In Nepal, people are already experiencing the consequences of climate change: their lives are marked by unexpected floods and landslides as well as an increase in droughts. What can be done? That’s what children and young people asked themselves in the Blue Schools set up by Terre des hommes and its local partner.
The consequences of climate change
In the recent years, climate change has affected the population in this region harshly. Floods and monsoon rains are increasing every year and prevent farmers from producing the usual amount of food from their crops. On the other extreme, droughts caused by deforestation are more and more common.
In Blue Schools, children launch their projects
Terre des hommes (Tdh), together with the Swiss Water and Sanitation Consortium, has created the Blue Schools, a unique approach that makes students aware of the water cycle, as well as the importance of taking care of the ecosystem. Through training integrated into the school curriculum, we inspire students to promote sustainable solutions which make better use of resources and protect the environment. In Nepal, six schools of two municipalities in the Bardiya district have already become Blue Schools through the implementation of a road map.
Together with its local partner Geruwa Rural Awareness Association, Tdh trains Blue School focal teachers on how to make their school environmentally friendly, green and clean. These teachers assess the needs by consulting with students and local authorities. First, schools are equipped with functional water, sanitation and hygiene as well as waste management systems.
Then, children and young people attend theoretical and practical courses about environmental protection. This way, they become aware of their environment while learning about how food can be produced from soil, how waste can be recycled into new resources and about the water cycle. “Thanks to the courses and the practical experiences, children and young people are empowered to lead activities that minimise natural disaster risks and enhance the life standards of their families,” explains Gopal Prasad Kandel, the Blue School project coordinator from Geruwa Association.
Planting trees together with local authorities
In one of the Blue Schools, teachers conducted a session on deforestation. Children discussed on the environment around their community and started noticing that some issues like landslides and water scarcity were linked to deforestation. “Trees bind the soil, so floods cannot deplete the soil and the water sources will not dry,” explains Ashoraj, an 18-year-old Blue School student. With the guidance of the teachers, they planted trees in school.
Samjhana wanted to expand this project. With the child club, she contacted the forest government office and managed to convince them to provide baby trees for planting. The children and young people replicated what they learnt in the Blue Schools in their communities and planted trees at the riverbanks and nearby the houses to protect them from landslides. “This action creates a direct impact as trees hold the soil tight, make our environment green and give oxygen to stay healthy,” she says, proud of their achievement.
Elevated flood-resistant gardens
However, the wet season is posing other challenges: “I have done home gardening. I am growing flowers and fruit plants, but the vegetables didn’t grow well due to the wet land caused by the monsoon rains now,” Samjhana shares. Ashoraj has learnt a way to have vegetables during the whole year: his Blue School supported him to build a raised garden at home. “One of the teachers asked us who would be interested to learn about the keyhole garden and I was the only one who raised my hand.”
Now, Ashoraj is a happy owner of an elevated garden that resists the rainy season. “Usually, we don’t get vegetables during rainy season but after learning about the keyhole garden in school, we have got vegetables throughout the year,” he explains. He shares his knowledge with other people from the village who visit his home to see the garden’s benefits. It’s not the only thing that motivates him: agriculture is his real passion and what he wants to do for life. “Everyone studies to become a doctor or engineer. But who will do the farming? How will we get food? No matter, whatever we do, we need food. No work is too low or too high.”
The keyhole garden is also a way to utilise biodegradable waste by using it as compost, thus as natural fertiliser. In the Blue Schools, children and young people learn to segregate waste and to produce minimum waste. “We can recycle and reuse instead of throwing away old containers or burning plastic,” says Samjhana, looking at her plants and flowers that are growing in reused plastic bottles.
A growing community
If students understand and realise the importance of taking care of the environment and are involved in activities, they can spread this message to their families and friends. They play a lead role in promoting environmental protection in their community, the country and the world.
Samjhana says: “I became confident after this programme. There are changes in my neighbourhood as well. Earlier, the plastic used to be littered around. Now my female neighbours segregate and manage waste properly as I ask them.” Recently, Samjhana has been invited to share her poem in the local newspaper and was interviewed on the radio. Gopal, the project coordinator, is excited about the advocacy efforts she has undertaken and what she has achieved so far: “Samjhana was not active in the past and now leads activities. It feels so good to see her. She has become such a nice source of inspiration! Her determination towards environmental protection is amazing.”
Even though climate change is affecting families harshly, children and young people are champions of change and give them hope. As a result of the blue school projects, people are better prepared and can better deal with challenges linked to the climate. For a family that depends on their own production, elevated gardening can prevent malnutrition during the wet season.
Photo credits: ©Tdh/Sajana Shrestha