A farmers' group give agricultural skills to pupils to contain food insecurity

minugiMwangaza Farmers Group Organization (MFAGRO) a local organization in Vihiga County has introduced practical agriculture lessons in public primary schools in the region in a bid to impart farming skills to the young generation, making them to actively participate in food production.

The practical lessons that include crop management, value addition and animal husbandry are set to fill the gap left when agriculture subject was pulled out of primary school curriculum in 2001 and is expected to rejuvenate agricultural practices in young people across the County.

According to MFAGRO Project Coordinator Dick Morgan Ongai the organization gave intensive training skills to its members who join forces with teachers in respective primary schools to offer weekly lessons to upper class pupils (classes 4-8).

For effective practical lessons, schools give demo farms measuring between 5-10 metres square depending with the size of school land to groups of pupils where they are encouraged to plant assorted plants. During the weekly lesson, trainers visit those demo farms teaching those groups from soil management to crop production skills. These pupils are also taught animal husbandry and poultry farming where they rear rabbits and chicken. The project reached 22 school and about 5200 pupils last year.

At Munugi Primary School in Sabatia District, this education has been extended to benefit the local community. Demo farms have been erected in the compound where farmers from the neighborhood are taught various modern ways to improve crop and animal productions.

Through this initiative, farmers in the region are winning the war against ‘purple witch’, a weed that has for long affected maize production in the region. They have for instance learnt that intercropping of maize with Desmodium curtails the growth and survival of the weed. The fodder is a legume and as a result their root produces chemicals that stimulate germination of striga seeds, but then prevent them from attaching successfully to maize roots. The striga eventually dies and the number of seeds in the soil is also reduced. They have also learnt about value addition and high value crops like soya beans which is now giving them more returns than traditional maize and beans. Initiatives by MFAGRO comes on the backdrop of a 2012 report by FAO that blame lack of modern agricultural skills to food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report noted that most farmers especially in rural Africa where 75

per cent of the food is grown are using outdated means hence prone to agricultural calamities like weeds, pests, soil infertility and diseases. Statistics by World Hunger shows a severe food crisis across Africa. An estimated 10 million people are faced with food shortages, mass livestock losses, and protracted drought-like conditions.

In Kenya, close to 3.5 million people have been declared food insecure, with significant numbers facing catastrophic conditions after consecutive years of below-average rainfall that have resulted in one of the driest years since 1950. The statistics further shows that vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, which saw a 42 percent reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people between 1990–92 and 2012–14. Despite this progress, about one in eight people, or 13.5 percent of the overall population, remain chronically undernourished in these regions, down from 23.4 percent in 1990–92. As the most populous region in the world, Asia is home to two out of three of the world’s undernourished people while one out of three people are undernourished in Africa.

MFARGO is however optimistic that if stakeholders in the education and agricultural sectors in the country join hands in educating people especially the younger generation, food production will be increased hence slicing the ever growing hunger and malnutrition figures in the continent.