The arrival of 1,000 eagerly anticipated EarthBox container gardening systems from the United States marks the beginning of sustained nutrition for families in the Tanzania Reaching Children’s Potential Demonstration Program. Thanks to a formative partnership between Global Volunteers and EarthBox, more than 225 families in Ukwega Ward will soon learn how to grow the micronutrients they need for a healthy diet.
Worldwide, the path to improved nutrition is behavior change. We know that supplying resources for healthy diets can put the brakes on malnutrition and ultimately, childhood stunting. The first step is to provide food to hungry people – for instance, enriched emergency meals. But, that’s only a stop-gap initiative. In order to see real, sustainable change, families must grow their own food. However, land and plant materials may not be available. Global Volunteers seeks to provide the resources and knowledge for families to provide for themselves. In the five villages of Ukwega Ward, EarthBoxes are the next steps in the process of changing behaviors around families’ food consumption habits.
Because of their income demands, families who farm often sell most of what they grow – to the detriment of their own family’s diet. Many other families have no farms on which to produce income or sustenance. EarthBoxes fill that gap. The technology has been proven to maximize efficiency – doubling crop yields, containing and using less water and fertilizer, and extending the growing season, compared to conventional in-ground gardening. This makes all the difference in a village with meager resources.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) promotes EarthBox brand gardens for their ease of use, simplicity of maintenance, cost-effectiveness, water-efficiency, accessibility, and high success rates worldwide. For this reason, Global Volunteers adopted EarthBox technology for participating communities in 2012, starting in St. Lucia, West Indies.
RCP families have had the opportunity to witness the significant production power of EarthBox technology at Global Volunteers’ Reaching Children’s Potential Center. The produce grown (tomatoes, spinach, peppers, squash, herbs) have been used to test and demonstrate planting for ultimate output. RCP staff likewise have learned to raise the seedlings to plant, care for the gardens in preparation for training RCP families.
EarthBox is a patented system using a variety of components to produce significantly better results than traditional in-ground gardens. Water and fertilizer are delivered directly to the roots of seedlings, and a mulch cover keeps the soil moist and weeds from sprouting – eliminating the need for herbicides. The heavy plastic box is built to last – and can be immediately replanted after every harvest – which in Tanzania, is three times per year.
Serve and Support
Our partnership with EarthBox is a central piece of the overall Reaching Children’s Strategy to forestall – and eventually end – childhood stunting in partner villages in Tanzania. Volunteers teach workshops on proper mother and child nutrition, help train RCP families how to plant, care for and harvest EarthBoxes, and help RCP staff maintain seedings until they’re ready to transplant into household gardens. Working together, we offer opportunities for volunteers, donors, friends and other supporters to invest in the success of this critical demonstration effort. Right now, you can provide an EarthBox garden, including growing medium and seedlings, to a Tanzanian family for $45. Each RCP family requires four EarthBoxes per year to supply micronutrients for children’s and mothers’ diets.