Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture

Crossposted from Nourishing the Planet.

One thing you immediately notice upon meeting Edward Mukiibi and Roger Serunjogi is their passion for kids and agriculture. Their eyes both lit up whenever they talked about the students who are part of DISC, Developing Innovations in School Cultivation, a project they founded after graduating from Makere University in Kampala. When we met Edward, he had just gotten back from the World Food Summit in Rome, where he was representing Slow Food International's Youth Delegation. He works during the week at the Ugandan Organic Certification Company. Roger is a school teacher and administrator at Sunrise School, where DISC launched its pilot project in 2006.

Edward says that after fulfilling their goals of being able to go to university, he and Roger wanted to "help other people realize their dreams." And they wanted to spread their "passion for producing local foods to the next generation." By focusing on school gardens, Edward and Roger are helping not only feed children, but are also revitalizing an interest in--and cultivation of--African indigenous vegetables. The schools don't use any hybrid seeds, but rely on what is locally available. Students and teachers at DISC project schools are taught how to save seed from local varieties of amaranth, sumiwiki, maize, African eggplant, and other local crops to grow in school gardens. They learn how to both dry the seeds and how to store them for the next season. With support from Slow Food International, DISC is establishing a seed bank to, according to Edward, "preserve the world's best vegetables."

Improving nutrition is especially important for boarding school students, who eat all of their meals at school. These children come from all over Uganda and DISC tries to make them feel at home by growing varieties of crops that are familiar to them from both the lowlands and highlands. According to Edward, "a child needs to see what she's used to" in order to appreciate its importance.

At both day and boarding schools, students work with school chefs to learn how to cook foods--giving them the opportunity to understand food production literally from farm to table. And unlike most other schools in Uganda, DISC project schools get local fruits with their breakfast and can harvest their own desert at lunchtime. DISC is planning the "Year of Fruits" for the next school year, which begins in January or February depending on the school--each school will be planting its own fruit trees on campus.

Roger explained that in addition to the monkeys who live around Sunrise School and who like to eat some of the crops from their garden, the biggest challenges for DISC involve transportation and equipment for the schools. Because DISC doesn't have its own vehicle, the coordinators, who need to evaluate gardens and make sure that the children are actually getting the food they help grow, often have to scramble to find transportation. And they lack good ways for the schools to communicate with one another about disease outbreaks and other problems.

But as the project receives more interest--from teachers, students, parents, and policy-makers (the local extension officer for the National Agricultural Advisory Services is a member of the local Slow Food convivium)--and more funding, they're likely to overcome these challenges and make farming a more viable option for youth in Mikuni and other parts of Uganda.

There's more...

Building Roots in Environmental Education

This is the second in a two-part series about my visit to the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

After my initial disappointment of not being able to travel to Kigoma, Tanzania to visit the Jane Goodall Center's projects in Gombe National Park--thanks to mechanical problems on Precision Air --I decided that there was still a lot to learn about the Institute's work at the Dar headquarters. Nsaa-Iya Kihunrwa, the Director of JGI's Roots and Shoots program, explained further how the Institute's work has evolved over the last 15 years.

JGI first started working with school children in the early 1990s through Roots and Shoots, a program that trains students and teachers about conservation. They're striving, according to Mr. Kinhunrwa, "to create a generation of conscientious adults" who care about the environment.

Through Roots and Shoots, JGI has worked with the Tanzania Ministry of Education to train teachers to use environmental themes in their classrooms. When children are learning about fish and other foods, for example, teachers are now using experiential learning--taking kids to fish markets, for example--to identify breeds and varieties and talk about conservation. These new ways of learning help students make the connections between what they eat and the health of the planet.

These skills will help train the next generation of farmers, teachers, laborers, and businesspeople in Kigoma and elsewhere in Tanzania not only to be more aware of environmental issues, but to also become conservationists and help preserve wildlife and biodiversity in the area.

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Harvard Students, Workers Fight Layoffs (W/ VIDEO)

Over the past several months, Harvard's Student Labor Action Movement has been fighting layoffs in solidarity with Harvard workers with support of many members of the student body, alumni, faculty, staff, parents and more. Through protests, a petition, vigils, letters, and more, SLAM has brought the message that workers are valuable members of the Harvard community to the forefront of campus and even Cambridge politics.

Recently SLAM worked with the Harvard College Democrats to produce a video about the human cost of layoffs.

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States Move to Create Culture of Voter Engagement through Preregistration

By Erin Ferns

The rising levels of voter participation among the nation's youth continue to be challenged by the current voter registration system, perpetuating the difficulty of fostering lifelong voters. Some states are proposing to take this challenge into their own hands by making voter registration accessible to citizens as young as 16. Already widely accessible at schools and departments of motor vehicles, the move would allow future voters in some states to automatically be enrolled on the voter rolls on their 18th birthdays, a change that advocates say could "close the registry gap between young voters and the rest of the population."

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help college students maximize the impact of their vote - new site:

bumped from the diaries -- jonathan

Students can choose to vote in their school state or their home state.

The numbers are big enough to matter.  A lot.
For example, more than 62,000 students from Ohio are attending school in other states.  Iowa has 50,000 students from out-of-state is a new site that makes it easy to compare any two states and see how critical the presidential race is in each.

After comparing states they can get registered and sign up to vote absentee.

Many students don't realize that they have a choice, and many others aren't registered at all. Registration deadlines are coming fast (many are on Oct 6th).

This is a high leverage and very easy way to get more votes where they count most.  Please help more students become aware of their options by sending countmore to all your college age friends.

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