As it is rainy season; the time when most Zambians sow their crops, children from Maunga Kids Club in Livingstone have spent a morning learning how vegetables are grown.
Maize is the predominant crop and most of the children already have an idea of how it is grown, so the lesson concentrated on other produce, such as carrots, pumpkins, and sunflowers which are less common. The children were taught that carrot seeds have to be sown directly into the ground, as they prefer cooler temperatures. They can be slow to germinate, maturing in about 60 days, so patience is needed. Next, they learned that sunflower seeds should be planted much further apart - 25 to 35 centimetres - to allow sufficient room for the initial seedlings to reach full growth. Confectionery (non-oil) sunflowers dry naturally in the late summer sun, producing seeds that are rich in protein and iron and can be roasted for snacks. Lastly, the children were told how to sow pumpkin seeds. Signs of life are more immediate, with seeds sprouting after a week or so and trailing vine leaves quickly beginning to form and spread. Once the crop is fully-grown, seeds can be dried to eat or saved for future planting, while the flesh can be used for pies and the shell for carving. To round off the session, the children drew a picture of their favourite food crop.
As an important life skill which is not part of the existing school curriculum, teaching children about growing their own food is an effective way to help create an awareness of their environment and how looking after it can benefit their lives. Providing conservation education to children in schools around our project sites is an important part of ALERT’s work in local communities. You could join us as a Conservation Education intern in Africa.