Olympic Secondary School in the heart of the sprawling Kibera slums in Nairobi is a garden of greens. Greenhouses, potted vegetables and sukuma wiki planted in the open field enrich its landscape.
In 2011, some months after the government revived the 4K Club programme in schools, the institution ran fast with the idea and established what is now one of the most enviable urban farms.
Samwel Oduya, the school’s agriculture teacher, says they began with growing tomatoes on a small plot of land in the school’s compound, which had been idle for years.
A few weeks later, they were visited by officials from the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) and the Ministry of Agriculture who approved of their good efforts and rewarded them with a greenhouse, complete with a drip irrigation kit.
A government extension officer would also regularly visit the school farm to advise them on crop management.
The teacher recalls that while they had a bumper harvest on their first season, they were shocked in the next when their tomatoes wilted.
“The extension officer informed us that plants had been attacked by bacterial wilt. We, therefore, changed to vegetables. Now whenever we grow tomatoes, we plant them in polythene sleeves,” he says.
Inside their two greenhouses, they have planted tomatoes and sukuma wiki and spinach in the open field. Chinese vegetables are planted in sacks and old car tyres. The crops are irrigated with clean tap water. The school also has 65 layers.
“We do multistorey gardening, sack gardening and also farm in tins. Most of our students come from slums, where they is no space for farming so we teach them techniques that they can adopt at home,” he noted.
URGE YOUTH TO TAKE UP AGRIBUSINESS
Because students are not always in school, especially during the weekends and school holidays, they have employed a farmhand to help them manage the crops.
The farm’s harvests are mostly sold within the school and proceeds are used in running the club’s activities.
Clinton Egesa, the club’s chairman, says they participate in preparation of planting materials and planting as well. “We have 50 members. We water, weed and help in maintaining the farm. We come to the farm at games time,” the student says, adding that the club members meet on Wednesdays.
Agriculture is the most neglected subject in schools today, says James Mwaura, the dean at the school.
“The subject and other technical ones are optional. How can you urge the youth to take up agribusiness when they have never interacted with agriculture all their lives?” poses the teacher.
In July last year, the ASK gave the club 100 chicks, about 20 of them died while 65 layers survived, after which about 20 cockerels were sold, explains John Omache, the school’s assistant dean and agriculture teacher.
“Once the birds were handed over to us, the school took over the management and financing of the project; from buying feeds to vaccination,” he says, adding they sell the eggs at Sh270 a tray.
Early this year, they partnered with Kilimo Jijini, a non-for-profit organisation, which is training the students and communities in Kibra on new urban farming technologies.
Purity Kendi, an agricultural engineer at Earth University in Costa Rica and Kilimo Jijini co-founder, notes that cities and urban slums must embrace new farming technologies to be food secure.
Principal agriculture officer at the State Department of Agriculture Cate Makanga says that parents and schools should introduce children to environment conservation and agriculture at an early stage if the country is to attain food security and create jobs in agribusiness.