Research Report

Effect of School Vegetable Gardening on Knowledge, Willingness and Consumption of Vegetables in Mid-hills of Nepal  

Dhruba Raj Bhattarai1 , Giri Dhari  Subedi1 , Tej Prasad  Acharya1 , Pepijn  Schreinemachers2 , Ray-yu  Yang2 , Greg  Luther2 , Upendra  Dhungana3 , Krishna P.  Poudyal1 , Narayan Kaji  Kashichwa4
1 Horticulture Research Division, Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Government of Nepal
2 AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, Sanahau, Tainan, Taiwan
3 Department of Health Service, Ministry of Health, Government of Nepal
4 Department of Education, Ministry of Education, Government of Nepal
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Horticulture, 2015, Vol. 5, No. 20   doi: 10.5376/ijh.2015.05.0020
Received: 29 Aug., 2015    Accepted: 10 Sep., 2015    Published: 14 Dec., 2015
© 2015 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Bhattarai D.R., Subedi G.D., Acharya T.P., Schreinemachers P., Yang R., Luther G., Dhungana U., Poudyal K.P., and Kashichwa N.K., 2015, Effect of school vegetable gardening on knowledge, preference and consumption of vegetables in Nepal, International Journal of Horticulture, 5(20): 1-7 (doi: 10.5376/ijh.2015.05.0020)

Abstract

The present study attempts to explore the effects of school vegetable gardening as a learning tool to improve knowledge, awareness and preference for vegetable consumption among the school children in Nepal. Thirty schools from hills (Dolakha and Ramechhap districts) were randomly selected to identify the nutritional outcomes of school vegetable gardens by using a randomized control trial (RCT) design. Students in the treatment group participated in a 23-weeks garden based nutrition activities. The treatment schools were evaluated using a pre and post intervention data collected from students (n= 1275) of grade 6 and 7. Post intervention findings of the study significantly resemble the higher level of awareness & preference (p<0.01) towards the consumption of nutrient dense vegetables in treatment schools. Students who participated in garden-based intervention increased their level of knowledge (7.80) on vegetables and nutrition, more than the students in control group (5.92).

Keywords
Nutrition; Student; School garden; Vegetables

1 Introduction
The nutritional value of vegetables as a vital source of essential minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber has been well recognized. Increasing the consumption of vegetables can improve the micronutrient status and reduce the probability of deficiencies. Furthermore, vegetables are rich source of antioxidants, which are nowadays, being widely promoted as agents that act as protectants against various disorders of human health viz., coronary heart diseases and cancer. The carotenoids found in green leafy vegetables, carrots, squash and tomatoes contain a high amount of antioxidants and protect the cells and organisms from oxidative damages. Ascorbic acid is the other water soluble antioxidant which is present in most of the vegetables. Vitamin E (tocopheral) is also an antioxidant that quickly neutralizes reactive oxygen species which are commonly held responsible for oxidative damage in cells and tissues. Green vegetables are particularly rich in tocopheral (Arya, 1997). However, the nutritional importance of vegetables in Nepal was not appreciated and realized by majority of the population living in the rural areas of the country which has resulted in widespread malnutrition prevalent in the remote areas. It leads to physical maladies, diseases and disabilities in people of all age group (VGtS/HRD, 2014).
 
School vegetable gardens have been recognized as an effective technique to increase the willingness for vegetable consumption. This concept has been prevailing in many countries for nutritional education (FAO,  2010). School gardens are being utilized as a resource for making student aware about nutrition and healthy lifestyles that can be attained through vegetable consumption (Lineberger and Zajicek, 2000; Graham and Zidenberg-Cherr, 2005).
 
Majority of school children in Nepal are unaware about the nutritional value of vegetables, they are likely to be attracted towards junk foods. Therefore, this research was conducted to address the research question whether school vegetable gardens, as learning tool can contribute to knowledge, awareness and preference concerning vegetables.
 
2 Research Methodology
To address the nutritional outcomes of school vegetable gardens, 30 schools were selected randomly from the mid-hill districts (Dolakha and Ramechhap) of Nepal and randomized control trial (RCT) design was used for the study during 2014 and 2015. In RCT design, 100 schools that could meet the given criteria were identified. Among those a set of 30 schools were selected randomly (Table 1). These schools were divided into 3 groups with 10 schools in each group. The first group was treatment group where the 23-week curriculum was implemented. A 23-week curriculum was designed which included the following activities: garden establishment, garden design, soil testing, compost making, crop selection, nursery techniques, planting method, integrated nutrient management, integrated pest management, identification of natural enemies and pest of vegetables, seed saving, harvesting, vegetable cooking techniques, vegetable consuming, importance of vegetables in human nutrition, hygiene etc. for promoting vegetable intake among children of 6th to 7th grade (VGtS/HRD, 2014). In treatment schools a complete package of vegetable garden for the selected vegetable crops was demonstrated in well designed school garden prototype.  Promising varieties of vegetables and appropriate organic resources for the management of plant nutrition and pests was applied.  There were 10 plots to grow the selected vegetables. Individual plot was 3 m x 1.5 m with 1 m space between them.  The space between the plots and fence was 1 meter in 3 sides and 2 meter in front side where water tank and compost pit were placed. However, the second and third groups of schools were kept under control where no intervention was conducted (only data was collected).

 

 

Table 1 Treatment and control schools randomly selected in hills of Nepal

  

Garden managementTraining was provided to the focal teacher of 10 treatment schools where research activities were implemented. The major responsibility of the focal teacher was to implement garden activities as suggested by the research team to provide security to the garden, allocate working time to different classes, support the country team in data collection and home garden competition, parents visit and other activities related to the project in the school. A memorandum of understanding was made with the schools in this respect.  Inputs & technical assistance was provided by the research project also by the relevant experts on the need basis.  For day-to-day management and security of the garden NRS 2000/- (20 USD) per month was provided to each treatment school.
 
Seed managementSeeds of selected crops and varieties were supplied by the research project. When vegetable gardens were established, students were encouraged to produce the seeds of self-pollinated crops like beans, garden pea, yard long bean, capsicum, vegetable soybean and tomato. The source seed of those crops were provided by Nepal Agricultural Research Council, Horticulture Research Division, Khumaltar.
 
Pest management: Locally available resources were utilized to manage the pests. Different botanical pesticides such as Neem, plant extracts (lantana, garlic, ginger, xanthoxylum etc) along with trap crops, sex pheromone, insect traps and hand picking were promoted for the management of various insect pests. For the management of diseases proper crop rotation, clean cultivation was employed. Organic pest management techniques were included in the teacher training module and also be briefed to the teachers and students during program implementation.
 
Data collectionTo capture the information on awareness (ability to identify vegetables), preference (% of vegetables liked) and consumption (24h recall) data was collected from students (n= 1275) of grade 6 and 7 twice i.e. pre intervention and post intervention by using standardized questionnaires with colour pictures. Those data were analyzed by using STATA 13.1. An evaluation panel measured the knowledge concerning vegetables & nutrition by  using 1 to 9 scale in which 1 indicates the extremely poor and 9 for outstanding (1= extremely poor; 2= insufficient; 3= below average; 4= average; 5= above average; 6= good; 7 = very good; 8= excellent; 9= outstanding). For this, questions related to vegetable & nutrition was to be answered by the students.  Based on cumulative marks of all questions knowledge was identified. The pre-intervention test was designed, in order to determine the baseline pattern of knowledge, awareness and preference towards vegetable consumption. The post-intervention test period began immediately after vegetable gardening cycle & curriculum was completed. Furthermore, vegetable yield were recorded and establishment cost for school garden was also calculated. 
 
3 Results and Discussion
3.1 Selection of vegetables for school garden
Selection of appropriate vegetable varieties is a crucial part for school vegetable gardening. So, different vegetable varieties were evaluated in 10 different schools at mid-hills of Nepal. According to the Nepali school calendar the suitable vegetable crops and planting schedule was identified from this research. For winter season, radish, broad leaf mustard, spinach, cauliflower, turnip, fenugreek, broccoli, carrot and garden pea are found suitable for school garden. Similarly, in winter season, brinjal, tomato, pumpkin, Swiss chard, okra, vegetable soybean and bitter gourd were selected for the school garden (Table 2). In Nepal, these types of vegetables and planting schedule can be recommended in the school gardens ranging from 490 m to 2160 m altitude above sea level.

 

 

Table 2 Vegetables planting schedule in school garden hills of Nepal

 

3.2 Yield of vegetables in school garden
The yield of vegetables in school gardens were recorded in both the seasons i.e. winter and summer (Table 3). In winter season, average vegetable yield 47.1 kg in each school was recorded. In this season, the maximum yield per plot was recorded in cauliflower (9.6 kg) followed by radish (7.8 kg) and turnip (6.5 kg). Similarly, in summer season, vegetable yield was 99.6 kg. The maximum yield was found in squash (20.5 kg) followed by tomato (19.6 kg) and okra (15.2 kg) respectively. In this concept, yield is not a major issue because vegetables are grown for practical learning. In the learning process students can get the opportunity to grow vegetables themselves & relate it with science and health. After getting practical knowledge and skills, students can encourage their parents and community to grow vegetables in domestic scale and consume more vegetables for a healthy life.

 

Table 3 Average yield of vegetables per school per year (85 m2 land) in Nepal (2014-2015) 

 

3.3 Students’ knowledge on vegetable nutrition
Students’ knowledge was measured before and after exposure to vegetable gardening activities in different schools at Dolakha and Ramechhap districts. The measurement of students’ knowledge about vegetable and nutrition is important as it can improve the dietary habits of school children. In Figure 1, it was evident that students in treatment schools had higher level of knowledge (7.80) as compare to the control schools (5.92). Among the treatment schools, maximum knowledge (9.0) was recorded in Nilakhantheswor School followed by (8.08) in Seti Devi School and (8.03) in Sarada Sanskrit School. It was found that students’ knowledge can be improved within the 23 days additional school gardening curriculum. The results agree with Heim et al., 2009, they reported garden-based nutrition education programs can increase fruit and vegetable exposure.  Parmer et al., (2009) also reported that school gardens as a component of nutrition education can increase fruit and vegetable knowledge and cause behavioral change among children.

 

 

Figure 1 Students' knowledge about vegetable & nutrition

 

3.4 Awareness and preference to consume of vegetables
Awareness and preferences among the students about nutrient dense vegetables was increased significantly in treatment schools (Table 4). Post intervention data revealed that 89% of the questions based on awareness (capability to identify the nutritious vegetable) were answered correctly by the students. This was significantly higher than the control group. Similarly, after intervention, 81.1% of the questions based on preference (vegetable liked) were answered by the students from treatment group. Whereas, in control group 74.5% of the questions related to preferences were correctly answered. Introducing children to nutrient dense vegetables through demonstration was an effective and practical health promotion approach for increasing awareness and preference towards nutrient dense vegetables in hills of Nepal. The results have been supported by Robinson and Story (2009) they also found similar impact of garden-based nutrition education on vegetable intake, willingness to taste vegetables, preferences for vegetables. In two similar studies, Koch et al. (2005) and Lineberger and Zajicek (2000) noticed that gardening programs were able to significantly impact students with lower vegetable preference in  pre intervention scores and  higher vegetable preference post intervention scores. The finding also agrees with Chu et al., (2013) and Viola (2006) strongly.

 

 

Table 4 Effect of school gardening on awareness and preference (% of correct answer) of vegetables in hills of Nepal (2014-2015) 

 

3.5 Percentage of students who consumed vegetables (24h recall)
The data pertaining to the vegetable consumption as influenced by the school gardening program have been presented in Figure 2. For this parameter, result is not significant; however, after intervention vegetable consumption increased by 11% in the treatment schools and that increased by 7% in the control schools. McAleese and Rankin (2007) had also found similar results i.e. garden-based nutrition intervention increased the servings of fruits and vegetables more than students in the control group. Similarly, the study conducted in Uganda by Ssekyewa et al., (2008) had also found similar results. Langellotto and Gupta (2012) reported that gardening activities increased vegetable consumption among the children in United State. Miguel and Ivanovic (2011) also reported that school gardening program had a positive impact both for children and their families in Brazil.

 

 

Figure 2 Percentage of students who consumed vegetables (24h recall) 

 

3.6 Establishment cost for school vegetable garden in mid-hills of Nepal
Low cost school vegetable garden was calculated by taking into consideration of the expenditure incurred to establish school garden during the research period (2014-2015) in different schools at Dolakha and Ramechhap districts of Nepal. The cost for establishment of one school vegetable garden was computed NRs. 95000/-(950 USD). Detail cost of school vegetable garden has been presented in Table 5. After establishment NRs 5000/-(50 USD) will be enough to run the gardening activity by the students & focal teacher in hills of Nepal.

 

 

Table 5 Cost analysis for low cost school vegetable garden establishment in Dolakha & Ramechhap districts of Nepal (2014-2015) 

 

4 Conclusion
The research unveils the fact that school vegetable gardening is an effective concept to increase knowledge, awareness and preference towards nutrient dense vegetables and their importance in human health. Students could be an effective mediator to promote domestic vegetable gardening activities in the rural community. However, to increase vegetable consumption, school gardening program & home gardening activities should be conducted simultaneously. So, the practical intervention of school vegetable gardening along with home gardening activities is necessary and should be practiced through all schools of Nepal.
 
Acknowledgements
This study was conducted in the context of the project “Vegetables Go to School: Improving Nutrition through Agricultural Diversification.” The authors are highly grateful to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for providing fund for this research. We would like to acknowledge all the students, teachers and community people for their active participation and cooperation during the research. All the support staff working at VGtS/Horticulture Research Division, NARC, Department of Education, Department of Health, District Education Office, Dolakha and Ramechhap are also acknowledged for their help during the research. 
 
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Chu Y.L., Farmer A., Fung C., Kuhle S., and Veugelers P., 2013, Fruit and vegetable preferences and intake among children in Alberta, Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 74(1): 21-28
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FAO, 2010, A new deal for school vegetable gardens, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, www.fao.org/docrep / 013/i1689e/
 
Graham H., and Zidenberg-Cherr, S., 2005, California teachers perceive school gardens as an effective nutritional tool to promotehealthful eating habits, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105, 1797-1800
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Heim S., Stang J., and Ireland M., 2009, A garden pilot project enhances fruit and vegetable consumption among children. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7): 1220
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