Meet Sadia Khanom, 11, a fifth grader at Thimchori Government Primary School and a Little Agriculturist.
Supported by WFP and FAO, the Little Agriculturist is an innovative addition to the national school feeding progarmme. Its goal is to improve dietary diversity of schoolchildren through cultivation of school gardens, using climate- and nutrient-sensitive crop production techniques, and led by children themselves.
Since becoming a Little Agriculturist, Sadia has learned what it takes to make a good vegetable garden – soil quality, spacing of seeds, producing and using compost, and regular upkeep are all key ingredients to success. Together with her fellow Little Agriculturists, all 63 of them, including 47 girls, she manages a 1 decimal (40 sqm) gardening plot. Already they have produced 48 kg of pumpkin, okra, bottle gourd, and bitter gourd that were distributed among the students’ families.
Another aspect of the programme is to encourage schoolchildren like Sadia to share what she has learned with her family. Her mother Sadia Bulbul and father Helal Uddin have been applying the same knowledge and techniques they learned from Sadia in their own home garden. Not only that, they also get to know the nutrition values of the vegetables they grow: pumpkins and carrots are rich in minerals and vitamin A, taros and broccolis are good sources of iron, and broccolis contain abundance of calcium that are vital to build strong bones.
Beyond her family, Sadia has been regarded as a young advocate for sustainable agricultural practices in her communities. The techniques she taught her parents have been further spread to their neighbours, and more children are also following her footsteps in homestead gardening.
Over the past three years, WFP has been partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program in support of Bangladesh’s national school feeding programme in Ukhiya and Kutubdia sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar.
The WFP-USDA partnership is beyond just the provision of a morning snack of fortified biscuit. It also promotes and supports children’s literacy, health and nutrition, along with food safety and quality and government capacity building. Through a comprehensive school-based nutrition, health and education package, many positive changes have emerged, from increased school enrolment and attendance, to improved reading outcomes and better nutrition among students.
“I want to study Agriculture and become a teacher in the future,” said Sadia.
With determination in her heart, Sadia will continue using her knowledge and passion to educate others about sustainable farming and good nutrition. She is one shining example of how young minds can bring positive change to their families and communities in their quest for a better future.