By the Food Plant Solutions Rotarian Action Group
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 821 million people – one in nine people – suffer from chronic hunger. At the same time, 1.9 billion people are overweight, including 672 million obese adults. Conflict, extreme weather events linked to climate change, economic slowdown and rapidly increasing overweight and obesity levels are reversing progress made in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
Today, World Food Day, highlights the need to step up efforts to reverse rising global chronic hunger and malnutrition trends. This year’s theme, “Our actions are our future” encourages people to take action to create opportunities so that everyone can lead a healthy, productive life.
The Food Plant Solutions Rotarian Action Group (FPS RAG) promotes innovative solutions to end hunger, malnutrition and ensure food security that is nutritious, sustainable, cost effective and proven to work. Food Plant Solutions creates educational publications that help the Rotary network understand the connection between plant selection and nutrition. This empowers clubs to work with communities to grow or source and eat a range of highly nutritious plants with differing seasonal requirements and maturities.
We aim to influence how people think about their food choices through education and scientific evidence which empowers them to make changes. The more information and education people have on their food choices – what nutritious food is, how to grow it and why it’s important to eat – the more likely they will be to make healthier choices. This benefits them, their family and ultimately the community as a whole.
Food Plant Solutions does not send people in-country to plan projects. Instead, we form partnerships with existing aid providers and clubs who use our publications to educate communities, and particularly women and children, on the nutrient value of their local foods. Not only does this sustainably address malnutrition and food security, it empowers women. In many cases this will increase income for women, which benefits her family as a whole, and it also safeguards and strengthens the capacity of women to provide food security, health and nutrition for their family.
Today, we encourage you to take action by establishing food gardens in schools and communities. Our partners have proven that gardens provide ongoing education and help improve the health and nutrition of all participants, all while reducing malnutrition by as much as 95%.
Below are five steps you can take to get started:
1) Identify a location for your garden: Consider a site that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight a day and is not shaded by buildings or trees. The site should also be easily accessible and have adequate access to water – a garden that is difficult to get to will not be maintained. The garden should also be protected from predators like native animals. If this is an issue, consider barriers to keep predators out and install them before planting.
2) Plan the garden size: Start off with a small garden and increase the size as you become more confident. If space is limited, remember plants can be successfully grown in containers or pots. Gather the tools you’ll need to get started (shovel, hand towel, hoe, rake, etc.)
3) Decide which plants you are going to grow: Refer to one of our guides specific to your country, to decide which plants are best to grow in your region.
4) Start building your garden: To start planting, remove any existing plants and large weeds. Once the soil has been loosened, spread compost and work it into the soil. Once the digging is complete, smooth the surface with a rake and water thoroughly. Allow the bed to rest for several days before planting.
Seeds and seedlings can be purchased from nurseries, garden centers and most hardware stores. Plant seeds and seedlings in accordance with their specific directions and apply sufficient water to ensure the soil around the seeds and/or seedling roots is moist. Consider how tall and wide each plant will grow when planning the space between plants. Make small signs that identify what you have planted to stick into the ground.
5) Take care of your garden: Plants need regular watering, which should occur either early in the morning, or late in the day, never in the heat of the day. Weeds will compete with the plants for nutrients and water, so it is important to keep them to a minimum. Hand weeding and adding mulch around seedlings will help keep weeds under control.
Collaborate with us! Learn how to start a Food Plant Solutions program in your region, follow us on Facebook, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help us continue our work in preparing educational materials for countries around the world by making a contribution today.