Photo credit:Trish Travel Food
HOW VEGETABLE GARDENS IN CAMBODIA CHANGE LIVES
Siem Reap in Cambodia is the tourist gateway to the temples at Angkor Wat. When I flew there from Vietnam in March I headed two hours further north to Samrong and visited something completely different – school vegetable gardens! I travelled with a friend to visit three schools that are involved in the Green Shoots Foundation program for developing Agricultural Skills in Public Schools (ASPUS).
Green Shoots Foundation is a small charity based in London andthis visit was arranged by Muneezay Jaffrey the Operations Manager there. On arrival in Samrong we were met by Ratana Oeurn and the team at the Community-based Integrated Development Organisation (CIDO). CIDO is the local partner of the foundation and delivers the programs incorporating sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural skills within the school curriculum.
I am grateful to both Muneezay and Ratana for the time and care they took in arranging this visit and the willingness they had to answer my questions about the program. I would also like to thank the schools, teachers, and students who took the time to meet with us, talk with us and to show us and share with us the vocational vegetable gardens they have developed.
To date, in Odar Meanchey province, there are 43 schools with vegetable gardens, 48 teachers trained in sustainable gardening and 8,900 students trained in sustainable gardening.
The School Vegetable Gardens
The three schools we visited were a mix of primary and secondary level and in all three schools, you could see the vegetable garden as you came into the school. I loved the ‘impression’ that having such an instantly visible garden gave to the school grounds. It was immediately clear that each garden was a dedicated and well-tended space and was integral to the school.
The children we met were enthusiastic about being a part of the vegetable garden project and we felt welcome as guests. The school children had helped to build each of the gardens and they had been designed such that there was plenty of space to walk around and between the rows of crops, and to be able to easily tend to and harvest the crops from either side of a row.
As part of the Green Shoots Foundation’s Food Agriculture & Social Entrepreneurship program ASPUS, as its initial focus specifically addresses a lack of education and skills in rural areas and promotes sustainable farming techniques. I was, therefore, interested to see and learn more about which environmental, sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices were being used in the vegetable gardens and how these worked or were adapted to the Cambodian climate. The staff I chatted to at the schools were happy to point out these practices and to share more information about them.