Working with children in agriculture

Many of the ideas which Richard Franceys has suggested for involving children in improving water supplies and sanitation, could also be adapted to be used with agricultural work.

If you are involved in agricultural training of any sort, how much time do you spend with children? Probably very little. Yet, if you were able to work with the primary school teachers in your area, you might be able to teach approximately half the homes in your community with the teaching which you are giving to just a small group of adults. Consider how much of the work which you do could effectively be shared with children. How could they be involved in developing the agriculture in their areas? Most of these ideas will only be effective is there is an interested and motivated teacher.

Many schools include agriculture and school gardens as part of their curriculum. Could you, or your trainees, help in working with the school children? Much of the teaching they receive will be passed on to their families.

Involve children in finding out where varieties of crops are grown, the quantities of staple crops their families produce and the quantities they eat. If you are trying out new seed varieties and you have plenty available, consider distributing some through the schools, or through the children.

If you are encouraging certain practices, such as planting in lines, vaccinating chickens or soil erosion control, the children could be divided into teams, to discover how many farmers are trying out these practices successfully. The children could be encouraged to suggest why some farmers are reluctant to try out these new ideas when other farmers are quick to adopt them. It is a common problem in development work for local knowledge and resources to be undervalued by outsiders and by the local people themselves. Encouraging children to gather and record ideas and information from elders can be a very useful exercise in community development for many reasons. It can save techniques and technologies from being lost forever. At the same time, the community is learning that answers to problems often may not need outside help at all.

Children could be involved in making a survey of the useful trees on their own land. They could learn how to collect and store seeds and how to make and care for a tree nursery. They could take home and plant the young trees they have grown. They may be able to encourage their communities to make tree planting a real priority.

Please write in and share other ideas for involving children in the development of their communities.