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School that gets food, power from its farm

Wednesday October 16 2019

Chuka Boys High School sanitation master Richard Mate together with some of the students watch as the catfish they keep in one of their ponds are fed.

Chuka Boys High School sanitation master Richard Mate together with some of the students watch as the catfish they keep in one of their ponds are fed. From the proceeds of their farming, the school bought a van in 2015 and built a two-and three-storey buildings two years ago. PHOTO | CAROLINE WAMBUI | NMG 

CAROLINE WAMBUI
By CAROLINE WAMBUI
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Some 700 metres from Chuka town is Chuka Boys High School. The school sits on 53 acres. It relies on its farm to feed its 1,200 students and more than 100 teaching and subordinate staff.

From the proceeds of farming, the school bought a van in 2015 and built a two- and three-storey buildings two years ago.

Richard Mwenda Mate, the teacher in charge of boarding, food and sanitation, says the farm has many crops.

“We have grown coffee on three acres and bananas on two and a half. We also have four fish ponds, each measuring 30 by 70 metres. The catfish are usually harvested after six months. They come as an alternative to pork and beef,” Mate said.

The farm has 58 pigs, which feed on food waste. The waste is usually preserved by drying to be used when students are on holiday.

“We have 14 cows, with four of them lactating. The cattle are fed in the morning and evening,” Mate said, adding that they are given a mixture of fodder from napier, grass, Boma Rhodes and silage.

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The cows produce between 43 and 60 litres of milk in the morning. All the milk is used for preparing the students’ breakfast.

BIOGAS PLANT INSTALLED

The school also has 12 rabbits and seven goats. These are used for agriculture and biology lessons but one can occasionally be slaughtered at the end of every term for the best-performing class. Eggs from the 150 chickens are also fed to the boys.

Cabbages are on a three-quarter-acre piece while other types of vegetables take another acre. But even with the success in farming, the school was almost closed a few years ago for not properly managing human and animal waste.

“Our septic tank began leaking, contaminating River Naka. We tried making holes and trenches but the seepage continued. The school received warnings of closure from the National Environment Management Authority and public health officials,” Mate said.

The school administrators made a proposal to the government to have a biogas plant installed. It received Sh5 million for the project.

By April 2017 the biogas plant was operational. The gas produced is used to prepare meals for students and staff.
Before that, the school used to plant more than 100,000 trees every year for firewood and timber.

The students can also have hot showers in the morning. There are plans to connect the gas to the laboratories. The biogas system also generates manure used on the farm.