Malawi is a country located in the southwest of Africa. Compared to its neighboring countries of Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique, it is relatively small. Despite its size, it has one of the biggest lakes in Africa, Malawi Lake, providing fertile soil for abundant agriculture, jobs and food security. In a country with a high mortality rate for children, it is important to utilize agriculture to fight poverty and its effects. Unfortunately, big international farms producing tea, tobacco and coffee are taking up most of the fertile land while the general population is living in poverty. Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP of $441 compared to the US of $65,300, according to the World Bank GPD index. Thus, food security and education are big issues for the population that must be addressed.
In the southern part of Malawi, there is a small community call Amalika. The community works hard in the local tea fields from sunrise to sunset. They work to survive. If you look around, you will usually find kids playing in the street instead of being in school. There is no governmental support for preschool programs. In this part of the world, children survive on one meal per day which lacks nutritional value and protein. The families in Amalika try their best to survive and to give proper nutritious meals to their children but it is practically a miracle if they survive past seven years old. In order to address these two concerns, One World Center volunteers work together with Humana People to People to support preschool programs and start school vegetable gardens.
Often the village has some land which can be used for the preschool gardens. Either a hut or classroom is built to offer a shaded area for children to learn in. Each preschool gets a garden with fruits and vegetables, a firewood saving oven and a tippy tap (simple hand-washing station). The produce from the garden along with the corn meal provided by the village is enough to serve one meal per day to each child and give extra produce to sell which becomes the volunteer teacher's salary. As a village takes the preschool program and garden to heart, it can be expanded to also include chickens which can provide eggs which offer additional protein to a child's diet.
With full bellies, children have a head start for the optimal learning. Another benefit of the garden is that is becomes a learning field. Children learn about growing different vegetables, composting from kitchen waste and collecting water for irrigation. These ideas can then be taken back home and shared with their families. We love preschool garden projects because they provide relatively simple solutions to huge issues (i.e. lack of food, lack of early childhood education) and gives communities a good reason to come together to improve the conditions for their village and their loved ones.