My name is Matimba Ngandu, I am in grade 7 at Gwembe Primary School in Zambia. At my school we are learning how to grow food in our school garden using the hydroponic farming technique under greenhouse conditions. This is important to ensure we have fresh vegetables throughout the year. We harvest the vegetables and supply our school kitchen, for the cooks to add to the food provided by the Government. The vegetables make our meals more nutritious and delicious. We are growing a variety of produce such as kale, cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, and onions because the techniques we use protect them from pests and diseases. The conditions are good and even if it does not rain, we can still grow our vegetables.
Our teachers tell us that we firstly plant the seedlings and when they grow, we transplant into the beds and take turns to care for them. This is a very important period because we will be studying their growth, making sure they do not lack the nutrients they need to thrive. The knowledge we get here, we share with other people, including our parents, families, and neighbours. We encourage them to adopt hydroponic systems because they can help farmers not to exhaust the soil by using only the traditional way of farming. They can also produce high quality vegetables and guarantee supply of food throughout the year.
Since we started growing food to promote better nutrition in my school, hydroponic gardening has changed our lives, especially in times of drought. For example, in 2019, before this hydroponic scheme, there was hunger, and no food was served at school. Many students did not come to school because they knew they will be hungry all the time. It is also impossible to learn on an empty stomach! However, when they brought this hydroponic school garden scheme, we started growing vegetables and the school started cooking for us. It was good to see that students that had dropped out returned to school. They do not miss a day of school because, they know that when they finish learning, there will be food in the kitchen to eat. Many have also joined the hydroponic garden initiative to understand how the technique works and contribute to supporting our school feeding programme. It’s important to learn about food production because we will know that the food we eat is not produced in the supermarket but is grown using various techniques to prevent hunger and malnutrition.