Green fingers, green minds in the Year of Fruit and Veg

  • ACTAsia works towards UN Sustainable Development Goals through Caring for Life Education
  • Children at pioneer schools learn through nature in an educational gardening project to understand environmental balance
  • Sustainable agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect our planet by replacing destructive industrial farming systems

Supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Year of Fruits and Vegetables initiative for 2021 promotes human nutrition, biodiversity, sustainable industries and the health of our planet. It also brings sustainable technologies to small scale farmers and their families in Asia and Africa. The focus is on regenerative farming practices, and to increase consumer awareness of the health benefits of fresh fruit and veg.

ACTAsia’s Caring for Life Education programme has long promoted informed choices among educators and students as part of its compassionate lifestyle campaign, including a flexible approach to a plant-based diet. When eaten as a replacement for meat, fish and dairy, fruit and vegetables can help to reduce the carbon footprint of intensive animal farming, and the environmental destruction caused by overfishing our oceans.

2020 revealed fatal weaknesses in farming systems across the globe with the emergence of COVID-19, and underlined a need for sustainable agriculture to feed the world without depleting natural resources or encroaching on natural wildlife habitats.

In support of our CFL Curriculum for children, one of our leading Pioneer Schools, Tang Guo-an Memorial School in Zhuhai has complemented its established roof-allotment with a hydroponic lettuce garden. Nick-named ‘The Happy Vegetable Garden’, the gardening initiative is an opportunity for children to take part in planting, tending, harvesting and eating the vegetables they grow themselves. The process of understanding what plants need to grow and thrive is helping to cultivate observation skills, environmental awareness and spark an interest in the Web of Life among the next generation.

“It’s like walking into nature, breathing fresh air, and feeling spring in the autumn.”

Children learn how to nurture produce from seed-to-plate, which helps them understand where their food comes from, makes them more likely to eat a healthy variety of fruit and vegetables, and gives them the chance to connect with nature. The garden is tended organically without pesticides, which helps students understand that insects are not the enemy but rather essential to the balance of life in our natural habitats.

Activities differ across grades, including ‘Look, Smell and Touch’ for younger children, fact-files in Chinese and English to help develop language skills for older children, as well as learning when to plant and harvest, nutritional value and recipes. These activities imply advanced pedagogy including inquiry and collaborative learning through practical experiences, gaining knowledge more effectively.

“I didn’t expect to be able to pick vegetables at school; I was very excited and had a sense of accomplishment,” enthused one child at Tang Guo-an School.