Garden Wisdom:

West Coast Seeds supports Innovative School in Africa

Welcome to Risen School in Mafinga: a small city of 60,000 people in the country of Tanzania, East Africa. Far from the West Coast of British Columbia in more ways than one, we share some common ground: our love of sustainability, community, and organic living. Risen gratefully received a shipment of West Coast Seeds this summer for their sustainable school.

Risen School's story: Sustainability, Benevolence, and "Informal Education

Robart Mdamu and his wife, Nitike, are volunteer teachers to children aged 2-6 in an area of Africa that's been hard hit with HIV and poverty. They welcome 40 children daily to Risen School, and provide 2 meals as part of their program. Half of the children cannot afford to pay the small fee to attend, but are welcomed anyway. Some families participate by giving food when they can. 

Many children at Risen are either diagnosed as HIV positive, or have lost parents to the disease. It is particularly important for Robart and Nitike to participate in prevention education of children from an early age as part of a global education approach to  health.

Since the school's creation January 2020, they have relied on the help of international volunteers, the school fees they are able to collect from some families, and their garden to support the breakfast and lunch.

Agriculture is a primary discipline that they want to pass on to children from an early age. Currently they use a solar panel for electricity and use the manure of their chickens to enrich their vegetable garden. The school relies on the collection and storage of rainwater to supply the bathrooms, the kitchen and the vegetable garden. In addition to the rainwater, they boil the water they collect from the well for their personal consumption and for the school.

Their goal is to teach responsible gardening to children, so that they can reproduce it at home and later when they grow up. Students are made aware from an early age of the principles of sustainable development and reuse of materials: this famous “informal education” as Robart calls it, is as important as the regular curriculum which is learned on the benches of school.

Different from Risen's education style, the public schools in Tanzania have very few resources. As the population and students continue to grow, the government is struggling to keep pace by creating enough teaching positions. Therefore some government school teachers have classes of more than 100 students. It is difficult for them to teach in good conditions, and some students leave primary school without knowing how to read or write.

West Coast Seeds joins Risen's Efforts

In April of this year (2021), a volunteer named Amanda from British Columbia, Canada visited Risen to volunteer for 6 weeks. Moved by the self sacrifice of the teachers, and the daily efforts in the organic garden, she contacted West Coast Seeds to see if their seed donation program would be able to support Risen. It was a great fit! The seeds successfully arrived in the mail in July, and are into the ground. Enough seeds were sent to cover 3 acres of farmland. 

Gardening: An Essential Practice in Tanzania

Risen feels that gardening plays an essential role in bettering the lives of the people in their village. Even if a family is in a tough place financially, knowing how to garden is a saving grace. 

They are focusing their efforts on agriculture in order to create a virtuous circle. By growing a large amount of fruits and vegetables, it will feed the students, and they will sell the surplus to support the needs of the school, such as buying school supplies and payment of teachers' salaries. 

What's Next and How to Get Involved

Risen was gifted 3 acres of farmland earlier in 2021. Since then, they have planted most of it with vegetables, and are part way through building a Primary school where they will welcome children up to age 14. Their goal is to work closely with children as they grow through Primary School ages and teach them more comprehensively during these important years about agriculture, self-esteem, and HIV prevention.

So far they have completed 2 classrooms, an office, and a partly finished the toilet building. As they continue to raise funds, a kitchen, storage building, and playground will be added. 

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