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Undergraduate students from Iowa State University and Makerere University and center staff work alongside elementary school children to maintain on-site school gardens and care for poultry. While children learn particular skills in agriculture and livestock management, the gardens and livestock supply ingredients for the school lunch program. The school gardens program helps teach and nourish students in four primary and two secondary schools in the Kamuli District. The gardens furnish produce for school lunches that are served in all six locations, varying in frequency from one to five days a week. Poultry programs are also offered at two of the primary schools.
Three years ago, Caroline Mudondo and her friends were searching for firewood in the fields surrounding their Namasagali Primary School. Walking along the paths, Mudondo admired the beautiful vegetables in the school garden, which were used to feed students through the school lunch program and had been planted and managed by the school’s agriculture club.
That was the moment, she says, when she knew she had to be part of the club. When the new-member recruiting period opened, she didn’t hesitate to join. Although she wanted to learn how to grow vegetables at home for food, she also hoped to sell vegetables to earn money, which would open so many more opportunities.
Through the school garden program, Mudondo learned to grow eggplants, collards, grain amaranth, maize, tomatoes, lablab beans, bananas, pawpaws and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. She learned how to pot trees and make nursery beds. During school breaks, she planted vegetables in her mother’s garden in Baale, using seed she received from the school garden master. Mudondo completed her primary level education at Namasagali Primary School in 2016 and, with generous financial assistance from Iowa State service-learning students, she enrolled this year in a tailoring certificate program at St. Joseph Vocational Center in Kamuli.
With her newly acquired tailoring skills, Mudondo plans to get a job after graduation, raise capital and run her own tailoring business alongside vegetable growing. She is thankful to the school garden program for teaching her how to use the garden to generate income. And the program helped her stay in school. “Without it,” she says, “I would be married with a child like other former classmates of mine.” “I have developed so much and I have so many skills,” Mudondo says. “Now I think I can never fail in life.”
Pictured: Caroline Mudondo
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