A group of pupils at Lunza Primary School in Butere, Kakamega County, are keen on setting a good example to villagers on the diverse crops they can grow in an area dominated by sugar cane and maize.
The 4K Club members have planted tomatoes in a greenhouse where they are flourishing, giving residents a glimpse of how the crop can perform.
And in an open field, maize, orange-flesh sweet potatoes, sunflower, Nerica (upland) rice, sorghum, fodder and indigenous vegetables are flourishing.
“We had a farmers’ field day in July, enabling our pupils to show residents the crops that can grow in this region apart from maize and sugar cane. A good number of those who attended were their parents,” says Imbayi.
Inside the 18-by-30ft greenhouse, they have planted 300 tomatoes.
“We grow the Silka variety, which does well in the region. The club members and myself were first trained by the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service on various agronomic practices in January before they set up the greenhouse for us,” says Imbayi.
Apart from the greenhouse, they were also offered two water tanks of 5,000 and 500 litres capacity.
“We have a borehole in the school from where we pump water to the tanks before it is channelled to the farms,” he explains.
Imbayi notes Kephis and various seed companies were impressed by their farming activities on part of the school’s six acres before they helped them establish the greenhouse and demo farms that include that of sunflower.
Before growing tomatoes, they first prepared a seedbed raised at 15cm from the ground.
“We ensured the soil is fine and then planted seeds, mulched and watered. The seeds sprouted after eight to 10 days and were ready for transplanting in three weeks,” says Imbayi, adding the tomatoes were planted on April 15 and they have so far harvested over 20 crates, which they supply to the nearby Lunza Seconday School at Sh2,000 a crate.
Victor Nandwa, a Class Seven pupil says the school farming project has inspired him to start his own poultry project.
“Apart from learning and doing agricultural projects, I have started keeping a few birds at home,” he says.
Proceeds from the farm are used to buy uniforms and see needy students through secondary school.
Among the tomato pests they grapple with are white flies, which attack the leaves, interfering with photosynthesis.
Dr Bernard Towett, a plant breeder at Egerton University, says white flies attack beans, onions and tomatoes, among other crops.
“Most white flies have gained resistance to the common pesticides though there are chemicals in the market which eliminate them,” he says.