An Assessment of the Nabasunga Primary School Garden
By Anika Bernstein
Background and introduction
Since its start in 2016, Day by De Foundation’s mission has been to foster entrepreneurs, create self-sufficiency, sustainability, leadership opportunities, and community engagement in rural villages in 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 Kwacha, the Zambian currency, is worth $0.08 USD and 64% of the country’s population is now living on less than 1 USD (K12) per day.
Government corruption in Zambia has led to a lack in oversight and welfare programs for the smaller communities within the country, which perpetuates poverty within them. Nabasunga is a small and impoverished village in the Central Province of Zambia. With little to no political recognition, the rural villagers of Nabasunga 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 Nabasunga 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 Nabasunga community mostly get their produce from a nearby market, which can be costly.
In 2017, The Day by De Foundation collaborated with Nabasunga Primary School (NPS) administrators to come up with 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 determine its successes and shortcomings.
Our team conducted an evaluation of the NPS garden to determine its impacts and decide whether we should implement a chicken farm in addition to the garden. 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 Nabasunga 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, nearly half. 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 goal for the NPS garden was to provide fresh and healthy produce, hands-on learning, and help the Nabasunga Primary School pay their annual operational costs. All of these were met to some capacity, offering great success and also leaving room for growth and improvement. We know that patrons now have access to fresh produce, and it was also revealed to me 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 the data from this survey, the participants did not highly prioritize income nor did 93% of them expect the garden would provide this for them.
Be as it may, the garden earned $255 USD in profits, which is nearly 70% of an average individual’s annual income in Nabasunga. These did not seem to go wasted, either, 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 health, education, and income for teachers and community members. Most of the teachers at the Nabasunga School are female and since 80% of participants reported being 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 through health insurance, medicine, and tuition. If the NPS garden continues to accumulate profits over the coming harvests, these funds may be able to cover 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.
We are moving forward with the chicken farm, which will be implemented in Summer 2019!