In the rural coffee producing communities where Pueblo a Pueblo works, the children spend most of their free time working in the fields alongside their parents harvesting coffee, avocados, and other local produce for commercial enterprises. But when the harvest is over, many families struggle to survive los meses flacos, the thin months. In these small-farm communities around Lake Atitlan in the Guatemalan highlands, food security and malnutrition are of grave concern. Pueblo a Pueblo’s Organic School Garden project is supporting these families by providing the essential tools and knowledge necessary to practice sustainable, small-scale food production. From the school garden, children and teachers are learning about organic gardening and taking this valuable knowledge home to their families and parents, encouraging the re-establishment of family gardening plots and self-sustaining food production at home and in their communities.
Pueblo a Pueblo has been working with local communities to implement the Organic School Garden Project in multiple public elementary schools, where the gardens complement a school lunch program for all students. Together, these programs form an integrated approach to school health and nutrition that is providing 1,152 children with gardening and nutrition education and daily nutritious meals. Through our program, elementary school children are getting their hands dirty and exploring themes like garden maintenance, composting, and nutrition alongside energetic staff from the local villages. In each of Pueblo a Pueblo’s gardens, worm compost bins, rainwater catchment systems, and other gardening technologies keep the children engaged. They are learning about cultivating, caring for, harvesting, consuming, and composting their own garden produce. This, together with a school meal, is keeping them food secure.
To support this effort, Pueblo a Pueblo’s summer garden camp is giving children an additional opportunity to remain engaged and well fed throughout the year. While participating in arts and crafts and learning about environmental stewardship and nutrition, children personalize their school garden space. Camp benefits also incentivize parents to send their children to the garden activities instead of out to the fields to work during the coffee harvest.
In Guatemala, school teachers often have very limited teaching resources and the quality of education in rural schools is a constant struggle. The Organic School Garden Program creates an exciting outdoor learning space for teachers and students. Through hands on learning, teachers and students are able to teach lessons on subjects, ranging from math and science to art and history outside of the classroom in their Pueblo a Pueblo School Garden. Teachers receive teacher training throughout the year about topics like health, nutrition, environment, and the use of the garden as a pedagogical resource. These training workshops help build teacher skills and further ensure the sustainability of the program.
Who Benefits From This Project?
Organic school gardens benefit children in coffee growing communities in the highlands of Guatemala. Although the main focus of this program is indigenous elementary school age children, the teachers, school directors, parents, and communities whose daily activities involve the growth and harvest of coffee also benefit from the school garden project. The project is having a direct impact on 1,500 indigenous children whose families depend upon the coffee trade for their livelihoods. An additional 1,500 will benefit indirectly through teacher training programs at their schools. In the coming year, Pueblo a Pueblo will expand the Organic School Garden Project and teacher training, providing new coffee communities with the tools they need to enable future generations to be healthy and food secure.
How Can I Help?
For more information about Pueblo a Pueblo’s projects or to make an online donation, please visit our website at www.puebloapueblo.org. As the project grows to more schools, we will need resources, in particular, to fund school lunches for more children. Pueblo a Pueblo also wants to fund scholarships to enable qualified children to complete elementary school and receive the benefits of our comprehensive food security and nutrition projects. If you’re a business, promote Pueblo a Pueblo through co-branded products, or donate a portion of your sales.