According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, lack of food security is a pervasive and persistent problem, especially in Africa, where roughly 65 percent of nations are the most at risk of food insecurity. A return to traditional farming is gaining more attention, as organic products have been on the rise in Ghana because food safety is a growing priority with more and more consumers in the African nation. Farming methods that respect nature are sustainable and may be the best change for producing more low cost and better-quality foods.
Cynthia Swenson, Ph.D., a professor in the MUSC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, will travel to Ghana to help empower a rural community in becoming a self-sustainable organic farming village. The goal is to provide intensive training and follow up consultations to adults and school-based training of teachers and children using a Montessori organic gardening curriculum. Swenson’s project builds on a previous partnership between Project OKURASE, an NGO based in Ghana and MUSC Urban Farm. Swenson will work with training partners Carmen Ketron, farm educator for the MUSC Urban Farm; Liz Ramirez, Executive Director of Earth Heart Growers; and Isaac Owu, garden manager and farmer in Okurase on the study.
Swenson and her colleagues will recruit a local sample of farmers to learn organic farming methods using sustainable resources at hand. This will allow their research team to assess if local farmers and gardeners who receive intensive hands-on training will convert to organic methods in their farms and show an increase in basic knowledge of organic farming methods. The researchers will also assess whether the teachers show increased knowledge of organic gardening based on the Montessori curriculum, training and practice.
“If we can together accomplish a village-wide shift to sustainable agriculture using current resources and set young children on a trajectory to view sustainable agriculture as a way of life, this grassroots effort could lead to a movement among other subsistence farmers for growing safe a quality foods of higher nutritional value,” said Swenson.
The study will be instrumental in helping develop future studies designed around finding a solution for malnutrition and food insecurity and becoming the next step toward sustainable organic agriculture. One innovation that has the potential for engaging both farmers and teachers in efforts to support the adoption of organic farming methods, and build and maintain support in the Ghana community.