible Gardens’, started by the district’s Horticulture Department under the state government’s “Tandrust Punjab Mission”.

Since the freshly harvested veggies are used in the mid-meal scheme, this project also addresses the problem of inadequate food supply in government schools.

The horticulture department trained the school faculty on topics like plantation, mulching, cultivation, nursery establishment, landscaping. Next, they provided gardening kits that include seeds and green fertilizers to the schools. Based on weather conditions and the landscape of the school, the horticulture department also shared tips on growing certain type of veggies or fruits.

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Pesticides are replace with organic fertilizes that the school children prepare from kitchen and green waste, some schools also prepare compost from crop residues like wheat and paddy straw to grow oyster mushrooms.

To incorporate the initiative into the everyday schedule of the children, the schools prepared the time tables in a way that every school allots an hour every week to the edible gardens. They first learn about the week’s farming activity and then have practicals. To ensure every student takes farming seriously, it is treated like every other subject and students are given marks.

As for the harvest, it depends on the area of the garden and ranges from anything between a kilo to ten kilos. When the produce is very high, the schools distribute it among villagers for free.

The edible garden is a gift that is making students realize the hard work put in by our farmers to give us fresh vegetables. Children are not only learning to grow veggies but also concepts like shared labor, healthy eating, responsible agriculture and what it takes for a sustainable future

Models like edible gardens teach students eco-centric skills, alter the general negative perception about farming and teaches them a thing or two about being an eco-farmprenuer. If they are replicated in all schools across India, it can go a long way in promising a greener and healthier future for everyone.

This post is part of the We Are the World Blogfest, a monthly blogging event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen to showcase stories of hope and light. This month, I’m helping out as a co-host, along with extraordinary bloggers : Sylvia McGrath,
Peter Nena, Eric Lahti, and Belinda Witzenhausen., Please hop over to check out their WATWB posts as well as from other WATWB participants for a dose of feel-good to last you a whole month. You’ll be happy you did!