|Population and Agriculture (FAO)|
Spacing children who benefits?
An activity to stimulate group discussion using the concept of plant spacing to highlight the importance of child spacing.
· The group leader takes the group to look at a nearby cultivated field (maize would he a good crop to see, but if it is possible to observe more than one type of crop, this is even better).
· The group returns to its normal meeting place and the leader asks the group to discuss the spacing between the plants they have just seen. The leader may want to start off the discussion by asking some of the questions on the following pages.
· As a group, the members prepare a chart highlighting the importance of plant spacing. The group leader should suggest the points on page 16 if they are not mentioned by participants.
· The group leader then asks the group to suggest how spacing of children in a family can have beneficial effects similar to those achieved by proper plant spacing.
· The group members make a chart on child spacing parallel to that on plant spacing. Again, points can be suggested if they are not mentioned by the group members.
FOR WHAT? / WHY?
So that group members will be able to:
· Understand the importance of plant spacing in achieving healthy and high yielding crops.
· Recognize the potential benefits of child spacing, including improved health for both mother and child fewer economic burdens on the family, more time to meet each child's need for attention and affection, etc.
· A little advance preparation by the group leader in identifying a good place to observe plant spacing.
· Two large pieces of paper to make the plant spacing and child spacing charts.
· The background information and charts on pages 15 - 20.
· Group participation.
Some questions to start off the group discussion
1. What did you notice about the way the plants were spaced?
2. What do you think would happen if the plants were spaced closer together?
3. Would we get a bigger harvest? If not, why not?
4. What would happen if the plants were spaced much further apart?
5. Can you think of similarities between plant spacing and child spacing?
6. What could be some of the advantages of leaving at least two years between the birth of children?
7. Can you think of differences between plant spacing and child spacing?
And any other questions the leader wishes to ask.
Some background information for the group leader
Plant spacing in the field
Why is proper plant spacing in the field important to ensure good agricultural production?
In order to grow properly, plants need three essential elements: light, water, and nutrients from the soil. The amount of these essential requirements any plant can have depends directly on how close it is to its neighbours.
If plants are spaced too closely together, they are forced to compete. For example, plants that compete for light tend to grow tall and spindly, with stems that are so long that they cannot bear the weight of the plant. Crowding too many plants into a plot of land also results in the fertility of the soil being drained off, unless very high levels of fertilizer are used.
Sample Chart on Plant Spacing
Advantages of Proper Plant Spacing
1) Plants receive adequate light and are able to grow to full size.
2) Plants do not compete for water.
3) Soil nutrients are adequate.
4) Weeding between plants is easier.
5) Seeds are used more efficiently.
Potential Results of Improper Plant Spacing
1) Plants crowd each other for light and become tall and spindly.
2) Plants grow tall, weak stems and few leaves.
3) Soil fertility is drained unless very high levels of fertilizers are used.
4) Seeds are used wastefully.
5) Weeding becomes very difficult, resulting in low yields.
What determines how plants should be spaced?
Not all crop varieties grow to the same size. Some remain small, and can be planted closer together. Others are big and spread out. They need more space on the ground.
The spacing between plants and rows will also vary with the type of farming. For example, under irrigated conditions plants may be spaced closer together to make the best use of precious water. Having the correct amount of space is one part of making the best possible use of the land. Regardless of how much space plants need? it is a good idea to plan the spacing carefully, and to grow plants in rows. This makes it possible to get in between them and manage them more easily (for example, top-dress fertilizing, weeding, thinning and watering).
Information about proper spacing of crops can be obtained from your local agricultural extension worker
Sample Chart on Child Spacing
Advantages of Adequate Child Spacing
1) Mother has time to regain her strength between pregnancies.
2) Mother has more time for productive work or personal improvement.
3) Breast-feeding can be continued longer for each child, helping to ensure better nutrition.
4) Parents have more time to give each child the affection and attention they need.
Potential Results of Improper Child Spacing
1) Mother's health can suffer.
2) Babies born too close together are more likely to be small and sickly.
3) Abrupt termination of breast-feeding of previous child may occur, leading to poor nutrition.
4) Family resources may be put under pressure.
5) The family standard of living may be lowered.
How can child spacing help a family to ensure a better standard of living for its members?
As with the plants in a garden, the members of a family each
have specific needs - food, clothing, housing, rest and sleep, education, love
and affection, etc. If children are horn too close to each other in age, the
pressure on family resources is increased and may result in a lowered standard
Who should decide about family spacing?
The decision of how many children to have and when to have them should be discussed and shared by the husband and wife together. Their primary goal should be to ensure that they will be able to meet the basic needs - food, health, affection, education, housing - of all of their family.
They also should consider their expectations and hopes for the future, for example, what standard of living they hope to achieve. Individual goals are also important.
It is important that young people make these decisions for themselves, based on careful thinking and good information. Of course, they may wish to discuss important decisions with their relatives, other members of the community, or social workers, but in the end, they should make their own decisions.