It’s Friday morning in the native community of Santa Clara. The grey blanket of clouds over the permaculture site doesn’t promise anything but rain. Still, classrooms of the nearby primary school are empty and the students are outside, grouped around a square that has been marked out in the permaculture site attached to the school.
That square will become the educational garden (biohuerta) for the pupils. The children are gathered to decide the shape of different areas in the huerta and to start tracing them with twine and small tree branches. The suspicious and shy looks of the kids at the two gringos offering them wooden sticks and rope slowly turn into curious gazes.
After some time, the kids are no longer standing still, but are moving all around the garden to mark stars, squares and triangles on the ground. At the end, it will be a bit difficult for the gringos to tell the few children still working on the garden that the activity is over and their teacher is waiting for them in class.
As one of the two gringos who were present that Friday, I am really glad about the kids’ involvement in the educational garden’s project. I am not referring specifically to their participation in choosing the shapes of the huerta with us, but mainly to the wider engagement of kids and other community members in “Grow and Cook”, the project supported by Alianza Arkana.
The program is aimed at facilitating an interactive learning process for primary school children on food production and sustainable agriculture through creation and maintenance of the garden. For example, children can know more about natural anti-parasitic plants by looking at and listening about the action of Hierba Luisa and maíz fencing their huerta.
Knowledge of healthy nutrition is another objective of the project, as the kids will also help prepare weekly meals with the food of the edible garden. Moreover, “Grow and Cook” involves community women, who will take part in permaculture workshops on cultivating their private garden with edible plants.
Thus, far from only intending to involve children in some outdoor activities, this project tries to support the community of Santa Clara in their effort in knowledge preservation on agro-ecological practices and in food sovereignty. It also contributes to increase understanding of healthier nutrition and environmental issues. Keep an eye on the blog for updates on the program – and to see how the cultivated stars, squares and triangles will look like!
Written by Greta Tommesani, Volunteer Coordinator, 29th May 2017