Isiolo’s Farming Ambassador

Published April 12, 2016 by Naomi Senda

Emmanuel inspecting spinach plants in the demo farm in Ngaremara Secondary School

‘Destiny is not a matter of chance but choice’ reads a placard mounted on a footpath leading to the classroom of Ngaremara Secondary School, in Kenya’s arid Isiolo County.

As I looked around me at the lose soil and dried up grass, I asked myself how applicable this statement was. The heat in Isiolo at this time of the year is unbearable, and there are wild shrubs for miles on end. Even with my shoes on, my feet were burning from standing on the soil. I wondered how anybody could farm in this area.

And then I met Emmanuel Emunyen, a member of the school’s Drought Ambassadors Club. Part of the club’s mandate is to manage the school’s kitchen garden. Currently the club is growing kales pumping water from a borehole – and to my surprise they are thriving.

As I spoke to Emmanuel I realized that he has embraced the full weight of the words written on the school placard. At the age of 17, he is already altering his destiny and that of his community.  

Last year, Emmanuel experienced firsthand the dangers that come with dependence on livestock as a sole source of livelihood when his family lost 53 animals following failed rains. This fueled his desire to learn farming with the hope of making a difference back home and to the wider community.

Emmanuel has managed to replicate the school garden back home. “I usually share what I learn from the club with my family and neighbors. The nutritional value this has added to our meals is enormous as compared to just taking milk and meat. The option to sell the surplus and make additional money makes farming even more attractive!” 

Kale and spinach vegetables in the demo farm managed by the Drought Ambassadors Club

As Emmanuel carefully inspects a spinach plant on their school farm, he tells me how he intends to study Agriculture in University to gain enough professional knowledge to encourage more families in Isiolo to practice agro-pastoralism.

“I want to become an Agricultural Officer in my community. I believe the knowledge I will gain at the university will enable me change the lives of my community members,” he adds.

Ngaremara Secondary School in Isiolo is a beneficiary of Adeso’s REGAL-IR (Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands-Improving Resilience) program in Northern Kenya funded and supported by USAID.