Beyond School Gardens: Permaculture Food Forests Enhance Ecosystem Services While Achieving Education for Sustainable Development Goals
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CitationLeni-Konig, Katrina. 2020. Beyond School Gardens: Permaculture Food Forests Enhance Ecosystem Services While Achieving Education for Sustainable Development Goals. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractPermaculture food forests are a form of regenerative agriculture that integrate methods of agroforestry by mimicking a multilayer forest ecosystem with edible and supportive plant species. This project assessed permaculture food forests as a new model for use in schools by evaluating how they perform as compared to traditional raised bed school gardens. Performance was based on a cost benefit analysis that accounted for the following ecosystem services: carbon sequestration, avoided runoff, air pollution reduction and food production. I developed a curriculum design tool to evaluate the relevance of food forest curriculum in correlation with Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) learning objectives and key competencies that is also applicable to other curriculum topics. I introduce the concept of ‘cultural environmental responsibility’ as a potential outcome from education that teaches children how to provide services to ecosystems (S2E), supporting a cultural shift towards humans as environmental stewards.
My primary research question was: Do food forests in schools provide greater ecosystem services as compared to raised bed school gardens while upholding food production and enhancing opportunities for education for sustainable development? Hypotheses included: Food forests in schools provide greater ecosystem services as compared to raised bed school gardens of an equivalent area; food forests financially outperform raised bed school gardens by reducing maintenance costs and inputs, and producing more food over 30 years; with increasing adoption rates, food forests in schools in California will contribute a significant amount of carbon sequestration, avoided runoff, air pollution reduction, and food production as compared to lawns.
In order to assess the potential of food forests, I created a model permaculture design of a quarter acre food forest applicable for schools and communities in California’s Mediterranean climate. I compared cost benefit scenarios over 30 years for three land uses: food forest, raised bed school garden, and lawns. I conducted the valuation of ecosystem services by developing models of each land use scenario in iTree Eco. To assess the potential of widespread adoption, I calculated the sum of ecosystem service benefits over 30 years considering zero to 100% adoption rate in California public schools. I also estimated annual ecosystem services per acre based on my models of food forest and raised bed garden land use scenarios.
Based on my analysis, the model food forest outperformed the raised bed school gardens by enhancing ecosystem services, reducing costs, and upholding food production with NPVs of $159,845 versus $93,714, respectively. If 33% of California schools converted a quarter acre lawn to a food forest, it would result in 527,911,699 lb of healthy food for youth, 49,991 metric tons of carbon sequestration, 7,817,952 ft3 of avoided runoff, and $4,638,557 worth of pollution removal over 30 years. In addition, by correlating food forest curriculum to learning objectives of UNESCO Global Action Program (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), I was able to demonstrate feasible application of ESD that is comprehensive and relevant for US schools. Others can also use the tool developed as a template to correlate curriculum to ESD. By implementing food forests, schools would experience all these benefits while enhancing opportunities to cultivate the human nature connection and develop ESD while offering a rich ecological learning environment in the transition to greener schoolyards.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365007