Vegetable Gardening Will Drive Improved Community Nutritional Health in Eastern Nepal

Aug 04, 2018

Jan Wall

Agriculture  Education

Our initiatives to introduce gardening at the elementary school level in Sewalung promises to significantly improve broad based nutritional health in the communities where we operate. Diyalo has already launched efforts to develop Swertia gardens in Sewalung and other communities to grow crops that will be sold in China and India – crops that will generate much needed cash to build community infrastructure. But that’s only the beginning. 

School vegetable gardens would incorporate a wide range of vegetables into the everyday life of school children and, by extension, into the community. These gardens show children exactly how these vegetables are grown because they would participate in building the gardens, planting the seeds, watering the crops, weeding the gardens, and harvesting the crops. Raising the vegetables from seeds to harvesting them will give the children immediate access to the process through participation.
We could take this one step further and teach the children to prepare the foods – in raw salads or cooked meals. The effects extend outside the school day, too. According to a study Nancy Wells from Cornell University published this year, children who attended school garden lessons had more access to low-fat vegetables and fruit at home than children without that curricula.

Lectures about healthful nutritional practices just don’t drive the points home. According to Curt Ellis, the CEO of FoodCorps, “Gardens provide an experiential, hands-on learning environment where kids get the chance to smell the leaves of the tomato plant and eat carrots with the dirt still on.” Working in a garden is a real-world activity. It engages students and encourages them to explore raising vegetables first hand.
School gardens help ensure lessons about healthy living “stick.” Working in a school garden fosters an environment that provides a consistent educational experience about the value of vegetables and high-quality nutrition. Children need 35 to 50 hours of nutrition education a year to change their attitudes on a permanent basis. Gardening also builds an emotional connection with the vegetables that is vital to driving behavioral change. Children who watch their vegetables grow over several months are proud of their produce. That, in turn, prepares them to be open-minded about various ways of preparing vegetables. 

At Diyalo, we see our Swertia gardens as a critical first step in building a cash crop economy. These gardens will quickly lead to a broader based gardening program that will inevitably promote better health among the students, their families, and their communities.