80% of the population in Western Kenya depends on agriculture as a source of food and income. Food production is insufficient and dietary diversity is very poor.There aren’t enough job opportunities for school graduates.Agriculture is considered by the young as unattractive and as only meant for old people.They do not see it as a business opportunity and as a means to improve their livelihood. We want to change this negative picture.
We reach out to the young and engage the children’s interest in agriculture in their formative years. We want to nurture a culture of appreciation for farming as a viable future income-generating opportunity, and to teach them about productive, sustainable agriculture through guided practice and modern technology.
We promote nutritional education and dietary diversity at an early age because eating habits are learned early. We show children how they can sustainably grow nutritious food for a healthy diet at home.
We are in the process of expanding our school program. Together with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Agriculture SOFDI annually identifies 15 to 20 learning institutions (only with very active 4-K Clubs) for the promotion of farming activities and nutritional education. Our schools are on average comprised of 500 pupils, 4-K Clubs of 60-80. We already have waiting lists for the clubs whose members are role models for the other children.
Children are trained in organic and sustainable farming, conservation agriculture, agroforestry and the propagation of trees, environmental awareness, nutritional education and animal welfare. Sanitation and hygiene also play an important role in SOFDI’s curriculum. SODIS technology is equally promoted.
Each school has a demonstration garden which showcases the different farming techniques with which the pupils produce nutritious foods, rich in micronutrients, vitamins and proteins.
During official parent visitor days, children demonstrate their learned agricultural skills on the school farms. Pupils are given certain seeds and propagation material to implement the gained knowledge for an improved diet at home, which further also has a trickle-down effect on their neighbors.
The school farm’s soils are tested with our newly implemented hand-held soil testers bought from SoilCare and pupils are encouraged to bring in soil samples from the parent’s farms for testing in order to create an awareness of the importance of soil health
In some schools, small animal-rearing projects are run for additional access to proteins.These projects also include raising awareness of animal welfare,according to the motto :
Animals make our lives better. Help us make their lives better.
School patrons have been involved in the implementation of this program. They have also received agriculture training for a good understanding of and participation in the project. A committee consisting of teachers from various schools has been formed to monitor the program, and the Ministry of Agriculture is also involved to ensure the sustainability of this far-reaching project.
WHAT IS A 4-K Club?
Kuungana, Kufanya, Kusaidia Kenya’ is Swahili for ‘Coming together, to Act, in order to Help Kenya.’ Members of 4-K Clubs are students who are motivated to make changes to improve their own lives and the society as a whole. They act as role models for the other students.
Additional ACE Schools are in the planning in other areas.
AGRICULTURE CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE – ACE
One particular school that has been in the program for 5 years has been identified for the enhancement of the School Outreach Project. It has been upgraded to an Agriculture Center of Excellence School (ACE) in order to act as a peer-learning center for other schools and farmers within its catchment area, to exchange visits, to offer various workshops, to generate income for students in need, and to improve the nutritional status of the pupils. A remarkable trickle-down effect of the pupils’ influence at home and with their neighbors has been observed.
Furthermore, a medicinal garden has been established to educate the pupils about medicinal plants and their uses, while a propagation site (tree nursery) for medicinal, indigenous, fodder, fruit and other trees has been set up for better health, conservation of biodiversity, improved soil and environment, and enhanced farming productivity.
To all schools involved in this program we distribute issues of THE ORGANIC FARMER, for which SOFDI pays a monthly subscription.
EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT (ECD) FEEDING SCHOOL PROGRAM
We are presently introducing a School Feeding initiative targeting Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) or Preschools. The initiative is being run on a trial basis at two school centres with a population of 270 children within the age range of 3-6 years old. The ECD centres/schools have, traditionally, served a snack that consists largely of maize flour – a meal that lacks adequate nutrients to address the critical nutritional needs of this age group and the malnourishment from which most of these children suffer.