Our Commitment to Sustainability: A Pioneering Approach
At Mustardseed, sustainability is a way of life. Guided by our core values, we recognize the importance of fostering a harmonious relationship with nature. Our commitment to sustainability transcends traditional classroom teaching, incorporating hands-on experiences and practical learning, all integrated into the fabric of the Ugandan education system.
Our Dezeen Award-Winning Sustainable Building Design
At Mustardseed, our innovative and award-winning school design reflects our profound commitment to sustainability and community collaboration. Utilizing locally sourced materials, our structure represents a fusion of traditional craftsmanship and modern technology. The roof, a hallmark of our design, is made from traditional mats woven by local women, symbolising our connection to cultural heritage and local economy. Instead of relying on the firewood-intensive roadside brick method, we’ve embraced the use of earth bags to construct walls, an environmentally conscious choice that reflects our core values. Solar electricity powers our facilities, a clean and renewable energy source that aligns with our dedication to reducing our environmental impact. A unique rainfall collection system efficiently harnesses nature’s bounty, while a UV-filtered water tank reduces the need for firewood to boil water, promoting both health and energy conservation. Our innovative toilet system not only meets sanitation needs but also produces biogas, a renewable energy source used in our kitchens. This seamless blend of sustainability and innovation earned us global recognition, winning the Dezeen Sustainable Building of the Year award of 2022, a proud testament to our vision and determination to lead the way in environmentally responsible education.
The School Farm: A Model of Sustainable Innovation
Our school farm stands as a beacon of innovation, where sustainable practices are not just taught but lived every day. Under the directorship of our regenerative agriculture specialist, Opiro Fred, it serves as a hub for experimentation and learning, catering to both our students and the local community. The farm features regenerative farming methods, organic practices, and an upcoming, exciting venture into the fully circular practice of insect farming. Farmed insects can dispose of organic waste, provide vital protein for animal feed and create the highest quality organic fertiliser, minimising transport costs and providing the perfect model of intelligent waste management for our learners to witness and understand firsthand. Agroforestry, tree planting, and sustainable timber production also align with our vision to create a green and sustainable environment.
Our Food Forest
We have recently acquired a new two acre parcel of land which already has many mature fruit trees alongside some quite rare native species. We have plans in the works to add more food bearing trees and plants which work in harmony with the existing trees to create a food forest, with seven layers of vegetation, each supporting the others, and providing a home for many species of animals. It will both provide the vital nutrition for the school and serve as a model for sustainable food production in the community.
The Boulder Site: Local alternatives for Firewood
Most Ugandans depend on firewood for basic needs like cooking and boiling water. The most commonly used is eucalyptus, since it is fast-growing and economically feasible. However, it poses a significant threat to biodiversity, as it and dries up the water table. In response, we are using our several acre ‘Boulder Site’ to trial native species that grow rapidly and provide quality firewood. If we find that these species can work as an economically viable substitute for eucalyptus we will provide our community with the seedlings and encouragement needed to make the transition away from eucalyptus. We also teach learners about the principles of energy conservation, encouraging them to use energy efficient stoves and, to help facilitate the longer term goal of completely transitioning away from burning firewood, explaining the benefits of alternative energy sources.
Integrating Sustainability into Education
Our educational approach weaves sustainability issues throughout the curriculum, teaching the essential principles of circularity, resource management, biodiversity and a deep appreciation and understanding of nature from a young age. This content has been carefully curated so that it flows naturally within the context of the Ugandan educational framework, and through all subjects, whether learning about spiderwebs in Kindergarten or biodiversity webs in science or reading “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind”, a true story about a boy in Malawi who taught himself how to build a windmill to provide his community with electricity. Practical work in sustainable agriculture begins at age 8, immersing our students in real-world experiences.
Outdoor learning is central to our philosophy. Our students don’t just read about sustainable practices; they live them. They plant, grow, nurture, and understand the environment through practical work, gaining invaluable experience and appreciation for sustainable living.
The Conservation Site: Preserving Nature in the Heart of Development
As Kampala expands, so grows our responsibility to safeguard the natural environment. Our 20-acre conservation site stands as a testament to this commitment. This thriving oasis is not merely a preserved piece of land; it’s a living symbol of our dedication to coexisting with nature. Serving as a future park for the community, the conservation site offers a haven for wildlife and a serene escape for people. Our teaching circle allows the learners to study the native species from a safe vantage point, where they can learn about the species that live there, snakes, monkeys, insects, and the thousands of species of birds, and the ways in which they rely on each other and the plant habitat for survival. It’s a space where students and community members can connect with nature, learn about conservation, and understand the importance of protecting our ecosystem.
Nourishing Minds and Bodies: The Role of Nutrition
At Mustardseed, we believe that nourishment is not just about feeding the body but also nurturing the mind and soul. Our approach to nutrition goes beyond mere consumption, extending to the cultivation of healthy, nutritious food. We are growing nutritious vegetables and greens to provide for lunchtimes, and we have proudly distributed seeds of carefully chosen vegetables to parents, empowering them to plant them with their children at home.
Seeding the Future: A Collaborative Effort
These seeds aren’t selected randomly; they are chosen for their compatibility, growing well together, and limiting the need for pesticides. This practice not only promotes healthier eating but also teaches valuable lessons about symbiotic relationships in nature. By engaging parents and children in this process, we instill a deeper understanding of nutrition and sustainable agriculture.
The seeds we gave out symbolize more than just potential plants; they represent a shared vision of a healthy, sustainable future. By empowering families to grow their food, we’re nurturing a community that values health, sustainability, and collaboration.
The connection between our school farm, conservation site, and community-based initiatives creates a holistic approach to sustainability. It’s a dynamic blend of education, practice, and collaboration that helps us all grow – not just as individuals but as a connected community.
While have plans to be fully self-sustaining within 10 years, we currently depend on donations to survive and subsidise all the work we do. Please visit our donations page and spare what you can to support.