Every Monday and Friday, Jabez Kipchumba, 14, and several other students at Gethsemane Christian Academy, are usually busy on the school’s crop farm.
The students at the Eldoret-based school spend about an hour on the farm tending to various crops including sukuma wiki (collard greens), spinach, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, egg plants, cucumber and indigenous vegetables such as black night shade.
The days are set aside for 4K Club members, who are in classes five, six and seven, to learn various farm activities such as milking, weeding, transplanting seedlings and harvesting.
The produce ends up at the school kitchen.
“We have learnt how to farm various crops and the pests and diseases that attack them. For instance, we have cutworms and aphids. Aphids suck leaf sap, making crops look yellowish. They also make holes on the leaves,” explains Kipchumba, highlighting the knowledge he has gathered.
The farm is adjacent to the permanent Marura swamp where the school sources water to irrigate the crops, pumping the commodity using a petrol-powered generator.
John Odhiambo, the 4K Club patron, said the school revived the club last year, starting with 15 members. The number has now risen to 38.
On the crop farm, which occupies a three-quarter-acre of the over 15 acres the school sits on, there are eight nurseries hosting various seedlings.
The plants stay in the nursery for two weeks before they are transplanted. Surplus vegetables are sold at between Sh30 and Sh80 per kilo, depending on the season.
Kipchumba, a Class 7 student, who is also the 4K Club team leader, says at home, he plants sukuma wiki and looks after dairy cows. “It is fun to grow crops. I always look forward to harvesting,” 11-year-old Redempta Jeruto, a Class 7 student, says, adding Class 8 students do their science practicals on the farm.
Ibrahim Esitoko, the head teacher, says the 4K Club motto is “you learn by doing”, which enables the pupils to be able to apply what they learn in school in real life at home.
“We realised that it was important to teach our students about farming. With the shrinking white-collar jobs, they will know that one can also make money from a small farm,” says Esitoko, adding that the farm has employed three workers who run the project.
One of the challenges they encounter is that floods wash away the crops when it rains heavily.
The school also has dairy cows of the Jersey, Friesian and Ayrshire breeds. Currently, they have 12 milk cows, six of which give them 60 litres daily, with four of the animals drying up.
“Our top producer offers 29 litres of milk,” says Esitoko, adding that they save Sh360,000 on vegetables, Sh720,000 on maize and Sh192,000 on milk every year.
Next to the cowshed is a feed store where they stock animal feeds such as dairy meal and hay. And not far away from there there is a 10-acre maize farm.
They use cow dung from the dairy cows to boost soil fertility.
Samuel Yego, the Uasin Gishu County executive in charge of Agriculture said such initiatives should be encouraged to reverse the worrying trend of the youth shunning farming.