Service meets food security

By Overseas Programming and Training Support
June 30, 2015

Food insecurity and undernutrition are among the most urgent issues the global community faces. 

Peace Corps Volunteer Genevieve James teaches students how to collect seeds to plant next year.
Peace Corps Volunteer Genevieve James teaches students how to collect seeds to plant next year.

As part of the U.S. Government team dedicated to fighting hunger, Peace Corps Volunteers work alongside communities that are the first line of defense against food insecurity, helping drive down the number of hungry people through better agricultural productivity and nutrition training and services.

Genevieve James is an example of the impact that is possible through a grassroots approach to agriculture and nutrition. A Health Volunteer in Ghana, Genevieve partnered with nearby Agriculture Volunteer Ryan Ott to help a local school plant a garden to diversify the school’s feeding program.

Before the garden was planted, students at Genevieve’s community school ate rice, maize porridge, beans and gari (a starchy food made of cassava) every day. They didn’t get to enjoy any nutritious vegetables in their diets – the school’s strict budget and a lengthy dry season made it difficult to grow fresh produce.

But Genevieve and Ryan were up to the challenge, and they worked together with the school cooks to identify three vegetables to grow in their garden: tomatoes, green peppers and aleefua, a locally-produced dark leafy green. This combination of crops would allow the students to increase their access to Vitamin A and dietary iron, two common micronutrient deficiencies in Ghana.

With the assistance of a small grant from Feed the Future, Genevieve and Ryan purchased seeds, watering cans and hoes for the garden. Working side by side, Genevieve, Ryan, the teachers and students prepared the school grounds for a new garden, creating nursing beds for peppers and tomatoes. While they waited for the rainy season to begin, they tirelessly watered the garden twice a day from a narrow borehole in the ground. When the rains finally came and the group transplanted the pepper and tomato seedlings, their crops grew so much that they had to increase the garden to three times its original size. Today it houses 600 pepper plants, 300 tomato plants and four new beds of aleefu.

The school feeding program cooks using the fresh produce from the garden.
The school feeding program cooks using the fresh produce from the garden.

For many in the community, the school garden’s first crop was the first time they had ever seen a green pepper. Genevieve and Ryan jumped at the opportunity to introduce this new vegetable and educate more people about how to grow it, harvest its seeds, and add it to soups.

Six hundred children now eat food from the school garden every day, resulting in improved dietary diversity. Genevieve and Ryan are brainstorming ways to help the school continue production through the dry season, and the students and teachers are committed to monitoring and maintaining the garden over the long term.

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