What do we mean when we talk about food security? Perhaps the topic is best understood by looking at food insecurity. Incredibly, in this age of global abundance, more than 800 million people, nearly 11% of the world’s population, suffer from hunger every day, not knowing how they will feed themselves and their families. These people live with food in-security.
By contrast, people with food security live with the knowledge that they have reliable access to adequate quantities of affordable and nutritious food, without fear of shortage now or in the future.
When SosteNica speaks about running a food security program at five rural elementary schools in Nicaragua, nutrition and sustainability provide our context. Our staff teaches young children, their parents, and teachers how to guarantee the production of adequate and nutritious food at school and at home, regardless of employment or economic circumstances.
Our staff employs a learn-by-doing pedagogy and embraces “agro-ecology” as their guide. Children learn that they can grow their own fruits and vegetables without recourse to expensive and dangerous chemical fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides. Healthy soil produces healthy plants. When children learn soil ecology, they are well on their way to becoming small-scale organic farmers.
As part of the homework, SosteNica encourages students to take the lessons learned at school and apply them to their family backyards. While we cannot require students to bring gardens to their families, many of our students have done just that.
One of the primordial lessons for a successful garden is the rational use of water. In each of SosteNica’s school gardens we have designed and installed a low pressure, gravity fed drip irrigation system. Students have installed and now operate drip irrigation systems that deliver only the amount of moisture needed without waste. Drips of water are delivered directly to the plant, when the plant can use it best. We also teach our students about the production and application of organic fertilizers, both foliar and directly to the plant’s roots.
Throughout 2016, SosteNica staff made regular visits to teach elementary students in Copatepec (15 kilometers from Nagarote); Silvio Mayorga (8 km); Valle de Jesus (5 km); Betania (10 km) and la Chilama (12 km). In addition to the irrigation system, each school fenced in their garden and grew not fewer than ten crops. Over one hundred students learned garden management, while an additional 50 participated in our pilot art and drawing program.
SosteNica also supported all five schools in improving their sanitary facilities. We have not yet gotten composting toilets installed. Neither have we given up on that ambition.
For 2017, funds permitting, SosteNica will work with our students to develop a reforestation plan for nearby neighborhoods. This year we will add two additional schools, while maintaining the original five in production. The new schools to join the network will be San Antonio, and the urban Marvin Palacios School. With the addition of San Antonio, SosteNica will have a teaching presence in half of all rural elementary schools in the region of Nagarote.
The addition of an urban school (Marvin Palacios) advances an experimental pilot program – teaching gardening to children from the city. In all, we will serve 140 students this year, plus their teachers and parents. Our art classes will also be expanded to include 140 students, with a focus on natural resource conservation and recycling as themes. It’s a small number when compared to the numbers living with food insecurity across the globe…but these programs make an enormous difference in the lives of these children and their families.