The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) has awarded US$20,000 to cover the costs of a garden-installation program expected over the years to serve as many as 1,500 historically nomadic people in rural, environmentally challenged Niger.
The grant goes to Rain for the Sahel and Sahara, or RAIN, a U.S. nonprofit that has made the building of gardens at selected schools the foundation of its programs in Africa, to support two gardens in the Tillaberi region. RAIN administrators say the gardens supplement the millet schoolchildren eat for lunch daily with fresh produce, which improves attendance at school by 20 percent. In addition, they say the gardens can be used to teach basic agricultural skills to members of the community at large.
"TPRF is very supportive of programs that give children access to nutritious meals while enhancing food security for the whole community," said TPRF President Linda Pascotto. "RAIN's project is very forward-looking and broad in scope in that it promises a brighter future for both the children and their families."
Bess Palmisciano, executive director for RAIN, said school gardens are regarded by nomadic families in Niger as the most important indication that their school is well-equipped and will provide for their children. "The gardens," Palmisciano said, "serve as living classrooms, where students and parents alike learn valuable gardening skills and sustainable agriculture techniques. The parents who voluntarily monitor garden activities learn business skills that benefit the entire community."
She said the gardens basically are used to address a series of obstacles to the education of nomadic children. Once built, they are placed in the hands of students, teachers and community residents under the guidance of an experienced gardener.
Palmisciano said plans call for 15 percent of the cash earned from crops in the second and third year of the program to be reinvested in garden expansion and improvement. Within three to five years, the gardens are expected to produce greatly needed surplus profits to invest back into the school.
"Support for the food security of the students is absolutely critical," Palmisciano said. "Direct actions aimed at keeping children in school are key factors in regions where the nomadic lifestyle, early marriage and child domestic work are in competition with education––and where children's nutrition, vaccination and primary health care are weak."
The grant represents the second TPRF has awarded to RAIN. The first funded emergency food aid and animal feed to nomadic communities in the Agadez region of Niger that were most at risk of hunger following a drought in 2010.
About The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF)
The Prem Rawat Foundation promotes Prem Rawat's message of peace and his vision of addressing fundamental human needs so that people everywhere can live with dignity, peace and prosperity. For more information, visit: www.tprf.org.
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