Naom Mgeta and her fellow students are holding three-litre water jugs in their hands. The blue-and-white-clad students are watering vegetables in the backyard of their school, where nutritious, green vegetables are growing in bags filled with soil and manure.
Naom is an 11-year-old student at Kahama primary school in Ilemela district, in northwestern Tanzania. She says, “We are planting vegetables in used cement sacks because it is easy to grow vegetables this way.”
The students are planting vegetables such as okra, green pepper, and eggplants.
Erick Gunda is in the same grade as Naom, standard five. He says the students decided to grow vegetables in empty bags because it doesn’t require a lot of land.
Levocuts Michael teaches at the school. She says, “We created groups where students learn how to grow vegetables in bags and teach other students to do the same, and eventually students teach their parents and siblings at home.”
Salum Kapagala teaches the students how to grow vegetables. Ms. Kapagala explains, “I want to teach as many people as possible in the community how they can grow vegetables on as small an area as possible to solve the problem of vegetable scarcity in town.”
She says it’s not difficult to grow vegetables in bags. Ms. Kapagala says it’s important to use mesh screens to filter out large particles from the soil. With the students, she mixes the filtered soil with composted manure and dry grass and adds it to empty cement bags. Then they spread ashes on top to neutralize soil acidity and stop microbial attack, then ties the bags with ropes at both ends.
The students moisten the soil mixture with water for three days before planting vegetable seeds. Then they water the plants regularly.
Maria Consosia lives in Kahama town in Ilemela district and grows vegetables in bags in her backyard. She says the technique helps her save the money and time she usually spends buying vegetables in the market.
Neema Semwaiko is the district agriculture, irrigation, and co-operative officer in Ilemela. She says they decided to teach students so that the students can in turn share the skills of growing vegetables in bags with their families.
Mrs. Semwaiko says the vegetables are helping a lot because there were very few vegetable gardens.
Eleven-year-old Erick says the vegetables they harvest are cooked at the school and students are given some to take home.