At Pathfinder, peer education is a key element of our programming adolescents and youth. Peer educators are volunteers who work directly with their peers to improve their knowledge and health-seeking behavior, including prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Peer-education programs support young people to develop positive group norms and make healthy decisions about their reproductive health and other developmental issues. One such program is a model gardening initiative. Pathfinder supported eight youth-friendly health facilities to initiate model gardening with technical support from the nearby agriculture-sector office.
Why gardening? Because across the globe, we are seeing the rapidly evolving need for climate resilience and adaptation. This is also true of our health facilities, which are often the last line of support for communities feeling the impacts of climate change. These facilities are also often producers of large amounts of greenhouse gases, as well as environmental waste and contamination. Pathfinder has integrated gardening into its Transform program, building resilience while strengthening health systems.
Gardening helps build a climate-resilient environment
Cultivating home and health facility gardens can be an important aspect of building climate resilience. Sustainable gardening and landscaping techniques can slow climate change by reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon storage in soil and plants. In addition, it is possible to make gardens themselves more resilient by adding native plants, improving soil health, and growing heat-tolerant vegetable crops. Various experiences and studies have shown that urban agriculture can help mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the quality of life in urban areas.
Gardening supplements food and nutrition needs
A garden is a wonderful place to learn responsibility, patience, pride, self-confidence, curiosity, critical thinking, and the art of nurturing. A healthy lifestyle is often achieved through a broad diet and a certain amount of physical activity. In addition to its positive impact on diet, gardening has been shown to improve mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. There’s absolutely nothing quite like fresh veggies, especially if you grow them yourself! This experience empowers young people to shift their dietary habits, prevents intergenerational malnutrition, and encourages the community to optimize the use of homegrown vegetables and resources.
“I never had gardening experience before. After we started gardening in the health center, I learned how to cultivate vegetables practically and prepared my vegetable garden in my home compound.” — Dibora Girma, Peer Educator, Wosha Soyam Health Center
Gardening supports pregnant mothers staying in maternity waiting homes
In Ethiopia, most health facilities have spacious land. However, these valuable spaces are often underutilized or misused. Peer educators saw these unused spaces as opportunities to generate food for mothers who stay the maternity waiting homes. Pathfinder supported peer educators to work on evidence-based gardening approaches. “Before I came to this facility,” said Hadas Mesfin, “I was worried about my food. As soon as I came to the maternity-waiting home in the health center, I was informed that the facility provides all the necessary food items and was informed to use the available fruits and vegetables from the facility garden without any restriction. They also taught us how to grow and benefit from the fruits and vegetables in our backyard. I am very impressed with the changes I saw in the health facility when I compare it two years back when I gave birth to my older child.”
Gardening is a new life skill for adolescents and youth
Young people have learned and enjoyed the gardening process, which might inspire and foster a life-long interest and hobby. Pathfinder’s gardening training teaches the basics of vegetable garden planning, how to pick the right sites, how to create the right size of the garden, and how to select which vegetables to grow. Gardening empowers adolescents and youth to optimize the use of resources and minimize the release of pollutants and waste into the environment.
“The peer educators play a great role in planting all fruit trees, flowers, and vegetables. They encouraged the health facility staff to engage in gardening activities. It helped to improve staff motivation, client satisfaction, and increased the flow of mothers to the maternity waiting home, and improved the health-seeking behavior of the community. The facility gardening initiative made the facility more attractive; it also increased the frequency of peer educators’ contact with the facility, which helped the peer educators to spend most of their spare time learning new skills.” — Nigist Solomon, YFS Focal, Wosha Soyama Health Center, SNNP
Gardening for its aesthetic values
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health started The Making Clean, Attractive, and Safe Health facilities (CASH) initiative. Health facility staff and young people clean the health facilities, plant flowers, fruits, and vegetables, and maintain their growth. Through this work, peer educators became empowered to make facilities more beautiful, which in turn has motivated the staff, while building trust between the staff and youth participants.
Learn more about Pathfinder’s gardening interventions: Expanding Beyond Adolescent and Youth Health and Development Boundaries: Integrating Model Gardening Within the Peer Education Program in Youth-Friendly Service Facilities