Four years ago, we (the founders of this blog) were in Khongor, Darkhan Uul building a greenhouse by the 14th School. We planted cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, and held community events to bring awareness to the increase in non-communicable diseases in Mongolia, primarily caused by the lack of diversity in the traditional diet. The Mongolian diet primarily consists of meat and dairy products, and lacks vegetables and fruit. In addition, there is lack of awareness about the importance of a more balanced diet, particularly outside of the urban areas, and the increasing cost of such food items pushes them out of the range of most Mongolians.
To increase access to vegetables for the students of the 14th School, we established a greenhouse in the summer of 2014. We are happy to report that the greenhouse is still alive and operational four years later. The main caretaker of the greenhouse is Atartsetseg, a school worker. Since the founding of the greenhouse, there have been some changes. Now, the greenhouse produces just cucumbers due to the ease of planting, picking, and pickling. They even gave me a jar of the pickled cucumbers that they made, which they save and consume during the winter.
From this project, we learned a key truth about development. When bringing projects and change to a community, it is essential to have local buy-in, support and understanding. For us, the main difficulty and one that we continue to face is the constant changing of school administrations. This is a big obstacle, since each new school administrator has his or her own ideas for the school and the the greenhouse. So a big thank you to Atartsetseg for taking care of the greenhouse and working to provide the students of the 14th School with fresh cucumbers during the fall season and pickled ones during the winter.