Kenya’s youth encourage Smart Farming
A schools poster competition has shown that Kenyan young people really understand what farmers need to be successful. “It is often thought that young people don’t take an interest in agriculture. This competition shows, that with a combination of exciting lessons and incentives, young Kenyans quickly pick up the basics of smart farming. It also shows they are keen to be part of it”, explains George Oduor.“ “Meeting Felix Kamiri Muchiri of Kiambu High School at the award ceremony it was clear why he was the winner of the Smart Farming Poster competition. He is already actively involved in farming and he sees that it could represent a successful career option for him.”
Felix Kamiri with Kiambu County Deputy Governor, Hon. Gerald Githinji and his poster Felix’s poster shows how integrated soil fertility management can be combined with other practices to make farming more productive and profitable. He so impressed Kiambu County Deputy Governor, Hon. Gerald Githinji, that he has agreed to mentor Felix to help him reach his career goal in agriculture.His prize of a laptop will also help to make sure he can make an effective plan.
Grace Omondi from the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) explains: “We set a tough challenge to the young people of Kenya. First they had a science lesson to understand what smart farmers should do. Then the students had an art lesson to find ways of sharing the information with farmers in their areas – the results are really impressive.”
The poster competition was organized for ASHC by the Young African Express, a Nairobi-based curriculum development agency. The science lesson was based on the smart farming principles of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM). This is a way of improving crop production with improved seed, fertilizer and organic inputs like manure or compost.
When ISFM is combined with other good farming practices it boosts farmer’s productivity and profits. Susan Carvalho of Young Africa Express said: “We recruited a Kenyan judging panel that combined youth and experience and art, science and extension. They applied strict criteria to the posters to come up with a very deserving winner.”
With over 150 competition entries the judges had a tough time. “There were so many good entries, judging was tough!” says one of the judges, Judy Ogana, general manager of The GoDown Arts Centre, Nairobi. “Effective communication means being relevant and persuasively clear on the benefits of smart farming,” added judge Raymond Jumah of Farm Input Promotions Africa Ltd.
Grace Omondi spoke for the judges when she said: “We each looked at the shortlisted entries and selected the posters that stood out for us in terms of the smart farming message. We then selected the posters that really showed that the young people had understood and internalized the ‘smart farming’ message. This left us with five posters.
Felix Kamiri emerged as the overall individual champion.” Gentiana Primary School received the award for the most supportive school: they won a greenhouse nursery bed preparation system which will be able to feed the whole school with lunch once it is up and running. All the evidence shows you cannot learn when you are really hungry. Being able to support better nutrition in school should have an impact on the exam results of the school in the medium term – especially for the children from very low-income families.
A series of award ceremonies took place during the daily assemblies at the winner’s schools. In addition to receiving their prizes, they also got the opportunity to meet Juliani, a rising star in the Kenyan music scene who is the Amiran poverty eradication ambassador. The Amiran Kenya sponsored the greenhouse starter kits awarded to the winning schools.
Susan Carvalho noted: “As for Young Africa Express, we are now busy developing these curriculum ideas into fully interactive learning packages. This will help to really consolidate learning about smart farming.” The competition was part of the activities of the Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC) funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and coordinated by CAB International. For more information contact Grace Omondi at ASHC.