Swaziland has been plagued by HIV, stagnant economic growth, and increasing climatic uncertainty. This small kingdom in Subsaharan Africa, however, is the focus of the latest initiative to temper food insecurity. In 2014, while observing what a powerful role malnutrition was playing in limiting health and development, Social Ecology doctoral student, Connor Harron, launched the Swaziland Food Sovereignty Initiative (SFSI) under the guidance of Professors Jodi Quas and Richard Matthew. The initiative aims to address malnutrition by empowering youth to become agricultural entrepreneurs and help rebuild local food systems.
Harron developed SFSI with teachers from the Edudusi Primary School in Northern Swaziland, to help support young learners with supplemental nutrition and garden-based experiential learning to provide them with the technical skills needed to grow abundant food without depleting precious natural resources.
In August 2016, Harron had the opportunity to return to Swaziland with nearly $6,000 raised from a combination of crowdfunding, as well as the generous support of the UCI Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation and Paul and Francis Dickman through their Graduate Student Award for Community Engagement. These funds were used to invest in crucial infrastructure repairs on the primary school, install water storage tanks, and garden fencing, purchase new classroom furniture, supplies, and create school savings account for future repairs. While there, Harron launched a garden-based education program that has the potential to make a meaningful impact on both student’s immediate health and long-term well-being.
Over the next two years, Harron will continue to work with the primary school to ensure the program continues in his absence. If Harron can demonstrate the program’s impact and long-term viability, he will make a case to local government and funding agencies to replicate it in primary schools across Swaziland.
Read the original article by the UCI School of Social Ecology.