Model school farm that trains and feeds students

Moi Siongiroi Girls High School students in Bomet county watering their vegetables at their farm.The school practice farming which trains and feed the students PHOTOS:ANDREW MIBEI

BOMET: The neatly mowed lawns lined with immaculately cut yellow and green hedges welcome you to Moi Siongiroi Girls High School, 25km south west of Bomet town. The cleanliness of the administration block floor and pavements make you imagine that girls in this school are not allowed to step on dirt.

The bell signaling the end of classes goes and girls step on the pavements carrying buckets to fetch water from different points within the compound. While some fetch the water for cleaning, a group of around 50 girls heads to the farm.

“Those are Form Three Agriculture students going to water their vegetables,” explains Agriculture teacher, Sharon Mitei.

Mrs Mitei tells 'Smart Harvest' that the school has set aside an acre that is managed by the Agriculture students.

“There are four sections for each class where every student is allocated a standard plot measuring 4 by 3 metres that they take care of throughout the year. The section for the Form Ones is not subdivided and they take care of their plot as a group,” the teacher says.

The project has helped them train the learners to easily handle the KCSE Agriculture project. The popularity of the subject in the school is evident in the increasing number of girls choosing the subject, and the impressive results they post every year.

“The idea to have the farm makes learning Agriculture so easy because we do everything practically in the farm. The topics we learn in class are brought to life and it is also fulfilling,” says Doreen Chepkirui, a Form Three student.

The students are involved right from the nursery to the main farm and none of the field practices escapes their sharp minds.

In last year’s KCSE, Agriculture had a mean of 11.3 (A-) and emerged the best subject in the school and in Bomet County. The school had an overall mean of 10.06 and was the best in the county.

“Since we started this farm, more students are choosing Agriculture as their specialisation subject,” says the school principal, Mrs Juliana Yegon.

The girls’ vegetables find a ready market right in the school and the best class is rewarded, every year, with a trip to either Nakuru ASK Show or Nairobi International Trade Fair. The vegetables from the girls’ plots are estimated to be worth more than Sh200,000 every season. The planting is alternated to ensure there is a regular supply of fresh vegetables in the school kitchen. They also rotate the vegetables with beans and peas.

Any challenges?

Their harvest is sometimes affected by the region’s erractic climate. During the dry spells, the girls have to water their plots using water pumped from a pan, though this is not sufficient.

The school is completing a project that will see the kitchen water recycled then used to irrigate the vegetables.

“We are through with the project and what we are waiting for is the installation of the pump,” says Mrs Yegon.

The school also keeps a number of dairy cows that supply the students with milk throughout the term. There are four lactating cows giving an average of 18 litres of milk daily.

“The milk is used to prepare tea for the girls and the staff every day. During the holidays, it is sold to a local dairy,” says Elijah Ngeno, the school bursar who also supervises workers at the dairy section.

The school has planted 1.5 acres of Rhodes grass that is fed to the cows in the morning before they are allowed to feed on free-range. An acre of Napier grass is also being established.

The school uses artificial insemination on its cows to get the best breed of calves. The bulls are kept for slaughter and fetch Sh80,000 per animal.

The vegetable farm is nourished using manure from the cowshed and to minimise use of pesticides, the plots are ringed with spring onions that repel pests.

“We try to keep our farming as organic as possible,” says Mitei.

The principal says they save more than Sh500,000 from the project annually, money that is directed to other projects. The school has its own bursary kitty that helps keep needy students in school. It has also constructed a library and four teachers’ houses from the farm proceeds.

“We have not grown maize for more than three years due to the Maize Lethal Necrosis, but we want to try this season and if the crop is affected, we will use it as fodder for our cows,” the principal says.