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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Equipping primary school pupils with agricultural skills

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia County Household Economic Empowerment Programme (HEEP) and the International Small Group Tree Planting Program (TIST), on June 7, 2016 partnered with Bondeni Primary School in Ol-Moran Ward to set up a kitchen garden and a tree nursery.
Members of the schools ‘Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia, Kenya’ (4K Club), Swahili for ‘Coming together, to Act, in order to Help Kenya,’ are overseeing the two projects.
Bondeni Primary School 4K club members preparing the kitchen garden

Mr. Joseph Mwangi, Bondeni Primary School Headmaster said that the school decided to contact the HEEP technical team after learning about the importance of kitchen garden from some of the project beneficiaries.

He said that the school is supporting the 4K Club through provision of kitchen garden materials and seeds to ensure that the project succeeds. The school is planning to plant mixed vegetables in the 20 by 1 metre kitchen garden.
Kitchen garden is a simple method of farming that produce fresh fruits and vegetables’ for delicious, healthy meals. Materials required include dam liner, stones, hardcore, ballast, dry grass, and manure.
Mrs. Elcy Kigano, Laikipia West HEEP Technical Officer said that training members of 4K club is part of a broad attempt by HEEP to equip the young generation with hands on skills in kitchen garden and other agricultural skills. She noted that it is the first time that the project is collaborating with a school.
She said that the establishment of the kitchen garden would ensure the pupils are food and nutrition secure, the 4K Club members are able to train their parents and teachers, and that the 4K club can receive an income through sale of vegetables.
“HEEP will continue to provide technical support to the school. We expect that the pupils will transfer the knowledge gained to their homes. They will also be able to have vegetables in school throughout the year,” said Mrs. Kigano.
She trained members of the 4K club on establishment of wet garden as they are less capital intensive, uses less water, are easy to manage and the school will receive a higher production.
Bondeni Primary School 4K club members with some of the potted seedlings
The Laikipia County Government through the Laikipia County Development Authority (LCDA) is implementing HEEP under the principle of creating empowerment and self-reliance among communities.
Part of the programme implementation involves community mobilization, capacity building, acquiring, and distribution of HEEP components as well as monitoring and evaluation.
On his part, Mr. Joseph Muthee, TIST Trainer said that the organization has been empowering small groups of subsistence farmers to reverse the devastating effects of deforestation, drought, and famine. He urged the school to continue conserving the environment through planting and maintaining trees.
He said that TIST is promoting on-farm and community tree nurseries, as they would provide income to the school and would ensure sustainable land use systems. He said that trees would help the school to get timber for building, fencing, firewood, and fodder.
He noted that the difficulty of procuring tree seeds and the rising cost of tree seedlings make it necessary to establish tree nurseries as they provide the necessary control of moisture, light, soil and predators and allow production of healthy and hardy seedlings.
He took the students through site selection, layout of seedbeds, preparation of germination beds, sowing, and potting seedlings. He expects that the training would help the students to learn the importance of agroforestry, environmental conservation and importance of trees.
“The increased population and demand for wood and building materials has led to massive deforestation.  We hope you will share with your parents the importance of environmental conservation,” said Mr. Muthee.
The 4K club aims to teach pupils sustainable agricultural techniques through various projects in the school. The pupils will soon grow vegetables and practice agroforestry.

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