A few years ago, a 14-year-old girl walked into Moi Girls School Kamusinga in Bungoma County and asked to see the principal. In her hand was the admission letter with a list of everything she needed to buy before joining the school.
“I have come, but I have nothing. Help me,” she begged. She was an orphan who had scored more than 350 marks in KCPE, but the future looked bleak because nobody had offered to sponsor her. Amidst tears, she explained that her only hope was with the school.
The administration was moved. The student was not the first one to walk into the institution seeking admission while bearing nothing but a letter.
“We knew we had to do something that will raise money for needy students. Begging and waiting for bursaries was not an option,” said the school’s deputy principal Immaculate Malaba.
For the first year, they went into their pockets and sponsored the student. In the course of the year, they held several consultative meetings on income-generating ventures they can explore to support the large number of needy students they had. Finally, they settled on farming.
They started with a small dairy unit through donation they got from one parent. They then realised they did not have a plan on what to do. It is then that they decided to try out a vegetable garden and use the organic manure. Within a year, their dairy unit had grown, and their vegetable garden was spreading into a farm that could feed the students and help them reduce costs.
Joel Ndege, Biology and Agriculture teacher at the school says it has been five years since they decided to give farming a shot, and they have never looked back.
“It also helps our Agriculture students when we have practical lessons,” he said.
Currently, they have 23 dairy cows whose milk they sell to teachers and people in the neighbourhood. They reinvest the money into their projects, and when a student is in need, they chip in. They have also managed to build and equip their laboratories with the farm's proceeds.
Norman Wakamera, Computer and Mathematics teacher who oversees the project says the money they make from farming is also used to buy games equipment. Last year, when the school qualified to go and play handball in Algeria, they used part of the money from the farm to pay for the trip.
“If it was not for farming, some of the students would not have gone. We know many schools that miss out on opportunities because their budgets do not allow," he says.
On how they balance school work and farming, Malaba says the students work in turns, and they only spend a few hours in the farm.
“They come here for a few minutes during games time, and go back to class. Learning is still the core reason they are here,” she says.
They currently have a biogas plant that provides fuel used in the laboratory. They also have a piggery and a banana plantations. They also started keeping bees, and they say the uptake was more than they anticipated. One of their markets for honey is the Israeli embassy.
They also have a green house where they are growing fruits and vegetables.