Training little green thumbs

A program to lower malnutrition rates among kindergarten kids and to introduce them to sustainable farming skills has reaped a harvest of benefits in rural central Vietnam reports Catherine Tô.

Before the program at the start of the year 10.1 per cent of a kindergarten in Central Vietnam were malnourished. By the year’s end only one child in the group of 220 children was malnourished. The dramatic change has been attributed to an aid program that teaches children to grow food.

The kindergarten is the latest of three schools in central Vietnam where the program has been successfully adopted. The project is being delivered as a joint venture between ACCI Vietnam (AOG World Relief Vietnam) and project partner, Food Plant Solutions.

Pic 3

Students at a primary school in Vietnam are learning the value of food by growing it in the school garden as part of an aid program.

ACCI Vietnam Project Manager Rebekah Windsor said the 220 kindergarten children were enjoying larger, more nutritious and more affordable lunches as a result of the program. The program has also lowered the cost of school meals.

“The staff has been able to supplement meals with freshly grown produce from the school garden,” Rebekah said. “The money the school saves from purchasing vegetables is used to buy more fish and meat for the children, as well as more fertilisers and seeds for the garden.”

At the rural commune where the program has been taking place, most families struggle to survive and 8.4 per cent of children under five are malnourished. Many children lack the proper nutrition to thrive and focus at school.

As part of Food Plant Solutions, students take part in practical lessons about how to prepare garden beds, grow and maintain the plants. The education includes learning about specific plants and their nutritional value, and managing soil health.

Cassava leaves are higher in vitamin C than the roots, which many Vietnamese farmers grow as a crop. The leaves are often used as pig food.

Cassava leaves are higher in vitamin C than the roots, which many Vietnamese farmers grow as a crop. The leaves are often used as pig food.

Learning about food

It’s not uncommon for farming families to be unaware of the nutritional value of the parts of some of the plants they are growing. For example, many grow cassava plants only for the roots and feed the leaves to pigs. Students in the program learn cassava leaves provide a high concentration of vitamins. A cassava root weighing 100g contains about 15mg of Vitamin C while leaves of the same weight contain about 275mg of Vitamin C.

More than 70 per cent of the households in this commune are reliant on farming as an income source. The students learn skills they can use in the long-term should they decide to become farmers. It also encourages students who want to go to university to see agricultural science as a viable career path.

Food Plant Solutions aims to provide participants with a better understanding of the value of their own domestic crops, which are well adapted to local conditions such as soil type, rainfall and temperature and its natural resistance to native pests and diseases. This produce provides a more stable food supply than exotic food plants.

If you’d like to partner with ACCI Vietnam (AOG World Relief) to implement Food Plant Solutions in a kindergarten or school in rural Vietnam, please go to: http://aogwr.org/projects/ruraldevelopment/foodplantsolutions

About the author

Catherine Tô volunteers for the Australian not-for-profit organisation, AOG World Relief Vietnam (ACCI Vietnam) that carries out community development projects in Vietnam. The initiative is delivered in partnership with not-for-profit group Food Plant Solutions. When not working in Vietnam, Cat works in marketing communications in Brisbane.