Claire Reid (Ashoka Fellow)
Name of social entrepreneur
Date entered into program
Impact (in number) till date
Claire reimagines the value chain behind food production as being led by individuals and communities, enabling South Africans of all ages and backgrounds to take pride in being able to grow their own fruit and vegetables. She does this by positioning home and school-based gardens as an educational tool, through which she conveys and creates joy in growing food, creating the bedrock for a food-secure and healthy citizenry.
South Africa has achieved food security at a national level, however, there is still little household food security. The cause of malnutrition is not the unavailability of food, but the lack of access to nutritious food. the Department of Agriculture has aimed to introduce food gardens to ‘augment food shortages in rural households and to sustain long-term food security through the Special Programme for Food Security. However, this has remained a goal on paper. High infrastructure costs make schools a natural site for school gardens, however success is limited due to the lack of capacity and motivation to maintain the school garden.
Reel Gardening addresses these issues by clearly focusing on the garden as an educational tool, that not only teaches children nutrition, but makes the planting process itself an aspirational and joyful one. The garden is itself remodelled to be completely foolproof, allowing anyone of any skill level to successfully grow their own food. Further, by allowing children to taste and experience fresh food from soil to plate, Claire sees them better able to make the right food choices on a daily basis.
She has redesigned the school garden to be compact and mobile, so every grade has its own garden. Called GrowPods, each class from entry level (age 3) to grade 8 (age 14) would have their own small garden, that they could use to grow seasonal vegetables. The Grow Pod is part of a larger Learn and Grow Kit that contains grade-appropriate activity sheets, and detailed teacher notes to enhance the activity. All activities are aligned to the national curriculum, with a specific emphasis on Life Skills/Orientation, Natural Sciences and English (First Additional Language). In addition, the Learn and Grow kit demonstrates how the gardening process can enable learners to gain critical life skills: complex problem solving, coordinating with others , critical thinking , judgment and decision-making, active listening and creativity. The teachers guide also contains extension activities, as well as opportunities for assessment, and was developed after Claire piloted it in over 2300 schools in South Africa in 2016.
Claire understands that it is important to bring these lessons alive by including children in the planting and growing process. After having listened to the students, who shared that they get discouraged when the garden belonged to everyone, and not them alone, she included a one-seed pot for each child in the class. Children are able to take care of that single seed, building both ownership and aspiration towards gardening.
Towards ensuring that she can consistently support these schools with seeds, she follows the strategy of matching funds for the schools. She does this by selling her household products - yard and balcony gardens for the yard both locally and internationally. Locally, she has ventured into retail, where she stocks in some of the biggest home and garden shops, while internationally she is selling through the GirlScouts USA and in 2018, will begin to stock with Amazon. In 2018 alone, she has already bought in 273 schools into this movement.
Towards growing her impact, she is in close collaboration with the Maharishi Institute and the National Education Collaboration Trust to create and deliver an Entrepreneurship in Education Program with the Department of Basic Education. With it now being approved, Claire will be able to take her Learn and Grow Kit endorsed by the government, to public schools across the country. This will start initially with 300 schools, and then between 2018-2023 it will be rolled out to all public schools in the country.
Over last 3 years, Claire reached 116,000 children through 2750 schools. Each child gets one extra meal a week thanks to the garden. Beyond the meal itself, since early 2018, Reel Gardening is shifting the focus to improving the knowledge and empowerment of the children or communities they help (e.g. need to start food garden at home, start questioning the quality of the meals they are having). She is already seeing more ownership, success and appreciation since. Claire has observed that the biggest shift in behaviour is with younger children aged 3-7years, whose habits are less formed.
Claire has been selected as an Ashoka Fellow under the Sea-Change program