Tomorrow’s farmers learning skills today
Watering a huge leafy cabbage on the farm, young Joy Brenda is not your typical farmer. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the average age of farmers in the country is 60 years.
But Brenda and her schoolmate Samwel Kamau love farming and they plan to engage in farming-related ventures when they grow up.
The 13-year-old children are pupils cum members of the Kuungana, Kufanya Kusaidia Kenya (4K) club at St. Michael Primary School in Embu town practicing farming not only in school but also at home.
The children help their school and parents produce food as they perfect their farming skills while young.
Brenda says she likes growing cabbages, kales, tomatoes and capsicum more than any other crop. This, she says, is because they grow faster and one can make good money from them.
“I have been growing Sukuma-Wiki and tomatoes at home and for sure they grow faster—they are mature for the first harvesting in three months’ time,” says Brenda during our visit at their school which is sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Embu.
Kamau says: “The fact that we grow most of the vegetables at home, helps my parent’s safe money which is directed to other uses.”
The two pupils say they have learned how to plant different crops, take care of them and the pesticides to use under the guidance of their club’s patron, Mrs. Perpetua Ndebu among other skilled workers at the institution.
“We do the farming in the evening after classes with the guidance of teachers,” says Kamau. Ndebu says the club aims at giving children agricultural life-skills to excel in adulthood.
The soft-spoken teacher reveals that before allowing children to participate in the farm, they first agree with parents so that the parent can’t see as if the child is being ill-treated.
She says that the children also grow onions and spinach and were thinking of introducing other crops so that the learners can be conversant with a variety of crops. Currently, cabbages occupy the bigger part of the farm.
The food which they produce assists the school that has 600 pupils to pay water bills besides buying farm equipment and pesticides.
“Farming gives a farmer economic advantage since they are able to sell the surplus and have a different income stream. It also makes the learners have more confidence in what they do. Learners are not gifted the same and that is why we try to nurture them all round,” Ndebu explains.
“Apart from selling, we prepare a single or two meals for the children so that they can also taste what they produce in the farms. This makes them grow interested to engage in farming,” says Francis Karanja, the school’s headteacher. The club which has 58 members was started in 2015.
The land where the pupils grow their crops were initially sandwiched grass before the headteacher thought that it could be handy in footing some of the bills. The management, however, transformed it before allowing the 4K members to work on it.
In front of every class, there is a well-protracted piece where the crops are grown totaling to over 1, 000 cabbages. But, forward-facing one class has onions and kales.
Karanja says although the school has a vast land where the crops can be done, they opted to grow them in front of the class due to the proximity of water source and also as a reminder to children whenever they see the crops—that farming is the backbone of the society.
Ndebu says the pupils learn on planting crops on a seedbed, transplanting, spacing, mulching, fertilizer application, spraying, and the general crop management. Expensive pesticides, lack of quality tools are their biggest problem. Ndebu says the children have embraced farming.
“Apart from just growing these crops, the children are learning various skills from those who work with them. They love being on the farm. Engaging children in agriculture from a tender age helps them love to practice farming and build their skills,” she says adding that it is important to engage early because they are the farmers of tomorrow.