During high school I was a member of the Future Farmers Club. But the only thing I clearly remember is the fishing trip with them. I caught my first fish – a huge rainbow trout. But of agriculture itself I remember nothing.
Agriculture is taken seriously at Kenyan schools. Robert and I spent five days with African friends at Nyakach, close to Lake Victoria. Edward is Chaplain at a private high school with 840 girls in junior and secondary years. 429 are enrolled in the agriculture program.
Mrs. Ruto (who shares the same name as the former agriculture minister of Kenya) teaches agriculture to the girls. She studied agriculture and biology at the university near Njoro, where the Canadian International Development Agency sponsored the wheat research station for many years.
The senior girls all planted an individual maize plot as part of their final project. Mrs. Ruto asked us to inspect them. The plots look good – the corn is a healthy green and hardly a weed to be seen. Planted mid April the corn has to the end of the rainy season in August to mature.
On the other side of the fence is the government primary school with around 500 children in grades one to eight. They too have a vegetable plot. They’re growing tomatoes this season. Each child brought a stick to school with them that morning, to fence the tomatoes in. They were planted the week before, but neighbourhood children uprooted them over the weekend. Who knows why?
Edward took us to a neighbour farmer, saying it would only be a short visit. He obviously doesn’t knowfarmers that well! We spent a good part of the day with Ralphael Owaka and his wife Phelesia. Ralphael received a trophy for Best Farmer in Nyanza Province last year. For good reason – this family does everything on their small farm and more that we are trying to teach our farmers in Zambia. Besides practising conservation farming, he also does Permaculture, or Agriforestry as some call it – planting rows of trees among the crops.
I asked him if he knew about Moringa – of course, he grows it. Artemesia? Why, yes – he grows that too, and many other herbs. What doesn’t this man do? The best part is that he teaches others what he is doing so successfully himself. Every Tuesday he spends several hours training local farmers – for free.
The wonderful thing about being a farmer is that you have instant friends everywhere. We went to visit our friends, but we made new ones in the process and learned so much again!