United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Sprouting Entrepreneurs: Growing Change for Sustainable Development. School Gardens as Entrepreneurship Education Labs. Promoting Livelihoods, Food Security, Healthy Nutrition and Civic Engagement.


    South Africa is confronted with the interlinked challenges of quality education delivery (general and TVET), youth unemployment, food insecurity/ poor quality of nutrition and obesity. Sprouting Entrepreneurs is a garden-based entrepreneurship education programme for public schools targeting these challenges. The school-based Entrepreneurship Learning Garden serves as a medium of learning through which financial, social, cultural, ecological and civic value for others is created. Through work in garden that is thematically connected to societal challenges, experienced-based learning with a focus on SDGs and sustainable/global citizenship is initiated.


    Learners identify a community based opportunity/need, develop an idea and turn it into action in the context of the garden (e.g. production of food/compost for sale, support of food insecure households, conservation, awareness-raising for community-related issues). Through working on challenges they gain a deeper insight into sustainable development and their potential role as change-makers while understanding their own agency limits as well governments responsibility and accountability. A 3-year subject curriculum for public-schools is available aiming at education for sustainable development through the lens of entrepreneurship education. The notion of entrepreneurship education expands beyond a narrow business-scope and aims at the development of civil society agents with an entrepreneurial mindset for sustainable/global citizenship.

    Contribution to SDG Implementation

    The Entrepreneurship Learning Garden is conceptualized as a wide medium of learning which aims at influencing the quality of teaching, interaction between learners as well as between learners and community. Primary topics such as entrepreneurship training, agricultural food production and education on healthy nutrition are followed by additional topics such as conservation, climate change and community building. SDG 4 is at the center of the effort and connects to number of other goals. Learning for an entrepreneurial mindset is integrated into the idea of sustainable/global citizenship.

    Implementation methodologies

    The project is implemented through the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) (lead) in co-operation with its South African partners: Department of Education: Gauteng Province (GDE); Eastern Cape Province (ECDoE); In-kind: cost of training facilitator and their international travel/development, print and distribution of teacher manual is covered by BMBWF; cost venue/catering are covered by GDE/ECDoE; Entrepreneurship Learning Garden starter packs (ZAR 10,000 per school- tools, compost, seeds) are covered by GDE/ECDoE; The programme has been jointly developed by South African and Austrian experts. It is rolled out as an elective three year subject for primary and secondary schools. A subject curriculum and teacher manual is available. Teachers are trained as groups of 10 schools which form communities of practice (CoPs). Selection of schools, coordination and support of CoPs is secured through a subject adviser as the local education district. Teacher training consists of 78 training hours including a practical project. Parallel to the teacher training the subject is introduced as a pilot at schools. At schools, Entrepreneurship Learning Garden coordinators monitor the implementation of the subject and the development of an annual class-based teaching plan which ensures cross-curricular integration of entrepreneurship education as well as garden-based learning for sustainable development. Each class completes two value-creation projects per year. Examples: 1. Growing of organic vegetables/seedlings for sale at pop-up market; 2. Mapping and clearing of invasive plants in the community; 3. Production and distribution of Ubuntu-food-parcels to food-insecure households; 4. workshop on organic compost making at the local community hall;


    School level: the programme has been implemented at 50 schools impacting 30,000 learners; at these schools it has contributed to integrating the theme of entrepreneurship education into subjects across the curriculum. Entrepreneurship Learning Gardens have become a medium of instruction for various subjects. Through this, SDGs-based teaching has increased. Pedagogical and thematic focus had a positive impact on teachers motivation. System level: the programme has contributed to the further development of the concept of entrepreneurship education in the South African school system based on a focus on the SDGs and sustainable/global citizenship. Global perspective: the concept of the programme has been included in the Austrian Entpreneurship Education Map published by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) and the BMBWF and has thus impacted on the development of entrepreneurship education for sustainable development in the EU.

    Factors and Constraints

    Enabling factors: high motivation of teachers to include community challenges in their teaching through a action-oriented teaching methodology based on the SDGs; strong moral support from departmental stakeholders; low investment vs. high output through integration in existing institutions (schools) and curricula; sustainability of input is guaranteed through profit of Entrepreneurship Learning Gardens which covers operating expenditure; Constraints: already high workload of teachers; an already dense national curriculum; capacity to manage project at departmental, district and school level; lack of COVID-compatible training venues;

    Sustainability and replicability

    The programme is replicable in any country. In the Global South, challenges addressed through the programme present themselves more obviously (e.g. food insecurity). There, its potential scope ranges from primary and secondary school, community gardens, agricultural TVET to education in refugee settings. Equally, the programme can be implemented in every Global North setting as it supports the development of entrepreneurial spirit for sustainable/global citizenship in support of the SDGs. The financial input is very low and can easily covered by financial value creation exercise per year (e.g. market day). In 2021 a pilot is scheduled to be implemented in Uganda. For 2022 it is planned to roll out the programme in additional South African provinces. In Austria, teacher trainings which focus on the implementation of the programme in Austria are planned for 2021. The teacher manual can be freely downloaded. Articles in peer-reviewed education journals aim at sharing the practice further.

    COVID-19 Impact

    COVID-impact: the programme was impacted by the closure of schools/the reduction of contact hours at school. Thus, teaching was interrupted and Entrepreneurship Learning Gardens (ESL) could not be sustained. The training of new schools was slowed down as trainings could not take place physically and teachers did not have access to internet/hardware in order to participate in online-training. Building back: COVID increased unemployment, poverty and food insecurity. Through Entrepreneurship Learning Gardens (ESL) schools are able to cheaply produce food for their school-based nutrition programmes. In addition, the imparted knowledge and practice on learners supports the establishment of home-based gardens which can assist to reduce the food expenditure of households.

    Contact Name
    Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research
    Geographical coverage

    The programme has been implemented in public schools in rural and urban areas of two provinces (Eastern Cape, Gauteng).

    01 October 2017 (start date)
    30 June 2023 (date of completion)
    More information
    South Africa
    South Africa
    Contact Information

    Matthias, Sprouting Entrepreneurs: Growing Change for Sustainable Development. School Gardens as Entrepreneurship Education Labs. Promoting Livelihoods, Food Security, Healthy Nutrition and Civic Engagement.