Firms engage 6, 000 students in smart farming to curb food insecurity
Helen Keller International, in collaboration with the Lagos State government, has engaged 6, 000 pupils in nine public primary schools in Ikeja Local Government Area and members of the community to promote cultivation and consumption of diverse micronutrient-rich fruits and vegetables through smart farming.
Speaking during the Helen Keller International Harvest Fair held at Agidingbi Primary School, Ikeja, Lagos, the Country Director, Philomena Orji, said the Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles Project, funded by the Mondelez International Foundation, aims to support schools and communities to reach under-served children in Nigeria through innovative ways to end food insecurity and malnutrition.
Orji said the programme, which is also geared towards creating school and community environments that encourage children and families to adopt lifelong healthy habits, targets a direct reach of 6, 000 children in primary schools, and an estimated indirect reach of about 48, 000 out-of-school children and their families across the Community Development Areas.
She said the organisation has trained teachers, parents, and community development officers on improved techniques for cultivating diverse micronutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, with the aim of improving the production and consumption of nutrient-rich foods.
Orji said given the peculiarity of the peri-urban context in Ikeja, Helen Keller International applied expertise to improve and establish school gardens across the project schools, adding that beneficiaries have learnt how to grow crops in small spaces using recycled containers.
On her part, the Permanent Secretary, Office of Environmental Services, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Lagos State, Mrs. Belinda Odeneye Aderonke, commended Helen Keller International in assisting vulnerable and disadvantaged persons in both health and nutrition.
Aderonke, who was represented by the Ministry’s Nutrition Desk Officer, Falaye Aderemi Aina, said everyone must be worried about food insecurity, famine, and what ways to improve the livelihood of Nigerians generally.
She said the world today, is faced with double burden of malnutrition that includes both undernutrition and overweight, especially in low and middle income countries, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) providing scientific advice and decision making tools that can help countries take action to address it and to support health and wellbeing for everyone.
According to the permanent secretary, studies show that garden-based nutrition education improves students’ eating habits by increasing their knowledge of preference for and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as increasing physical activity.
“Gardens in schools provide students with a real-time look at how food is grown. There are different models for how these gardens work, but children of different ages have regular lessons in the garden, learning how to grow, harvest and prepare a variety of fruits and vegetables,” she said.
Aderonke further noted that the farming project is in line with the Federal Government’s “Zero Reject” programme aimed at improving the quality of domestic production to both local and international markets standard, while guaranteeing increased supply of food to the people and revenue from export activities.
Also, the Chairman, Association of Primary School Head Teachers of Nigeria, Ikeja Chapter, Mrs. Oni Adesola Bolanle, said the pupils have been engaged in planting various fruits and vegetables in the school gardens, using tyres and containers.
She said this is an avenue of teaching the pupils agriculture at a very young stage in line with the government’s call for economic diversification.
On his part, the Chairman, Community Development Committee (CDC), Ikeja Local Government Area, Osinberu Sulukaleen, commended the smart farming project in the schools and communities, saying it is laudable and would help reduce famine in the communities to the barest minimum.