By Bruce Kanengoni
After coming across the Dr. Rath Health Foundation‘s Movement of Life and seeing the extraordinary work it is doing in Africa, especially in Uganda, l was inspired to start a school gardening project in my country, Zimbabwe. My motivations for starting the project were to address poverty, hunger, diseases of malnutrition, and other preventable ills, which devastate the lives of so many children and adults here.
Medical care costs are very high in Zimbabwe. Drugs are unaffordable for many people, and, in any case, drugs are no remedy for the diseases of hunger. Good food, too, is beyond many people’s means, and it was frustrating to see those with land on which they might have grown health-giving fruit and vegetables, if only they had the mindset and knowledge to do so. It was to address the hardship of food poverty that we started a hands-on educative project, to teach the young people – the community leaders of tomorrow – how to rise to these challenges.
Schools in Zimbabwe face a constant struggle, with parents who lack the money for their children’s school fees, and who send them to school with nothing to eat. Sickness and other difficulties result in high rates of absenteeism and school dropouts. It is our hope, then, that by teaching students how to grow micronutrient-rich foods at school, and later helping them to grow these foods at home, we will, in the long run, help them to enjoy good health, through access to abundant, natural produce, and even enable them to pay their school fees through the sale of the surplus from their harvests.
Through studying the School Health Parliament club project in Uganda, I learned about the importance of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients, and the way people can avail themselves of these life-giving substances by growing natural fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants. I therefore decided to launch a school-based project with students and one teacher at Warren Park School in Harare.
Our aim, as in Uganda, is to help underprivileged children enjoy robust health through the growing and consuming of fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants, as sources of micronutrients, and encourage them to play a role in supporting their parents by raising extra income to sustain their families, through selling their surplus produce in a spirit of entrepreneurship.
As the Movement of Life Zimbabwe team, we are here to incentivize disadvantaged children not to depend on charities, but to help themselves by creating solutions for the problems our country is facing, thus resisting a dependency mentality.
Our journey towards achieving this goal started with registering a local non-governmental organization called the Tibatsirane Foundation Trust. We entered into a memorandum of understanding with Warren Park School, then held a training workshop about the importance of micronutrients and Cellular Medicine in preventing and controlling diseases. The workshop also addressed how gardens containing micronutrient-rich foods can be started and managed by schools through the setting up of a School Health Parliament club.
Having trained the club’s patron teacher and two students, we helped them to establish such a club and its various working committees in their school. Through the seed donation committee of the School Health Parliament club, we received thousands of fruit and vegetable seeds donated by children from the fruits they ate both at school and at their homes, including the seeds their parents would normally have thrown away after juicing. This is helping the children to have a sense of responsibility, to own the challenges they face, and to use natural seeds, in contrast to the genetically modified seeds that are on the market here.
We have, as well, created composting heaps at the school, in preparation for gardening in the next school term.
Our gardening process involves seed donation by students, preparing compost manure, preparing nursery beds, transplanting, the control of pests using home-made organic pesticides, weeding, and then harvesting.
So far, we have already been honored by the Zimbabwe Medical Awards Trust for starting a project that could potentially effect greater change for the people of Zimbabwe.
While our progress is challenged by drought and constant school closures in the face of COVID-19, we remain optimistic that our work, over time, will enthuse others around the world to embark on a similar journey of self-determination and freedom.