Biovision nurtures future farmers through organic farming

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Young people in schools are taking steps to combat hunger, enhance food security and improve rural livelihoods across the African continent. In Kenya, free primary education has increased primary school enrolment to more than 50%, and this is already seen in the increased number of students joining secondary schools, universities and colleges. This presents opportunities to reach more young people with information on ecologically friendly farming practices. Now more than ever, technology is making it possible for pupils and students in schools to access information on new innovations, technology and emerging trends in agriculture, which they pass on to their parents and other farmers in their communities.

TOF in schools

Biovision Africa Trust (BvAT) through the Farmer Communication Programme (FCP), has been focusing on potential future farmers to transform rural farming communities in the country. TOF magazine has been made available to schools that request for copies. Through TOF pupils, students, teachers and parents have learnt various agricultural practices which are not harmful to human, animal, plant and environmental health. Peter Murage, the extension officer in charge of the Kagio Biovision Resource Centre has been working tirelessly with several secondary schools to give them practical information on organic farming. At Thumaita Secondary school in central Kenya, the school management has set aside an acre of the school land for a demonstration plot where students and the surrounding farming communities learn various organic farming practices.

“We use the demo plot to train students and farmers neighbouring the school on composting, mulching, minimum tillage, agroforestry, among other environmentally friendly farming practices. We have also planted sweet potatoes which are now supplementing the school diet for students and teachers. Now I do not have to eat bread from the shops as it can be quite expensive,” says Mr. Charles Macharia, a teacher at the school in charge of the Young Farmers’ Club project.

More schools interested in organic farming

   Regina Muthama uses performing arts to               promote         sustainable agriculture practices     in schools

“Many schools have indicated their interest and willingness to revive and support their young farmers’ club as it presents many benefits to the school and the surrounding community. The schools that have already started practicing what we have taught them have been able to get some of their food supplies from the school farm,” observes Murage. The same has been replicated in Kenya’s Eastern region, which is largely semi-arid. Through the leadership of Mr. Joseph Mbithi, the FCP field extension officer based in Makueni County, a demonstration plot was set up in Mutulani Primary School. Here pupils, teachers and the neighbouring community get to learn about organic farming and other sustainable agricultural practises.

Performing arts spread message

Ms. Regina Muthama, the chairlady of Katoloni Mission CBO and Biovision Resource Centre in KALRO Katumani, Machakos, and her team have been teaching pupils organic farming through performing arts - songs, dramatized verses and plays. “Children learn best when they are having fun and are actively engaged, so they are able to retain knowledge and skills learnt in childhood which will be useful later in providing solutions to the existing problems. It is critical that children are introduced to sustainable farming practices at an early age,” says Ms. Muthama.

Organic farming thriving in slum areas

Henrieta Githeu, a resident of the slums of Mathare in Nairobi, spends her time at the Mathare Youth Sports Association grounds. She has attended training sessions on using sacks for kitchen gardens facilitated by Biovision’s Outreach Officer, Ms. Njeri Kinuthia. “The knowledge I have received from the training is something I am eager to practice and teach my siblings at home because most of the time we go hungry. We lack money to buy food, yet we have space and energy to grow our own food and even sell the surplus,” says Ms. Githeu.

These young powerful voices represent the future farmers. They continue to remind all of us to rise up, join hands and promote sustainable agriculture for food security, nutrition and improved incomes and livelihoods.

The Biovision Farmer Communication, of which TOF programme is a part of, encourages and supports pupils and students in educational institutions to learn organic farming early in life. The Biovision Farmer Communication Programme is implemented with the support of Biovision Foundation, a Swiss-based charitable organization, and other partners. The programme uses TOF magazine, Mkulima Mbunifu magazine (for Tanzania), TOF Radio, field based extension agents and web-based channels like Infonet-Biovision online database to reach farmers in East Africa.

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I was recently invited to a workshop where results of a study on factors influencing household adoption of renewable energy technologies in rural Kenya by the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND). The study was commissioned with support from KIRDI and the Swedish Embassy in Kenya.