Mary Owindo and George Okoth
DIG's Kuna School Garden lies west of Nairobi in Nyanza Province. With over 800 students and only 12 teachers, this government school struggles to meet the students' needs.
Through partnership with Lwala Community Alliance, the Segal Family Foundation, the International Youth Foundation, and Rotary, DIG helped the school develop a garden education program that addresses many of the students nutritional and food security needs. The garden is a space for the kids to work and learn in. They take the skills they learned at the school garden and apply them with their families at their own home gardens.
When interviewed, here's what Mary and George, two of Kuna's students had to say about the DIG Garden Program.
Q: What do you think of the DIG program?
A: DIG is teaching us a lot of things. In the past, I didn’t know so many things about farming. But DIG leaders came and started developing in us some skills. I did not know what a butternut squash looked like but I do now. I didn’t know how to plant a carrot and now I do. I didn’t know how to make a compost and now I can.
Q: Can you tell me more about this?
A: When a teacher asks a question about the garden we will answer it easily. Questions about compost, how to weed, how to make herbs that can kill pests. We learned, just a week ago, how to make an organic solution that can kill the pests that were killing our plants. Two weeks ago the skumi wiki was being eaten and cut by these pests so we made this solution which was so much cheaper than what you can buy in the shops or market. We used it and when we visited the farm the next Thursday we saw an improvement – some pests were lying on the ground dead and the skumi wiki was coming back to life.
Q: What have you learned from the garden?
A: When I went home, I told my father about the DIG organization that is helping so much. When he sees me digging and making a raised bed he copies me. I think more parents should attend the training. I also learned that compost is not corrosive like some fertilizers that you buy in the shops. Some people who don't know how to use those chemical shop fertilizers, use too much and burn the plants.
Q: Do you think your attitudes about foods have changed because of the garden? What are you learning about nutrition?
A: Plants in the garden are very good and help us stay healthy. and some add flavor to our food. When your eyes are not seeing well, you are advised to eat more vitamins; tomatoes are a source of vitamins; beans are proteins. There are foods that give you energy, others for bodybuilding and vitamins protect us. Mangoes have fiber which can help soften waste so we may not have difficulties, and yams are good for our blood.
Q: What are some other things you have learned?
A: I have learned that planting on a small scale can be good. My family now has a small garden and it is producing as much as the bigger plots. Bigger is not always better.
Q: Have you sold anything from your garden?
A: Yes, I am making some income and do not have to disturb my mother for my school requirements. I am not only earning income but the garden is also part of my family's nutrition. I can sell it, or I can cut and eat because my plants are big and I only have to take a little. If I want to buy fish, then I can just go and sell enough to buy some fish. Also, I don't need to buy things like skuma wiki or cow peas now because I grow them.
Q: Do you have anything you want to tell the DIG program?
A: I want to encourage DIG to do this in all parts of Kenya so it can decrease poverty. So many children are lacking education because of this poverty. And we need educated children for the future. I think this program also increases respect of girls.
I like when DIG comes to the school because we learn something new every time, like what nitrate in the soil means. DIG is working with us for a better future.
Q: How long have you been involved with DIG?
A: Since the program started, about 3 months ago. I am a student leader.
Q: When do you work in the garden?
A: During sports time 3 days a week. I weed and put the organic pesticides on the plants.
Q: What have you learned from the garden?
A: DIG has taught me how to make my home garden and different organic fertilizers. We are always planting new crops, and some teachers have used the garden for science class as well.
Q: How are you using (or planning to use) your garden skills and knowledge in the future?
A: There were many things I did not know before, but I'm now teaching my parents about. We are growing maize and skuma wiki at home and my parents are happy because I have taught them how to make fertilizer without having to go to the market to buy chemicals.
Q: What has been a meaningful or favorite experience from working in the garden?
A: The garden brings some income when we sell the mature plants in the market. With that money we can do more, like make the garden bigger to grow more produce. I want the school to buy chickens, but we will probably buy exercise books with the extra money.