As you enter Vanessa Grant Girls School in Rongai, Nakuru, one spots the vegetable farm at the far end.
The school gets enough vegetables from the farm and does not need to buy vegetables when they are in season, according to agriculture teacher Alice Kinyanjui.
“The girls have planted the vegetables that include carrots, tomatoes, sukuma wiki (collard greens) and spinach on an half-an-acre. Since the onset of the rains in April, we have been getting three to four crates of tomatoes per harvest, which we use in the school feeding programme,” says Alice, noting the school sits on 25 acres and has 380 students.
The girls, who cultivate the crops with the aid of a farmworker, sell the produce to the school, with a 90kg bag of carrots going at between Sh4,000 and Sh5,000.
“The money is ploughed back into the project. We use it to buy seeds and fertilisers and to meet other overhead costs,” says Alice, adding the school also buys a kilo of spinach and sukuma wiki at Sh30 and tomatoes at Sh60.
Away from the vegetable farm, the girls keep some 30 Kuroiler chickens, their latest project. They host them in a six-by-eight-metre coop.
Inside the well-ventilated coop, the floor is sprinkled with wood dust, as the birds feed from plastic cylinder feeders.
“At the beginning of the year, the rains delayed and since we could not plant anything on the farm, we opted to start poultry farming as we wait for the rains,” says Alice.
The school invested Sh20,000 in buying materials, and constructing the coop. “We started out with eight-week-old chicks and now they are 14 weeks. They are our next source of income,” she says.
The poultry project, according to Alice, is managed by the 13 Form Four students, each looking after two birds each.
MORE YOUTH EMBRACE AGRICULTURE
The students feed, vaccinate, and do other routine management. This has motivated the girls as they are applying the knowledge they learn in class.
“The students have learnt a lot on the feeding process, feeds, diseases, bird handling and application of chicken manure on the farm,” she offers.
About 30 per cent of the students are sponsored by well-wishers while the rest pay school fees. Anthony Onyango, the deputy principal, says poultry has enabled students to acquire basic farming practices that they can apply inside and outside the school.
“When the project started, students were excited. Most of them don’t come from an agriculture background and for the urbanites, they are enjoying every moment in the coops,” he says, adding the school intends in future to keep dairy cows.
Sharon Chepkirui, a Form Four agriculture student, says the poultry project has enabled her to learn how to vaccinate the birds.
“I had never injected a bird. Initially, when I vaccinated the first bird, it was shaking and I thought it would die but I have overcome the fear and I can do it confidently.”
The feeding timetable kicks off at 6.30am with the 13 agriculture students participating. At lunch time and the last feeding is at 6.30pm.
Nakuru County Agriculture executive Immaculate Maina says through school farming projects, the government’s Big Four Agenda on food security is on the right track as more youth will embrace agriculture.