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Fundación commented on Mi Huerta Program

Feasibility
Detecting the high commitment of the community is a priority condition to determine the intervention of FHN in an institution, more important than the technical aspects. Throughout the survey visits, the community's commitment is detected and FHN seeks to institutionalize the garden project by incorporating it into the school curriculum. In the first stage of the project agreements are signed with the school authorities to establish the responsibilities for proper management and maintenance of the orchard that guarantees the sustainability of the initiative. The foundation provides new training, according to the need expressed by schools to promote proper maintenance and continuity of the classroom-orchard and production to supply the dining room.
Mi Huerta Program observes the following techniques to address possible adverse climate and soil conditions and to allow for year-round production of fruits and vegetables:
-Adjusting the timing of farm operations, such as planting or sowing dates and treatments.
-Protecting orchards from frost damage (construction of greenhouses and other protective structures).
-Choosing crops and varieties better adapted to the expected length of the growing season and water availability, and more resistant to specific conditions of temperature and humidity.
-Counteracting the wear and degradation of soils through diversified crop rotations techniques.
-Improving the effectiveness of agroecological pest and disease control through close monitoring agroecological pest management methods.
-Using water more efficiently by reducing wáter losses, improving irrigation practices and recycling or storing water, depending on the available resources and the existing conditions to Access safe water for irrigation.
FHN also helps communities adapt to climate change by offering different solutions to Argentina´s regions climate and geographical features such as extreme height and/or temperatures, reduced available grounds for agroecological gardens due to the industry of extensive agriculture; such as different types of greenhouses, vertical cultivation, umbraculum, etc.

Viability

Through the school, which constitutes a centralizing entity, communities are empowered by the acquisition of skills and knowledge for self-production of nutritious food to supply the school dining room and the homes, as to guarantee the harmonious development of children. Parents, teachers and neighbours volunteer to keep the garden up and running.

Sometimes, due to the itinerant characteristics of rural work according to seasonality of crops), local volunteers are called (often former students of the schools in which we operate) or corporate coroporate volunteering activities are carried out with allied companies operating in the area to support the construction, improvement or maintenance of the garden.

Self-management and local development are encouraged by recovering traditional agroecological techniques. The characteristics of the local culture and identity are revalorized: gardens are inserted in the community by appropriation of its protagonists stimulating the development from a territorial approach.

At times, the initial enthusiasm can be reduced by climatic obstacles, changes of management. The challenge is to reinvigorate commitment. Before the first successes, the children see the results. The dining room caters copiously and the community can quickly see the benefits of the project.

86% of the gardens are active. 100 % of the production is harvested and consumed. Surpluses are distributed amongst the parents of the students and might also be traded for services or other goods for the schools.

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Fundación commented on Mi Huerta Program

Desirability
Many teachers take the garden project as an attractor to curb drop-out. In many of the schools where FHN operates, according to teachers' testimony, a large majority of students attend because the food dish they receive at school is the only food they eat during the day. This impacts on the attendance of the children to the class and is verified especially on Mondays, at the beginning of the week when attendance tends to be complete and, by observation, difficulties are detected in the children´s attention and concentration until the children receive the first refreshment of the day .
Given that the garden supplies the dining hall with fresh fruit and vegetables through all year, the budget can be used to incorporate other food groups into the school menu for a nutritionally comprehensive and balanced diet. It is worth noting that 1/4 children in Argentina receive their only daily meal in the school canteens (UCA Social Debt Observatory, 2016). According to the latest UNICEF report (June 2017), 5.6 million Argentine children live in poverty, 1.3 million of them are indigents. Official figures about undernourishment and school desertion rates are hard to obtain in the regions we operate, as they tend to be overshadowed phenomena. School directors state that parents are reluctant to speak about the precariousness of the children`s diet at home.
Testimony of Néstor Blanco, Director School 198, Esteros del Iberá, Province of Corrientes, requesting materials to expand the orchard project that has been operating for 10 years on the school grounds.
"With these materials we would be covering the needs that the project demands. It is worth mentioning that the orchard has been fulfilling the role that both the "Huerta Niño" Foundation and the school have proposed over ten years ago: to improve the nutrition of children for better education. In this time I have witnessed how, through the garden, poor nutrition and malnutrition decreased in the community, thanks to the fact that there are people like you who, selflessly and without sparing efforts, give their all to give Solution to this problem. The impact of the project has been highly positive since it has been able to reduce r poor nutrition by 100% over the last ten years, so I consider that the objectives have been fulfilled. However, it must continue to function as it has to date. Hence the need to renew the materials requested". The school garden not only supplies the institution dining room but also the homes of the children. Agrochemical-free vegetables and fruits are integrated into the family daily meals to enhance health. Families in the communities we serve are large in most of the cases: 37% of the rural families we reach are comprised by 4+ children. The children indirectly benefited by the program would be non-school-aged children, siblings/relatives/neighbors of those who attend the schools reached by FHN. Children indirectly served by the program improve their health and nutrition from the early stages of their life and ensure better opportunities for their future.

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Fundación commented on Mi Huerta Program

Hi Kate! We are working on our responses and will get back to you very soon.
Many thanks for your kind remider.