In the Syrian Arab Republic, students in rural areas learn about various aspects of agriculture and nutrition as part of the national curriculum. However, public schools often lack resources such as agricultural tools and irrigations systems to offer an engaging educational experience for the children. To contribute to enriching the national agriculture curriculum in the Syrian Arab Republic with practical activities, and with the support of the Government of Japan, FAO established school gardens in three schools in Hama and two schools in Rural Damascus Governorates. FAO provided each targeted school with agricultural tools, inputs, vegetable seedlings, solar irrigation systems and drip irrigation equipment. Additionally, FAO trained 85 teachers on managing school gardens to boost their knowledge and skills.
"FAO's school garden intervention merges the theoretical curriculum with practical activities. The overall objective is to strengthen the resilience of the children and their communities and to enable them to grow food based on scientific agricultural practices that will protect natural resources from attrition in the future." said Jihad Meqdad, National Agronomist, FAO Representation in the Syrian Arab Republic.
The participatory learning approach that was applied through school garden activities gave the students the opportunity to work in groups and to exchange what they have learned in their classrooms.
"We welcomed students from urban areas who were curious to learn about agriculture. They experienced planting practices with our students who shared some useful tips with them. They will go home to apply what they have learned." said Youssef Ahmed, School Principal, Mesyaf Elementary School in Hama
In Al Shieha Elementary School in Hama, six students with special needs out of 20 participated in all of the activities. They insisted to work with their friends to experience growing tomatoes, eggplants, sweet peppers and cucumbers.
“This is a wonderful activity. It taught me how to benefit from the garden, as I will eat what I planted. We irrigated the plants ourselves! We planted cucumber, tomato and eggplant. I never learned or done any activity related to planting. But I am very happy today to learn about it.” said Ghazi Al Weli, a 12 year old child with special needs in Al Shieha Elementary School.
Thanks to the support of the Government of Japan and FAO, Ghazi and more than 250 students (6–12 year old) across Hama and Rural Damascus learned about growing vegetables, nutrition-sensitive agriculture and healthy diet practices at their schools’ backyards. As a result, they will be able produce up to 1.5 tonnes of fresh vegetables each season to contribute to the food security of their communities, while enjoying an engaging educational experience.