Workshop: Collective Action to revive indigenous food systems through School Garden.
Over the course of interaction with the communities, a concern was raised for having a safe space where people can come together and start discussing about their concerns and issues and then bring in others into the conversation that could eventually lead to collective action. At the school levels, a subject in many schools in Meghalaya like Socially Useful Productive Work (commonly known as SUPW) can become an entry point to start having a dialogue with young minds where elders and school teachers can share their knowledge. The communities associated with NESFAS graciously embrace school garden activities and all members of the community are, at the same time, actively involved. In the long run, the students can become the active voice of their own communities. They can contribute in defending their agrobiodiversity by practising it in their school garden platforms.
Since 2012, the initiation of 43 school gardens in the communities associated with NESFAS, have contributed students in learning the basic methods of farming and understanding where food comes from. It has also contributed in participatory documentation of traditional knowledge and local crops.
On the 11th December 2017, 7 school teachers and local knowledge holders from Nongtraw, Dewlieh and Laitsohpliah communities of East Khasi Hills, Meghalaya, came forward to actively discuss and prepare a road map for the year 2018-2019 under SUPW classes. Along with the NESFAS team, they were able to include specific school garden activities that can fit in the curriculum. Their active participation in suggesting the specific activities for the school garden programmes will then guide them throughout the year in implementing these activities.
“Seeing is believing and learning by doing” is a slogan that encourages young children to not only learn, but they can also have their fair share of fun while they get their hands busy with productive farming activities. For most farming communities, the biggest fear is to lose something that is most precious to them, and that is farming, which is slowly losing popularity among the young people of the village. Traditional farming practices are encouraged in school garden programmes, and at the same time, the respect for farming as a viable profession in subtly instilled in the young minds.
Byllaimon Swer of Laitsohpliah community expressed, “It is important for me as well as the community to teach our children about the value of our food systems.”
Side by side, a training on the importance of agrobiodiversity for nutrition was conducted. This aimed at guiding the cooks at the ICDS Centres to ensure a nutritious diet through the Mid Day Meal Programmes for the children in their own communities.
Robinstar Nongrum of Dewlieh community said, “The workshop was helpful for me because I can initiate the idea of combining school garden and local foods through this programme.”
A work plan of three schools (Nongtraw, Dewlieh and Laitsohpliah) under SUPW curriculum produced. Also, the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) was signed with the three schools.
The work plans for 2018-19 for the the schools in the three communities were produced, after the after the pro-active session.
Once this is discussed in the respective SMCs, a dialogue with the Sub-divisional Education Officer will be taking place with the support of NESFAS. SUPW remains an ancillary, but mandatory part of course curriculum in schools.