An Assessment of the NabUsAnga Primary School Garden
By Anika Bernstein
Background and introduction
Since its inception in 2016, the Day by De Foundation’s mission has been to foster entrepreneurs and create self-sufficiency, sustainability, leadership opportunities, and community engagement in rural Zambia. The country became independent from Britain in 1964 when its constituents grew confident in their native copper resources and shortly fell victim to the natural resource curse and financial mismanagement. To put this into perspective, $1 USD is worth 13 Kwacha, the Zambian currency, and 64% of the country’s population is now living on less than $1 USD/day. Government corruption in Zambia has led to a lack in oversight and welfare programs for the smaller communities within the country, which perpetuates their poverty.
Nabusanga is a small and impoverished village in the Central Province of Zambia. With little to no political recognition, the rural villagers of Nabusanga are underrepresented in the cycle of poverty, and are heavily reliant on financial aid from the government or other agencies, which can be inconsistent. This means public schools, such as the Nabusanga Primary School (or NPS), receive minimal funding, making it extremely difficult to meet their annual $10,000 USD operational costs. Not only are individuals limited in terms of education, but they also struggle to receive proper nutrition. If and when they have the means, individuals in the Nabusanga community mostly get their produce from a nearby market, which can be costly.
In 2017, the Day by De Foundation collaborated with NPS administrators to develop a sustainable action plan to provide a local food supply, hands-on learning, and economic stability for the school and local community members. By provided fencing, seeds, and training, the Day by De Foundation helped build a pilot test garden cooperative at NPS. A year after the garden was completed, teachers at NPS asked the Day by De Foundation to help build a chicken coop to work in conjunction with the garden so they didn't have to purchase manure from a poultry farm an hour away. Before Day by De could consider funding this additional project, an assessment of the initial garden needed to be conducted to build upon its successes and learn from its shortcomings.
We followed the Participatory Impact Assessment, or PIA, which is a design guide created to maximize effectiveness of humanitarian work, catalyze an organization’s understanding of their projects’ impacts, and improve upon organizations’ accountability. The PIA was designed by researchers at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University in 2008 to help organizations model assessments of their own projects. The creation of this design guide was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Our research question asks: What are the real impacts of the Nabusanga Primary School Garden on the teachers? The term “real” encompasses all impacts, including positive, negative, intended, and unintended.
Process indicators measure the physical aspects of project implementation and impact indicators measure quantitative and qualitative impacts on people’s lives. To measure the indicators of this project, we designed a survey of closed-ended questions to quantify participants’ valuation of priorities and open-ended questions to engage participants in qualitative feedback on the garden. Participants in this study were not randomized as they were contacted based on their social media availability and awareness of the garden. We set out to survey as many of the 30 teachers working at NPS as possible and were able to survey 13 of them. To quantitatively measure the impact indicators of the NPS garden, we designed questions asking respondents to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, how highly they valued the importance of certain priorities: health, education, relationship with their students, and income.
Priority valuation averages revealed that personal health, personal education, and relationship with students held the highest level of importance for respondents, and 12 out of 15 individuals revealed that at least one of their priorities were met by the garden's outcomes, which is the greatest indicator of success.
Day by De team members' original goals for the NPS garden were to provide fresh and healthy produce, hands-on learning, and help the Nabusanga Primary School pay their annual operational costs. All of these were met in some capacity, demonstrating great success and also leaving room for growth and improvement. We know that patrons now have access to fresh produce. Furthermore, this research revealed that students in grades 1-4 spend 30 minutes to an hour in the garden every Thursday for a hands-on learning experience: watering, weeding, planting, and harvesting crops. According to data from this survey, the participants did not highly prioritize income nor did 93% of them expect the garden would provide this for them.
The NPS garden earned $255 USD in profits, which is nearly 70% of an average individual’s annual income in Nabusanga. These did not seem to go wasted as participants reported reinvesting these earnings into garden and school supplies.
9 out of 15 individuals reflected their priorities in the expectations for the garden
7 out of 15 individuals reported at least one of their personal expectations were met.
The NPS garden is disrupting the cycle of poverty by providing a source of healthy food, education, and income for teachers, students, and community members. Most of the teachers at the Nabusanga School are female, and since 80% of participants reported participating in the garden everyday, the garden offers increased opportunities for women engagement and empowerment as well.
While income may not be the highest priority of NPS teachers, an increase in profits can lead to a greater investment in health and education with greater access to additional food, medicine, and other school resources. If the NPS garden continues to accumulate profits over the coming harvests, these funds may be sufficient to cover the NPS operational and tuition costs and allow more students to attend NPS.
These smart, capable young entrepreneurial adults will have more job opportunities after they graduate. If they stay in their villages, they can apply their knowledge to help their communities grow and prosper in place. This increases resiliency of their communities against impending climate change.
All of the garden’s beneficiaries now have the opportunity to use the gardening skills learned and apply them elsewhere, whether they grow their own vegetables, offer trainings for other schools or communities, or grow a harvest to sell for profit and/or trade for other goods and services.
Update: The Nabusanga Primary School chicken farm will be completed in August 2019!