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Healthy Lifestyles and Entrepreneurial Thinkers in Sri Lanka


Healthy Lifestyles and Entrepreneurial Thinkers in Sri Lanka

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Pioneering school gardens encourage healthy eating, modern agricultural practices and career opportunities

04/24/2024

Before the school bell rang announcing the start of the school year at Senkadagala School, located in the central Sri Lankan city of Kandy, its students had already started their lessons in their school garden.

As you pass the walls decorated with plastic bottles repurposed as planters to grow colorful plants, you see students pushing one-wheeled carts, eager to start pruning plants, weeding, and picking fruits and vegetables that will eventually on the students’ plates. .

Other students begin working in the nurseries which feature flower beds of anthuriums and cacti, and these plants are carefully tended to be sold alongside the surplus fruits and vegetables produced by the school garden. These dedicated farmers are Senkadagala School students with visual and/or hearing disabilities.

Here, students learn about their ecosystems and the nutritional value of their native plants. While hearing-impaired students learn through sign language, their visually-impaired classmates are trained to identify plants through the senses of touch and smell.

Senkadagala School is one of 400 schools in Sri Lanka where the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is implementing the School Garden Pilot Program, funded by United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund in Sri Lanka.

The goal of the program is to improve nutrition by improving healthy eating habits through the cultivation and preparation of food crops. Additionally, it aims to instill entrepreneurial thinking in students by providing sales and marketing opportunities, such as selling ornamental plants and hand-painted planters at food fairs and festivals.

Students are also made aware of dietary diversity and nutrition, as well as how to plan their school gardens according to their nutritional needs. By introducing modern agricultural methods such as the use of plastic films and irrigation systems, they learn to control weed growth and insect infestations and reduce water evaporation and erosion soils in order to increase the productivity of their plants.

Healthy Lifestyles and Entrepreneurial Thinkers in Sri Lanka
Healthy Lifestyles and Entrepreneurial Thinkers in Sri Lanka

Students harvest, plant and maintain their market garden plants. The objective of the program is to promote nutrition by improving healthy eating habits through the cultivation of food crops. ©FAO

Ms. Sasala Maduwanthi, Agriculture Teacher at the school, explains how the program is a learning tool: “Our students learn through agriculture by identifying geometric aspects related to the arrangement of plants and borders and by observing the life cycle of plants. butterflies in a practical way, for example.

“The program is particularly beneficial for our students, as it trains them to acquire the entrepreneurial skills needed to start self-employment in the future,” she adds.

Blind student Theekshana Malinga confirms this idea, as he has already created a vegetable garden by applying the concepts he learned at school. He said that after he graduates, he “looks forward to continuing to work in agriculture and maybe he will establish himself.” its own nursery to grow flowering plants in pots and sell them.

He recalls with a broad smile how much his view on nutrition has changed since the program started and how proud he is to eat foods grown from crops grown by the students with their own hands, because they are free of harmful and clearly delicious chemicals and pesticides.

Piumi Madhubashini Kumarasinghe, a hearing-impaired student at the same school, has also set up a vegetable garden in which she grows chillies and radishes. She plans to one day start her own anthurium nursery.

The school principal, Mrs. Kumudini Abeyruwan, said the rate of absenteeism at the school has reduced significantly since the inception of the program. The decoration of school facilities has had a positive impact on the students and the practical entrepreneurial skills they learn have increased their self-confidence.

“We can provide students with healthy meals and instill in them a sense of confidence, knowing that they are eating what they produced with their own sweat,” she concluded.

“The program taught us to cultivate and research new concepts,” says Pamodi Bhagya, a student at Vishaka Balika Madhya Maha Vidyalaya (VBMMV), an all-girls school in Bandarawela, about a four-hour drive from her classmates. . school in Kandy and provide us with knowledge and practical skills that will be useful to us in our daily lives, including managing and recycling food waste, commercial use of the garden and using the space we have at our disposal. most productive way. »

In recognition of their exemplary efforts, both schools received additional funding through the project. Students at Senkadagala School used the funding to purchase polythene ground covers to prevent weeds from growing and installed an irrigation system.

Healthy Lifestyles and Entrepreneurial Thinkers in Sri Lanka

Similar to Senkadagala, students at Vishaka Balika Madhya Maha Vidyalaya learn to think like entrepreneurs, selling ornamental plants and decorated planters at food fairs and festivals. ©FAO

The organization implemented the project in close cooperation with the Sri Lanka Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Department of Traditional Medicine and the heads of the respective district secretariats. Government officials hope to implement this program nationally.

Mr. Mahesh Attanayake, Agricultural Trainer at the Ministry of Agriculture, comments: “Since the initiative promotes the concepts of value addition and marketing, it enhances the entrepreneurial skills of students and introduces them to modern agricultural practices, thereby preparing them for a bright future. future and prosperous career paths.

Links related to the topic

for more information

Website: FAO Country Profiles: Sri Lanka

Website: FAO School Garden Pilot Program: Sri Lanka

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