The Fruitful Intersection Between Education and Agriculture

Duncan McCullough

It seems impossible not to begin a blog piece this week without acknowledging first the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations on 25 September, and understandably so. In addition to the commemorations and reviews, many are looking at the cross-sector opportunities between the various goals and targets.

The efficiencies of developing benefits that extend beyond their own immediate sectors can help with the successful implementation of the 17 UN Goals by 2030. With ambitions high and financing commitments still unmet, these effeciencies may be critical.

For a useful example of the possibilities of these efficient benefits, take for instance the positive role that future commitments to education for all (SDG #4) can have not just for students’ learning, but on a completely separate sector like hunger, agriculture and food security (SDG #2).

War Child Canada’s Resilience Work in Sudan includes more than 90 schools adapting critical education programming to the challenges of the country’s out-of-school children. Agriculture training has been crucial in the program. Workshops and classes in seed and tool distribution, livestock management, irrigation projects and other modern agricultural techniques are offered to students on demonstration farms and in field schools. These trainings aid community engagement, project sustainability, and most importantly, are preparing thousands of young students for sustainable futures in a country that has too often suffered from food shortages.

In Cambodia many rural areas face food insecurity, and the Self Help Community Center (SHCC) is responding to this need through education. Part of the Center’s comprehensive strategy is its Organic Farming Project, where students from the Kro Bei Riel Community are taught about sustainable farming practices. As these students learn English and other cognitive skills, they are also developing their communities’ food supply, nutrition health, and economies.

In Ghana, the Akaa Project's Asiafo Amanfro Community School serves students who don't have easy access to education in the Eastern Region of Ghana. The program’s “local-driven focus” led it to establish a partnership with MoringaConnect, a social enterprise that helps farmers increase their income and improve the health of their families. The project merges MoringaConnect’s technical knowledge with the Akaa Project’s training expertise and existing community relationships. Partnerships like these may be an efficient way to deliver benefits simultaneously to students, skilled labor professionals, and families.

The Huellas de la Esperanza School launched in Colombia in 2006. Its model stresses holistic teaching and learning that includes classroom projects for orchard tending, fish and livestock care, and gardening. The school is preparing for an impact evaluation to measure how such extra-curricular projects are affecting other learning improvements, but the program model has already demonstrated its usefulness in garnering increased community support and participation.

 

Education is no magic bullet, but education providers are often in a unique position to improve a student’s life in ways outside the classroom. Programs like those highlighted here are prime examples of the cascading benefits that education can facilitate. It’s incredibly difficult to teach a child to read when they’re hungry, but what if you can teach them to read in a way that contributes to fighting their hunger as well?

 

Photo Credits (Top to Bottom): USAID, Morgana Wingard, Self Help Community Center, and Fundacion Acesco.

Duncan McCullough is a Communications Associate at the Center for Education Innovations, proud Masters graduate of George Mason University, and former White House Staffer.

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