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Lessons from model school farm

Saturday July 20 2019

Vihiga County's Moi Girls High School Vokoli students feed dairy cattle in their school's farm.

Vihiga County's Moi Girls High School Vokoli students feed dairy cattle in their school's farm. In their 12m-by-6m barn, they house nine dairy cows. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NMG 

ELIZABETH OJINA
By ELIZABETH OJINA
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One ends up at Moi Girls High School Vokoli in Vihiga County after a few minutes’ drive off the Chavakali-Kapsabet Road.

The school is a hub of agricultural activities as it runs a horticulture farm and keeps various livestock that include dairy cows, poultry, goats and sheep.

In their 12m-by-6m barn, they house nine dairy cows. Assistant farm manager Morris Chae says the farm has five Ayrshire and four Jersey dairy cattle.

“Currently, we are milking seven cows. We collect at least 72 litres of milk daily, 41 in the morning and the rest in the evening,” says Chae.

Some 64 litres of milk is consumed in the school, while the rest is sold to the local community at Sh60 per litre, says Chae.

They feed the cows napier grass, which they harvest from their farm.

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“We have napier grass on 2.5 acres. We also give the animals dairy meal during milking. In a month, the cows consume about 17 50kg bags of dairy meal which go for Sh2,300 each,” he says.

The school has employed 12 workers, who directly help manage the dairy unit, poultry and horticulture farm. “They ensure the cows, sheep, chickens and goats are well-fed, there’s plenty of water to drink and the barns are clean.”

Opposite the dairy unit sits the poultry house that hosts 185 layers.

“We used to keep pigs in the unit until they started dying due to diseases. Three years later, we cannot complain.”
The farm collects about six trays of eggs a day, which are sold to residents and staff at Sh33o per tray.

FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE

The school has a steady supply of vegetables for its students. They grow managu (nightshade), cow peas (kunde), saget (spider plant), sukuma wiki (collard greens) and cabbages as part of the student’s agriculture practicals. Some 2.5 acres is under maize.

Farm manager Francis Omusanga says 90 per cent of the vegetables are used to feed the 1,298 students.

Naphtali Mukuba, an agriculture teacher in the school inspects maize in the school's farm.

Naphtali Mukuba, an agriculture teacher in the school inspects maize in the school's farm. From the farm, the students get first-hand experience on livestock rearing and growing crops. PHOTO | ELIZABETH OJINA | NMG

“We also sell the vegetables to locals at Sh50 per kilo,” says Omusanga.

Valentine Kasaya, a Form Four student, says they get first-hand experience on livestock rearing and growing crops from the farm.

“We recently learnt a lot when the Vihiga County Farm Fair was held on our model farm,” said Ms Kasaya.

Principal Rose Serde says the farm, which occupies about 10 acres, offers good income to the school.

“For good management, the farm is treated as a separate entity from the school. This helps us know whether we are making profits or losses.”

She notes the school is building a dormitory from money they make from the farm. They also use part of the money to support needy students who are not able to raise school fees.

“I would encourage schools to take up farming with the seriousness it deserves,” she says.

But it is all not rosy, they recently lost a cow to black quarter disease.

Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture Head, Prof Matthew Dida, says black quarter is caused by Cloastridium bacteria.

“These bacteria are widespread in nature. They live in soil, organic matter and are natural inhabitants of the intestines of livestock. Early cases of black quarter may respond to treatment with large doses of penicillin and specific antiserum,” says Dida.