Category Archives: Farm Club
Below is a report written back in August by Elephants and Bees International Intern, Brianna Stoyle
Report written by International Intern, Brianna Stoyle
Every Friday, about 25 students from Kileva Primary School, which shares a plot of land with the Elephants and Bees Research Center, gather together for a weekly Farm Club. In April of this year, the permaculture garden at Kileva Primary School underwent an exciting renovation, featuring a new design, outdoor classroom, and new pilot crops, consistent with principles of Conservation Agriculture and permaculture. Finally, on July 21st, the Kileva Farm Club enjoyed some of the fruits of their labor!
The new crops in the Kileva garden were all selected for very specific reasons. Under the principles of Conservation Agriculture and permaculture, limited resources are used with the climate and soil composition of an area in mind to produce as much yield as possible, both efficiently and sustainably. In our area of Sagalla, we believe that by organically planting crops that have high nutritional benefits, are drought resistant, are unpalatable to elephants and attractive to bees, and by taking good care of these crops, both hunger and food insecurity can be addressed simultaneously. At the Kileva permaculture garden, the food grown goes toward boosting the nutrition of school lunches, which currently consist largely of maize and beans.
At Kileva, in order to produce an elephant-friendly, sustainable model of conservation agriculture, we aimed to plant crops that were unpalatable to elephants, palatable to bees, and had a high nutritional yield, while being appropriate for the soil type and arid climate. Among the crops selected were sukuma (kale), spinach, cowpeas, and sugar watermelons.
Watermelons were chosen in particular for their tolerance of both the high temperatures and constant sunshine in the area and the fairly acidic soil that dominates the Kileva garden. Their deep roots are useful in drawing moisture and nutrients up to crops with more shallow roots, and their large leaves act as a cover crop to protect the surrounding soil from direct sun and weed growth. Watermelons are also excellent bee fodder, attracting pollinators to the garden. In addition to all of this, watermelons are also high in numerous vitamins, including vitmin A, C, and B6, as well as finer, antioxidants, lycopene, and beta-carotene. With all of these benefits, it was a no-brainer for our garden!
At our weekly Farm Club session, students learn gardening techniques such as how to make compost, the benefits planting alternative, unpalatable and diversified crops, the nutritional benefits of these crops, and the importance of conservation agriculture as a practice. The students have participated in the planting, watering, weeding, and maintenance of their crops, and have enthusiastically taken real ownership over their garden. About three months after planting, nurtured with the love and care of the students as well as our dedicated garden caretakers, Jacinta and resident permaculture expert Paul, our watermelons were finally ready to harvest! Children gathered in the garden on a beautiful, sunny Friday to pick, slice, and share the fruit. While it was a modest haul, the refreshing treat was enjoyed by all!
All of us at the Kileva Farm Club look towards improving our practices further to produce more successful harvests that will suplement the nutrition of the students’ lunches while modeling a sustainable, organic, elephant-friendly, bee-friendly way of farming.
Below is a report from May of this year by an International Intern, Jackie Delie, of the Elephants and Bees Team. It’s about The Farm Club at the Kileva Eastfield School, and in particular learning about how seeds grow into vegetables, fruit etc.
“Live as though you’re going to die tomorrow, but farm as though you’re going to live forever.” – Patrick Whitefield
Farming is a way of life here in Mwakoma and Mwambiti. To connect students to the farm behind their school, Elephants and Bee’s project came up with the idea to involve the children in a Farm Club. The Farm Club is a voluntary club where members learn various farm techniques, nutrition facts, and receive a practical and “hands-on” learning experience. In addition, the students can learn about a variety of methods that may deter crop-raiding elephants and about crops that are good for planting during drought seasons (particularly helpful in a climate as dry Tsavo). The goal is to build a student-organized club that gets the children thinking and caring about the seeds they plant. As an added benefit, the students can eat the vegetables and fruits planted for their school lunches.
After several months of dormant activity, the Farm Club was reintroduced with the first meeting held on 12 May, 2017. A total of 26 students, from all grade levels, were present and eager to participate in the lesson. Elephants and Bees project interns lead the first session with the theme, “How Does a Seed Grow?”
The focus of this lesson was to discuss what living things need to live and thrive, and how best to care for a seed. Then, each Farm Club member was given half of a reusable juice carton to plant their own individual bean seed. The children gathered dirt, compost material and planted their bean seed in their carton. They were left with the instructions to water, care and watch their seed grow everyday. The look of interest and fascination was in their eyes as the activity carried on.
The second half Farm Club focused on teaching a balanced and diverse way to plant, applying permaculture principles. The members were split into six groups and were responsible for planting chili, pumpkin, ground nuts and Sukuma in each of their beds. Each group planted chili on the outside of their bed as they were taught chili, with its strong smell, protects other plants from insects. Then, ground nuts were planted as a nitrogen fixer and Sukuma for nutrition. Finally, pumpkin was planted in each bed to act as a groundcover for protecting the soil from damaging rays of the sun and helping to hold moisture for longer periods of time. The members were actively engaged and getting their “hands dirty” during the reintroduction of Farm Club.
With the student’s owning their projects and creatively thinking of new project ideas for in the garden, the hope is that their new found knowledge will be applied at home and shared with other members of the community.