Conservation Agriculture in Practice

While traveling to Marmanet, I remind myself that an early arrival at Kwanjiku village will enable me to make arrangements for our Kijani* capacity-building training on conservation agriculture. Reaching Kwanjiku around mid-morning, I start the preparations. As a norm of community change agents, I go straight to the Assistant Chief’s office to report the purpose of my visit. Madam Chief Naomi accepts the idea and directs me to several other assistant chiefs in the location to assist me. Now the real work begins.

By evening, I am overwhelmed with phone calls from all corners of Kwanjiku. Community members are highly interested — to the point that I start to get worried. The number could be well above the thirty we had planned for!

The following day, not only do our trainers arrive, but community members start coming from all corners. With the number surpassing the target, we get started as 65 community members are ready to listen, learn, transfer knowledge, and apply the skills.

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Francis Ogembo, one of the Trainers, demonstrating how to plant seeds.

 

 

Day one starts by taking community members through the concepts of conservation agriculture such as mulching, crop rotation, manure composting, and field preparation. Our two trainers find it hard to respond to the many questions. In the middle of the training one community member shouts “kwekwe kwekwe kwekwe” meaning “weed weed weed”. People burst out in laughter. Shocked, we are worried that we had committed a heinous crime in the training floor, later to realize that he wanted to share his nasty experience of weeds in his farm and he needed much help. Day one ends with a powerful thanksgiving prayer.SOA1

The second day is dedicated to practical work. We assemble at Mr. Haman’s plot, one of the trainees who dedicated his land for demonstration. Everyone is involved in learning how to prepare land, minimize soil disturbance, make holes for crops and vegetables, prepare top dressing with animal manure, and make compost manure. Farmers begin to realize that low yields are a result of inadequate techniques.SOA 2

We later climb the hills of Marmanet to reach our second demonstration plot where Mama Wambui offers her portion of land as a demo plot. I keep busy supplying our trainers with mulch from fallen tree leaves and other agricultural wastes (see the photo).

Kijani being a youthful organization, we are impressed by the turnout of young people who committed their time to attend our training and implement the model.

Before leaving, we distribute the training manuals. The vibrant smiles assure us that all has been well received. It was a happy ending.SOA3

A great African leader once said, “Communities cannot be developed; they can only develop themselves by participating in development activities.” This is exactly what we witnessed.

* Kijani is a Springs of Africa project that promotes tree-planting, conservation agriculture and youth empowerment. To learn more about Kijani, visit http://blog.kijani.co/

By David Oyaga

 

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Joysprings: A Dream Come True

Joysprings Educational Centre, a primary school at the centre of Kenya’s biggest slum, is a dream come true. The Principal of the school, Mrs. Rose Wanyama, is a person to listen to as she shares her story of how she started the school.

I arrive at the institution a few minutes before our scheduled appointment, and am glad for a few minutes to go through the school compound where I see the well-furnished classrooms and offices.

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Pupils of Joysprings in a classroom

their notice board, I note  that the school performed exemplary well in last year’s national examination. I also  interact with a few pupils who are out for their break.

 

After a few minutes of waiting, this enthusiastic principal welcomes me in to her office. With my notebook and camera ready, we start the interview. “I started the school in 2000 with only 4 children,” she begins.    Motivated by her passion  to help the hopeless children in the slum, Rose explains that she tries her best to sustain all of the pupils in school. Despite the financial challenges with the school being in a remote  area, Rose  recounts that she struggled to convince the parents to release their children for school. Furthermore, she dared not ask any of them for fees as responses like “ulimpata tu hapa” (you got them right here) would come her way.

After a few months, more pupils enrolled and they were forced to relocate to a more spacious place. Luckily, she managed to find a house near a railway line. Though it was a dangerous place for kids, it was spacious for the growing number of pupils.

Before  long, the government ordered all those near the railway line to move. Madam Rose had no choice but to relocate again. “To keep the children in class, I secured a loan of Kshs 9,000 and started feeding them,” she narrates adding that, “Within a short time, the feeding program largely boosted enrollment to about 200.”

JoyspringsUnbelievably, the school now has baby class all the way through to standard eight, with more than 400 pupils and 20 teachers. Their graduates have performed well and many secure leadership positions in their respective high schools. This could be due to the excellent teaching, Christian foundation, and personal mentoring they receive during their years at Joysprings.

The school has several sponsors. World Food Program provides foodstuffs such as maize, yellow peas, cooking fat and salt for feeding the children. Donors of Springs of Africa and DOVE Africa also help with sponsorship and salaries for teachers.

“We are forever grateful for DOVE and we pray that God will bless all who support us to acquire quality education at Joy Springs  Educational Centre,” one beneficiary said.

“Every dream is valid, and for sure, a journey of a thousand mile starts with one step,” notes Madam Rose as we conclude the interview.

 

By: Rahab Muchunu