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    School children to learn about soil using new educational materials

    soil testing expertKenyan children are among those set to benefit from a new set of materials that explain the importance of soil in crop production. This is as nations target children in the role they play as future food producers.

    The learning materials, branded Dig It; the secrets of soils, are an initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, and the National Association of Conservation Districts NACD, and are part of the initiatives meant to promote and advance 2015 as the United Nations’ dedicated year of Soils.

    Targeting children between five and 14 years, the materials have been classed in four groups: beginners, intermediate, advanced, and young adult students, and have been weaved with words, puzzles, games and drawing activities to make learning of the soils as interesting as possible.

    The materials have been identified as key in tapping children and young people into agriculture and getting them actively involved in the agriculture debate, which has traditionally been a preserve of older generations.

    With 50 per cent of the global population being youth of less than 30 years, and where lack of jobs has been endemic, agriculture has been identified as a key job creator both nationally and internationally.

    The challenge, however, has been changing the mindset of the younger generation into embracing agriculture, which has traditionally been identified as a poor man’s job.

    But Kenya has recorded remarkable progress in this front with school children and teenagers now actively involved in agriculture.

    One initiative that has returned roaring success is the school gardens programme. Under the programme, schools set aside part of their land for farming where pupils are actively involved in the entire crop production process from land tilling to harvesting and selling of the produce.

    This means that the schools are able to cater to food needs, while in some instances children are incentivized by being allowed to sell the surplus and keep the money. The idea, those involved in the programmes say, is to create in the young minds a mentality that there is money in farming. The project has been credited with turning deserts into oases. Kenyan schools have been among the active in the A Thousand Gardens in Africa project, targeting seven countries, and which teaches school children the art of growing traditional and orphaned crops.

    Agro input company Amiran Kenya has also been credited with introducing a nationwide revolution dubbed The Amiran Next Generation Farmers Initiative, that targets students in ‘brainfed’ rather than rain-fed agriculture by embracing modern technologies like greenhouses and drip irrigation to demonstrate to the students the immense yields the new technologies deliver in agriculture compared to traditional methods. Gilad Milano from Amiran, who was among those actively involved in rolling the project when it started, said that the idea was to inculcate in the minds of the youth that with the new age farming, one can harvest throughout the year and the new farming method doesn’t have to rely on seasons or rains.

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