Judges’ Overall Impressions:
‘Promoting Herbal Gardens in Schools’ competition

by Dr Nirmal Bhattarai, ICIMOD

Judges: Mr Ratna Timsina, Mr Manij Upadhaya, and Mr Kiran KC from NTNC; and Dr Nirmal Bhattarai, Ms Ram Kumari Shrestha, Ms Bandana Shakya, Ms Bidhya Banmali Pradhan, Mr Asha Kaji Thaku, and Mr Basant Pant from ICIMOD.

As part of the celebrations for the International Year of Biodiversity 2010, a school competition called ‘Promoting Herbal Gardens in Schools’ was organised by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), in collaboration with the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organization in Nepal (PABSON).

The competition was initiated on World Environment Day 2010 (5 June) and 15 private schools from Kathmandu and Lalitpur districts took part. During the competition period, which ran from 5 June and 25 November, three monitoring visits were conducted to participating schools by experts from ICIMOD and NTNC.

The first monitoring visit, which was from 15 to 16 July, was conducted six weeks after the project commenced, the second visit was from 12 to 13 August, and the final monitoring visit was from 23 to 25 November 2010. The first two monitoring visits focused on providing technical input to the school management, teachers, and students. This included providing scientific names of medicinal plant species; their taxonomic details, common uses, and habitat requirements; and as well as other technical information. Advice was also given on the inclusion of additional, but common, medicinal plant species available in the Kathmandu valley. The third and final monitoring visit focused on the critical evaluation of the herbal gardens for grading and ranking.

Some of the common features of the school herbal gardens were:

  • All schools had ornamental gardens of varying size, structure, and status, but none had an herbal garden in the strict sense.
  • All schools had efficiently used their limited available land to develop their herbal garden.
  • The majority of herbal gardens were much larger than the recommended minimum size of 15 square metres.
  • The herbal gardens contained an average of 35 medicinal plant species, although some had up to 50.
  • All schools had developed organic medicinal plant gardens and used composted manure.
  • The gardens were initiated, developed, and managed solely by the students, who were from all grades and had defined roles and responsibilities.
  • In almost all schools participation by students was gender-balanced.
  • When interviewed by the judges, students from all schools possessed a sound knowledge of important medicinal plants and their common uses.
  • The fencing, watering, and weeding activities were mostly performed by the students themselves.
  • Every garden contained herbs, shrubs, climbers, and trees of medicinal value.

During the monitoring visits the monitoring team looked at the:

  • Systematic development and scaling up of the herbal gardens over the course of the monitoring visits
  • General appearance and attractiveness of the herbal garden
  • Variety of medicinal plants incorporated in the garden
  • Labelling of plants with taxonomic and other details, including parts used to cure particular health problems

 

It was a great pleasure to see the interest displayed by participating students, teachers, and school authorities in this unique initiative. Due to this high-level of interest and effort, the majority of herbal gardens were of a very high standard and it was difficult for the judges to rank them. The judges had to consider minor details such as mistakes in the spelling of scientific names and uses, the number of exotic species, inclusion of ornamental plants, presence of weeds, and the general health of plants. Despite this, the judges were forced to increase the number of awards given as it was impossible to distinguish between the top entries.

I am confident that all the herbal gardens will continue to flourish and be informative in the days to come. On behalf of the judges, I congratulate all the participating schools and students for their effort and achievement.

Nirmal Bhattarai