This update comes from our Peace Corps partner in Morocco, who focuses on empowering youth and local communities in remote, mostly rural areas. Gardens are created on the grounds of youth centers and boarding schools where Peace Corps volunteers use seeds as an opportunity to demonstrate lessons about the environment and agriculture. This keeps people linked to their land by nurturing an understanding of botanical life.
Students lead the planning and production: cultivating soil, constructing garden beds, and planting seeds. During this process, the young gardeners learn about agricultural practices and environmental issues. Between their work in the gardens and accompanying lessons, they leave prepared to start their own local garden project, encouraging the community to start growing food of their own.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the safety of students and teachers has become paramount. Planting and regular classes have been put on hold at the youth centers and boarding schools, as the protection of students and teachers became paramount in these unsafe times. However, one garden at the Dar Chabaab was completed prior to the pandemic. One Peace Corps volunteer writes:
“I just want to follow up with a few notes about the Community Garden and our Environment Program, which I’m proud to say we were able to launch before life changed. Although everything came to an abrupt halt for all of us, I believe we will still be able to share with the kids some of the vegetables they planted during the season of Ramadan.” – Mary-Elizabeth, Peace Corp Morocco Volunteer
The Community Garden and Environment Program was launched through collaborative efforts from Peace Corps Morocco and professionals at the Dar Chabaab to increase availability of local community gardens and provide education on environmental awareness and stewardship. Seeds play an integral role as an educational tool. Mary-Elizabeth continues:
“Our first class took place on Sunday, March 1st at the Dar Chabaab with planting. The planting boxes were in place and filled with compost donated by a local family. The students were assigned planting partners if they didn’t already have a buddy. Then they were assigned their vegetable, given the container with the pre-soaked seeds and instructed per the manual on how to plant their vegetable in their box. Each student was also given a notebook to document through drawings and notes the development of their plant/s on a weekly basis. They were told that there would be a contest for best vegetables grown and instructed to water their plant every day. It was a wonderful little get-together for everyone”
More projects were planned to highlight local talent, like a field trip to a farm and a lecture series, including: an artist in Marrakech who uses recyclables in his art practice; an engineer working on a big dam project in the area; an engineering PhD student whose agricultural project cuts down on water use by strategically delivering water to growing crops; and a visit to the local landfill to learn where household waste is managed.
The good news is that all of this (and more!) can still happen in the future. Dar Chabaab has the space and desire to plant a larger, community garden to complement the student planter boxes.
We are pleased to continue our work with Peace Corps Morocco through this time of in-door confinement. They have succeeded in joining efforts with the local community leaders to provide an environmental learning project to youth center students. They have planted the seeds of change, which we believe will continue to grow after normal life resumes. It is through support like yours that SPI can continue partnerships like these all over the globe. Thank you for your trust and support of SPI and our partners.
Sweet Blossom Gifts and The SPI Team