Pastoralist School Girls Learn the Value of Kitchen Gardening

Published February 5, 2016 by Stuart

Members of the environmental club at Nomadic Girls Boarding Primary School in Kalacha, Marsabit County in Kenya, were excited when their new vegetable garden produced its first harvest of kale and spinach.

The girls donated their first harvest to the school kitchen to supplement the evening meal for 700 pupils, creating palpable excitement in the school dining hall. The garden was established with the support of USAID funded Resilience Economic Growth in Arid Lands (REGAL IR) Program.

The school, which hosts girls from nomadic families, is an important regional education hub for girls and their families who move from place to place with their livestock in search of pasture and water.  Farming fresh produce is something new for these girls as the region is dry and dominated by cattle and goat herding.

The Government reports that children under five years of age from families herding only livestock are more likely to suffer from nutritional problems during droughts, as compared with children from families that supplement their diets with vegetables and legumes. That reality – and a desire to improve meals at school – is one of the things that inspired 13 year old Sabdibo and her friends to join the Environmental Club established under REGAL-IR sectorial interventions for increasing communities’ adaptation to climate change and variability.

Before the project began,

“We used to eat very little vegetables at the school,” said Sabdibo. “All that we need to do now is to join my friends at the kitchen garden and we harvest enough to be shared by all the pupils.”

With the help of an area agriculture extension officer, the pupils were trained on nursery bed establishment, soil preparations, transplanting and maintenance of the garden.

“We used to see photos of sukumawiki (kales) and spinach in books but now we grow and eat them, as well as understand their importance in terms nutritional value to our bodies. We plan to take this practice to our homes,” confirmed 13 year old Sabdibo.

The club, which has 44 members, sells the vegetables to teachers and local residents and was able to make Ksh 6000 revenue in the last 4 months.

“We are working with REGAL-IR to ensure that we take this initiative to other schools as this school is already a model in the area” says Denge Godana, Agriculture Extension Officer from the Ministry of Agriculture in Marsabit County, Kenya.