Green houses boost education in St. John Primary School
Turkana county in northern Kenya, is susceptible to droughts and floods leading to food production and food security problems. Most of the local communities are traditionally nomadic-pastoralists. Access to education for children is equally limited due to the low number of schools and vast distances that children have to travel to attend class.
- Given the 2010/11 horn of Africa drought that affected the area, UNDP is assisting the community to diversify into other livelihoods activities including adoption of greenhouse farming technique to improve food security and income. So far the project has 10 greenhouses to 5 schools 5 community group. 200 community members have also been trained on improved farming technologies.
- 40 women from the community have been trained on value addition to further diversify their livelihoods and to grow their income.
St John’s school is an exception, with its high numbers of students thanks to the boarding facilities. The school has 1260 children. The boarding facilities allow the children attend to their education without worrying about their pastoral livelihoods that would have seen them traverse the countryside looking for pasture for their animals. This high enrollment however creates another challenge of providing meals to the children.
In January 2012, thanks to the Kenya Drought Recovery Programme funded by Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (UNDP), two green houses were set up in the school’s compound. The programme also facilitated the water supply for the school and the green houses through a pipeline that links to the borehole of the St. John’s catholic mission.
Mr. Mwangi Muraguri, a teacher at the school who coordinates the green houses and teaches the children how to grow and take care of vegetables says “At the beginning most of the students did not know anything about how to grow a plant and they did not know what a pair of shears was. The students are now enjoying learning agricultural techniques. They feel responsible for their tomatoes and they can see the result of their work at lunch time on their plates”.
In January, the green houses were seeded with tomatoes and sukuma wiki (kales). The production of sukuma wiki lasted from April to June, when a disease infected the plant. The tomato production has been constant and ongoing. The benefits have been immense, the vegetables were added to the school’s menu and improved the children’s diet; secondly they were sold to the local community. Of great importance though is that, through the sales the school was able to hire two part-time teachers to help coping with the high number of students.
“The production was so successful that with the income generated by the green houses, we were able to hire two extra teachers and increase the quality of teaching in the classes, that were sometimes too crowded with more than 100 students per teacher”, explained Mr. Mwangi. “Now we are already preparing to plant more tomatoes and if the production goes well, we might decide also to hire more teachers and try to reduce classes to a maximum of 80 students”.
In the meantime, Mr. Mwangi is planning to train other teachers and pupils on the techniques of greenhouse farming, in order to give continuity to the project. The total of the production of the year until now has been of 72.000 Kenyan shillings ($ 850). The new teachers were hired from May and paid 5.000 Kenyan shillings ($60) a month.
The school’s achievements have been also inspiring the local community. A women’s group coming to buy the products from the green house was really impressed with the efficiency of the structure and is currently thinking of finding a way of establishing their own green house to start their own business.