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Nakuru school farm feeds, sharpens pupils' farming prowess

SMART HARVEST
By Boniface Thuku | June 27th 2015
Pupils from Kiamaina Primary School in Bahati tend to some of the crops they have planted through Education for sustainable Development project. [PHOTO: BONIFACE THUKU/STANDARD]

NAKURU: Agri-business is now the in-thing, and nearly everybody wants a piece of the farm. Schools have not been left behind. The wave of farming for money is sweeping across schools with pupils embracing this new cloud of change. Schools have come up with brilliant ideas on how to make money from the soil and in the process impart farming skills in the young minds.

Welcome to Kiamaina Primary School in Bahati, Nakuru County where pupils are not only gaining skills to be future farmers but they are also earning from their toil. When Smart Harvest team visits the school, as they approach the administration block, they spot the lush green field bursting with life. From a distance, we spot a group of pupils tending to some crops. The public school with a population of 2,200 pupils boasts a model farm with crops, rabbits, dairy cow and vegetables. The project which sits on a five-acre plot, has transformed the school into a centre for agriculture that has seen pupils from other schools tour the farm to learn best practice in farming.

So how did this noble idea start?

The headmaster, Mr Samuel Nderitu, says he was inspired to start the project in school after a visit to Israel, the home of modern farming. “Three years ago, I was sponsored by Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) and the Ministry of Agriculture to Israel to learn more about agriculture. I learnt how Israel is using limited space to create wealth through farming,” he says.

AGRICULTURE CLUBS

So when he came back home, he decided to implement what he had learnt in his school. “Many pupils in my school come from needy homes and I thought the project would serve as an income generating project and boost our feeding programme to ensure the kids get balanced diet,” says Mr Nderitu, also the local KEPSHA chairman.

To launch the project, in 2012, the school started with a fish farm that cost Sh70,000 which was used to construct the pond and buy 300 fingerlings. So far, they have had three harvests and now, they have more than 500 tilapia fish which are taken care of by the pupils with guidance of different teachers.

“Some of the harvest is included in the school feeding programme and the rest is sold to parents at Sh100 a kilo,” says the principal.

After the fish project was stable, they started horticulture. They bought seedlings from Kenya Seed and rolled out the project. Now the shamba has maize, beans, vegetables, carrots, pumpkins, and tomatoes, Irish and cabbages, spinach and beet roots.

“This project saves us a lot because we do not need to buy fresh produce from the market. Money that would have otherwise gone into buying food is directed to other development projects,” says Mr Nderitu.

The school sells the surplus to traders from nearby Kiamaina trading centre and parents who come directly to the farm.

They also rear three types of rabbits chinchilla, Ear Lope and Newzealand White earlobe which are good meat breeders. To ensure the farming project is well structured and does not interfere with the school programme, the school has an agriculture club and pupils are allowed to join from Class Four.

“Unless it is time for an agriculture lesson, the pupils are not allowed into the farm until after 3:45pm when the classes are over,” Mr Nderitu clarifies.

Class Eight pupils are also barred from the farm to ensure they direct all their time and energies to prepare for the national examinations. The school has various clubs to ensure each pupil joins a club with a project they are passionate about.

Francis Maina, a Standard Seven pupil who belongs to the Rabbit Club says the project is exciting and he looks forward to feeding the rabbits every evening.

CROP ROTATION

The teacher in charge of the club Mr John Gichini says they sell a doe that weighs four to five kgs Sh3,500 to Sh4,000 depending. He says last year, they sold ten does making Sh35,000 which helped them expand the rabbit project.

Mr Gichini says their aim is to empower the pupils to have a positive attitude towards farming. At the corner of the compound, the school has a tree nursery that has played a great role in controlling soil erosion. Nderitu says locals also buy the seedlings.

“Last time we sold trees worth Sh10,000 and made a Sh8,000 profit from the project,” the headmaster discloses. The school also has a dairy farm which supplies them with 25 litres of milk daily.

“Ten litres is consumed at school while the rest is sold to neighbours at Sh40 per litre. From the milk sold we get between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000 in a month,” adds Nderitu, a father of four.

Admirable as the project maybe, they face some challenges. One is predators like mongoose which steal their fish.

The lethal maize disease also attacked their crop last year leading to massive losses, but this year they have done crop rotation to stem the problem.

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