Herbal Gardens in Schools of Andhra Pradesh

Srinivas Gorantla and Vanitha Kommu, CEE Andhra Pradesh

Suryamashi a std 8th student from B.V & B.N school, Jandrapet, Praksham prepared an ointment from the Kasinda plant that he grew in his school herbal garden. He and D.Chiranjeevi, B.Vinay, N.Umamaheswari, G.Maheshwari, B.Latha, P.Madhu, A.Chinni, G.Sujatha of 6th standard maintain a register of herbs in school.

Students of Gangavarm School have got in touch with a local Ayurvedic medical stores to supply them with plant products for the preparation of medicines.

Mr.Mallaiah, Mr.Dastagiri and Mr.John, the village elders of Inkollu, Prakasam districts regularly interact with school students on the maintenance of the herbal garden.

These are some of the ongoing efforts under the herbal garden project running successfully in 101 schools of Andhra Pradesh. The programme started in 2008 with an objective to sensitise school students on the importance of medicinal plants in daily life and to involve local communities in developing herbal gardens. Centre for Environment Education (CEE) with support from National
Medicinal Plants Board and AP Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Board (AMAPB) is running the programme in all 23 districts of the state. The project operates with CEE’s existing set up of EESAP clusters, i.e., school and NGO linkages. The schools were selected on the basis of:
• Willingness of schools to develop a herbal garden
• Presence of the compound wall and water facility throughout the year
• Availability of about 1000 sq. of land in the school for developing herbal gardens and owned by the school.

An NGO was involved in each district to provide assistance for developing the herbal gardens and facilitate the project.

The process
Orientation workshop to NGOs
CEE began the programme with a two-day orientation workshop for NGO representatives to the concept of herbal garden project and its management. It also focussed on the content of the teachers’ manual developed specifically for the project. Participants were provided with seeds
of ten plant species five each from CEE and the forest department. This team was now ready to orient school teachers further on the implementation of the project.

Teacher training programme
The representatives from 12 NGOs after going back to their respective regions organised a training programme for the selected teachers of their cluster. The teachers were introduced to the project, implementation process and explained about the expected outcomes. During the
programme, the participants were provided with a set of teachers manual and 10 different herbal plants (saplings / seeds).

As part of the training programme, participatory garden planning exercises were performed in school with the involvement of the community. The planning exercise dealt with the entire range of activities like initiation to the maintenance and management. The garden development was initiated on the same day of the training with the participation of the community, teachers and the

Once the NGO and teachers training was completed, the NGO representative from each district, the school teachers and students along with the community members got involved in clearing and preparing the land for cultivation.

Preparations for gardens and taking care of saplings
A single stretch of land was preferred for the gardens. In some places schools also managed with small patches based on availability of land. Also it was ensured in the beginning that the land used for the garden was not a play ground and was not planned for any other use like sanitation or construction.

In some areas the community helped by lending their tractors and bullock carts for land preparation while in other areas the students were allowed to use the public tank for watering the plants. The partner NGOs collaborated with the forest dept nursery to procure saplings for the gardens. The partners also encouraged organic farming by providing the vermi compost to all the project schools.

Nursery beds were prepared and fencing was done with naturally available material like thorny bushes, dry sticks etc. Seeds were sown in these beds. The beds were prepared keeping in mind both annual / biannual herbal plants like Tulasi, Senna, Nelavemu and Ashwagandha. Special care
was required for plants like tulsi, whose seeds were sown not more than 2 inches deep and approximately after 45 days of sowing the seeds, saplings were transplanted.

Care was taken to transplant Usiri, Neredu, Velaga and Vepa saplings at a distance of 4 mts and at a depth of 2 ½ - 3 ft. Suckers like Aloe vera were transplanted at a distance of 45-90 cms. Big trees were planted at a distance of 4 meters with small herbs in between.

Garden management
One teacher from each school was appointed as in-charge for the development of herbal garden. The head master / principal acted as the chairperson. The in-charge teacher, head master and the students formed a committee to manage the gardens. The teacher, a few students and other members of the committee looked after aspects like fencing, protection from pests, insects and animals, irrigation, harvesting, storage and using the yield. In some schools, each student was given responsibility of one plant.

Monitoring visits to schools
Monitoring visits to each school were undertaken by CEE to provide any required inputs to the teachers and students in developing and maintaining the gardens. Teachers and students got an opportunity to share their technical and financial problems during these visits.

Teacher’s manual on developing Herbal gardens

In order to familiarise the teachers with the setting up of and nurturing the herbal plants, a guidebook was developed by CEE. The teachers’ manual comprised of the information on commonly available medicinal plants like Tulasi, Senna, Nelavemu, Ashwagandha, Neem etc., along with technical details such as the distance to be maintained while transplanting / sowing, irrigation methods, pest protection, harvesting and usage of the plants as medicines. The manual was developed to help:
• Teachers and students to study and acquire basic knowledge of medicinal plants available locally.
• Learn to understand and protect plants in their original habitat without being exploited.
• Help students recognise at least 10 species of herbal plants, their useful parts and use.

Once the gardens were established, students nurtured and cared for the plants. Information boards were prepared by students giving details on the plant name, parts used and its medicinal use. They learnt about plant cycles, their fruiting and flowering seasons, medicinal parts being used, their use etc. Students got an opportunity to learn and understand about local medicinal plants from the
teachers, elders, NGO representatives and their friends. To share these year-long learnings with the wider community herbal garden event was organised at the year end.

The event was an opportunity to display products/plants and disseminate the knowledge and skills gained by the students to others. There was a sharing of experiences and knowledge where the suggestions and opinions of the visitors were taken into consideration for the betterment of the gardens and proper usage of herbal plants.

The medicinal plants were planted in free spaces available on the school campus.

Looking at the success of the herbal gardens, the AP Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Board approached CEE to focus on Amla plantation in these schools and spread awareness on medicinal values and benefits of the plant. Each school has been given about 50 saplings to grow on their campus. The plantation activity is currently underway at the schools.

Appropriate distance was maintained between two saplings depending on the plant type in order to help it grow

For more information contact:
Centre for Environment Education
Andhra Pradesh State Office
6-3-348/2, I Floor, Dwarakapuri colony,
Panjagutta, Hyderabad – 500 482
Phone: (040) 23352596 Fax: (040) 23352586
E-mail: ceeandhrapradesh@ceeindia.org

1 comment:

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