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WFP SETS UP HYDROPONICS GARDENS IN SCHOOLS TO PROMOTE NUTRITION

By EUNICE MBEWE
THE World Food Programme (WFP) has come up with interventions aimed at scaling-up of sustainable and climate smart crop production, and land management practices.
To promote the production and consumption of nutritious food in Zambia, the programme is promoting climate-smart agriculture, facilitating access to viable markets, inputs and post-harvest management technologies for smallholders, bridging knowledge gaps in nutrition and good feeding practices, and promoting rural savings for groups vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity.
Under Nutrition sensitive value chain, WFP promotes nutrition-sensitive value chains with the aim to increase the production and consumption of nutritious foods amongst targeted communities and schools as well as generate lessons and best practices on nutrition mainstreaming.
WFP is supporting sack farming to improve the production and consumption of nutritious foods in schools and to transfer knowledge and skills to school children on farming technologies through nutrition activities. So far, World Food Programme in partnership with the Ministry of General Education has established 23 school hydroponics gardens countrywide.
Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants without using the soil, it is a Latin word meaning “working water”, In the absence of the soil, water goes to work providing the nutrients, hydration, and oxygen to give life to the plants.
WFP Hydroponics Technician, Oggie Nedeljkovic said that hydroponic gardening is the type of horticulture and subset of hydroculture which involves growing vegetables in water without using the soils. The vegetables use the fertilizers in water and the uptake of the nutrients is very fast which gives a high yield and within three weeks, the vegetables are ready for consumption.
Mr Nedeljkovic further explained that pests and diseases are easily managed because the plants use less chemicals and fertilizers.
“Water is conserved because we use the same water no need of irrigating or changing the water,” he noted.
Chisamba Boarding Provincial Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic school is one of the schools that has benefited from the hydroponics gardens.
The school is located 85kilometres from Chisamba main town and 33kilometres from Kabwe district, the school is involved in a number of agricultural activities ranging from maize production and livestock rearing. They have a main garden where they are growing different types of vegetables and they are also using the sack bags to improve nutrition among learners.
School Head Teacher, Bornface Makungo disclosed that WFP in partnership with the Ministry of General Education have constructed a hydroponics garden to supplement the school feeding programme to improve good dietary among learners.
The technology is not only providing skills to the learners and teachers but also promoting the use of smart agriculture at the institution. WFP has trained the teachers on the use of the technology who later on have taught their pupils those that are studying agriculture science. The learners are now able to manage the gardens with supervision from their teachers.
The school has become the envy of the nearby schools as they are invited to come and learn from the technology.
“We are growing vegetables such as ripe, spinach and chines cabbage that we use to feed our pupils, the vegetables are a good source of vitamins needed in our bodies,” Mr Makungo clarified.
When the vegetables are in excess the school gives to the teachers and community for free but sometimes they sale to them.
He highlighted that the pupils are getting skills through the use of the technology which they can use even after graduating from the school, they can still use the skills acquired and empower themselves.
He further advised the learners to embrace new innovations and technologies to improve their livelihoods.
And 16-year-old grade 10, Delight Masawi, who is an agriculture science pupil from Chisamba Boarding Provincial STEM School is inspired to study Agriculture Engineering once he completes Grade 12. The learner is impressed with the technology stating that one can grow vegetables throughout the year.
Masawi said that people with little space at their homes can also manage to use this type of technology just by using the backyard of their houses.
He said that the vegetables have a healthy and taste apart from the nutritional benefits that they get.
WFP is implementing a five-year country strategic plan (CSP) (2019-2024) that aims to enhance food security and nutrition in Zambia. WFP’s smallholder farmers’ initiative is designed to support government efforts to increase the productivity and resilience of smallholder farmers in Zambia. Their support focuses on four main areas which includes; first, productivity enhancement through improved technology and systems. Second, Market access, third, Nutrition-sensitive value chains, and finally, Financial services.
Indeed, investing in modern mechanization in our society is key to economic development and social transformation, therefore, the need to embrace new innovations in farming will certainly increase production and productivity thereby improving household food security and income among the smallholder farmers. -NAIS

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