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Fun and cash on the school farm

Saturday June 1 2019

Pupils of St Teresa Kanyange Academy in Othaya, Nyeri feed pigs they keep in their school farm.

Pupils of St Teresa Kanyange Academy in Othaya, Nyeri feed pigs they keep in their school farm. They also grow various vegetables and napier grass for their four cows that offer them milk. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG 

IRENE MUGO
By IRENE MUGO
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St Teresa Kanyange Academy in Othaya, Nyeri, is home to several farming ventures that make it an agribusiness hub and bring it additional income.

One can hear pigs squeal and cows moo as they walk inside the school that sits on eight acres.

They also grow various vegetables and napier grass for their four cows that offer them milk.

Mukundi Mwai, the patron of the project, says they have been farming since 2000, with the ventures helping the school cut food costs.

Every Tuesday afternoon, the 50 agriculture club members spend time on the farm. They call it farming o’clock.

“Farming keeps us busy when we do not have lessons. It is fun and I have enjoyed being in the club for the past two years,” says Mitchelle Njeri, a Class Eight pupil.

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On the pig farm, the school has 50 animals, which are separated in the pens depending on their ages.

“The students feed them twice, in the morning and evening,” notes Mukundi, adding that the animals are offered mainly leftovers from the dining hall and also commercial feeds.

The pigs eat about four 20-litre buckets of leftovers daily. Once they mature, some of the pigs are slaughtered and prepared for the students while others are sold to nearby butcheries at Sh270 per kilo.

Head teacher Githinji Wairagu said the money is used on school tours.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

“We also award the most active pupils on the farm with points every term, and these points are converted to a maximum of Sh2,000, which goes to school fees.”

In case of diseases such as coccidiosis, that is common in pigs, they have a resident veterinary officer, who is also a parent at the school, who treats the animals.

The pupils weed vegetables that they also cultivate in their farm.

The pupils weed vegetables that they also cultivate in their farm. Mukundi Mwai, the patron of the project, says they have been farming since 2000, with the ventures helping the school cut food costs. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Their Friesian and Ayrshire cows produce 90 to 100 litres of milk daily.

“We feed them on napier grass, which we grow on our farm, dairy meal and hay,” says Makundi, noting the school has two workers who handle the bulk of the work on the farm.

He notes the dry matter ensures the animals drink plenty of water, in turn producing more milk. On a 100-metre square land, the students have planted cabbages and carrots that they use to feed the entire school.

“The students consume the carrots and cabbages, enabling us to save money that we would have used to buy vegetables,” says Mukundi, noting the vegetables are first planted in seedbeds before they are transferred to the field.

The pupils prepare the seedbeds on the lower side of the land, before transferring them to the farm for planting.

“Once the holes are dug, we mix the soil with two handfuls of manure before planting the cabbages. After they sprout, we apply a spoonful of calcium nitrate fertiliser,” says Makundi, adding they farm enough to last them the entire term.

Mr Wairagu says through farming, they save up to 50 per cent of their overall budget on food for their 600 pupils, which translates to at least Sh150,000 per term.

John Wambugu, an agronomist, notes that engaging children in farming allows them to play a part in development and prepares them for life after school.