Ecological school farm in Central Kongo
For improved health and school results as well as education about nature and social issues.
The ecological farm school project is carried by one of the members of the IDAY-DRC coalition, the “Mouvement d’Appui pour la Promotion de la Famille”, MAPROFAM, which has its headquarters in Mbanza-Ngungu in the province of Kongo Central. MAPROFAM’s social objective is to support and supervise peasant organisations and families in the fields of education, agriculture, health, community development, energy and the environment.
Context of the project
The Loma district is largely composed of a population fleeing the very difficult socio-economic conditions of the city centre and the neighbouring villages. There are on average 7 people per household in a neighbourhood of more than 3,500 households, or nearly 24,500 inhabitants. The family is composed on average of 2 adults, 2 young people/teens between 13 and 21 years old and 3 children between 1 and 12 years old.
The neighbourhood has a public primary and secondary school, a health centre and a small area where the farmers spread out their harvests for sale. Almost the whole neighbourhood is not served by electricity and running water. Only 1 child in 3 has access to school, due to the lack of sufficient school facilities nearby. Faced with this situation and with reference to the Government’s vision of education (Framework Law N°14/004 on national education of 11/02/2014 and SSEF/2016-2025), MAPROFAM has initiated a participatory and community-based school called AMIDA (Actions Multi-Interventions de Développements Amicaux).
As a community and participatory school, it is built in the centre of the neighbourhood and brings together parents, residents, young people and other actors to reflect on themes related to education, health, environment and community development. “It is the tree in the middle of the village”. The school makes its buildings, grounds and teaching staff available to all the active groups and actors in the neighbourhood and surrounding villages to support these actors and groups and, finally, to federate ideas and initiatives. It is the largest after the Athénée public school, but the most “innovative” in the neighbourhood. 20% of CS AMIDA SCHOOL’s schoolchildren come from neighbouring areas and establish temporary residences in the neighbourhood during the whole school year.
The concept of ecological farm-school
The actions implemented as described above have made it possible to create the school complex. Today, it faces new challenges for its development.
The project in question here aims to focus on both pedagogical and practical training of students and young people for targeted and sustainable agriculture. The project is about learning and experimenting with agropastoral ecological practices, developing and disseminating them.
All the activities that will be organised will be related to the revaluation of teaching and technical and practical trades, to the valorisation of livestock and family farming, to the practice of ecological market gardening or food crops.
The farm’s production will be used to feed the school canteen. The surpluses from this income-generating activity will make it possible to meet certain financial expenses relating to the running of the school. Apprenticeships will enable young people to acquire professional skills. They will learn the right environmental gestures at school and raise the awareness of parents and their contemporaries.
The school farm is used as a pedagogical tool and a school of life: teachers will be trained in the optimal pedagogical use of school gardens, starting by relocating the classroom outside the walls. The teachers integrate practical exercises to be applied in the school garden and school farm in relation to the subjects of mathematics, economics, ecology and biology, as well as languages (calculation of surface area, purchase and sale of products; knowing the dimensions of the plot, how many peppers can be harvested? And by the way, how do you say chilli peppers in various dialects? ). This school farm will not only be a productive plot of land, but also a laboratory of life. Nutrition, health, environment, the range of teaching is vast.
The school garden also allows the pupils to learn about the use of other plants, for example: baobab powder, rich in iron, Artemisia annua against malaria, lemongrass, moringa, turmeric, ginger, “nkasi-kindongo”… It is estimated that 70% of medical care in Africa is provided in the form of community medicine, according to traditional teachings. However, this local knowledge is tending to disappear through the marketing of imported medicines, which often remain inaccessible to vulnerable populations. IDAY-International has published a book entitled “Yanou a le palu” (Yanou has malaria) by a Cameroonian author-drawer whose aim is to raise awareness among children and their families about the use of Artemisia annua. The book will be used in class as part of this project.
As purely agricultural activities are often seasonal and in principle require a lot of space to be developed, these will be coupled with targeted animal husbandry activities. After multiplication, some of the animals will be given to the students’ families as sharecroppers for domestic animal husbandry within everyone’s reach. This is the case for the breeding of poultry, guinea pigs, rabbits, crickets… This will provide financial support to these families, especially the poorest ones, to meet the primary needs of their children. The school or family farm will make up for this waiting time for the agricultural harvest, known as the lean season, during which the population lives in real poverty.
Beyond what the schoolchildren will bring home as knowledge and information about these activities in their respective families, MAPROFAM will accompany these families in appropriate ecological agro-pastoral techniques in order to increase their production and productivity and thus diversify their sources of income.
The school farm and school garden are also the place to learn about respect for the natural environment through its immediate discovery: respect for natural cycles, the benefits of natural fertilizers (versus pesticides and chemicals),… It is the compost and maggots that are used and not the chemicals. All treatments are carried out with products of organic origin. The land is improved with organic manure, animal excrements are used as manure to enrich the soil and also to feed fish… Not only does the ecological farm-school model ban chemical inputs, but also integrates more widely practices of preservation of natural resources (land, water, seeds…), recycling, revalorization of art and culture. This is the starting point for a global approach to transforming society (…), in a context where society is seeking to regain its natural and cultural heritage. »
In addition to the fact that the distribution of meals at school increases student attendance and therefore positively influences the level of education, the school farm and school garden become an essential part of life, building bridges between the school and the surrounding community through the exchange of experiences and knowledge. Back home, the pupils pass on to the family garden or farm the principles of ecological agriculture/livestock farming: attention to nature, to people’s health, to future generations, to the interdependencies between air, water, soil, seeds, etc.  The children learn how to cultivate and harvest seasonal produce. This fosters the dynamism of their whole community. These bridges improve the acceptability of the school to parents and encourage the enrolment of children in school. At school, pupils receive the foundations on which they can build hope for a better future (profitable profession, health, actors of change in more global themes related to the environment). The dynamic benefits the whole community.
The testimonies of students, teachers and parents are very encouraging. Especially from young people, who often consider going to the city to find work, and consider that the land is an activity for the “old”. This project helps to change this image, by showing that farming or animal husbandry is not degrading work: it is an essential part of life, which deserves to be involved in rural communities. ».
Activities carried out to date (February 2021)
- Vegetable garden fence: our aim is to create a green belt from trees that grow easily and are resistant to both the dry season and heavy rains. It is therefore an ecological fence initially reinforced with barbed wire.
- Vegetable activities: these are in progress: chives, tomatoes, amaranths, cabbages have been planted.
The training was provided by 3 trainers from the NGO PIF/PGAPF which is part of the Maison Artemisia with the very active participation of 25 teachers and 25 students. The training took place in sub-groups of 10 people. After a day of theory on the plant, its origins, its preventive and curative medicinal virtues and faculties, its cultivation…, two other days were devoted to practice: seedling preparation, soil preparation, nursery preparation, sowing and transplanting of a few seedlings from Boma with the trainers.
- During the official launch of the project on 05 November 2020, the provincial and local authorities were present to be not only informed of the existence of the project, but also to accompany it and duplicate it later on if it is successful. Among the authorities present were the Provincial Deputy of Kongo Central Rachel Vameso, the District Commissioner of Mbanza-Ngungu, the Mayor of the town of Mbanza-Ngungu, the Head of the Boko Sector (the town of Mbanza-Ngungu is in the territorial entity of the Boko sector) and the Head of the Athénée/Loma II district.
- An agronomist of the territory, an Agricultural Engineer attached to the Boko sector and a Head of Service of the Office of the Provincial Ministry of Central Kongo were delegated by their respective chiefs to participate in the three days of training on the cultivation and use of Artemisia annua.