Farmers top image

Where pupils grow vegetables on walls

By Jackline Inyanji

They plant crops by mounting the recycled bottles on the walls of the classes. [Duncan Ocholla, Standard]

To cut on food expenditure, many schools are venturing into farming. At Daisy Special School, pupils have focused on green wall farming which has disapproved the notion that to be a successful farmer, one must have land. 

Kellan Okwako, in charge of agriculture at the school, said as part of equipping the learners with skills, Resource Organisation Development Initiative (RODI) which advocates food security, skills and human dignity visited the school in 2017 and taught them how to build ‘The Green Wall Food Farm.’

“RODI gave us seedlings for kales, indigenous vegetables, carrots and sacks for putting soil. Apart from that, they trained pupils on how to plant crops by mounting the recycled bottles on the walls of the classes,” she said.

Before they plant the crops, the pupils mix soil with organic manure.

“RODI has been supporting the school in various projects like horticulture and dairy since 2010 but the green wall farming is unique since the physically challenged pupils get a chance to test their green thumbs as it doesn’t involve a lot of movement,” she said.

Mrs Okwako revealed that from the proceeds of green wall farming, the school was able to start a poultry farm which is now their main source for eggs and chicken meat.

“We want the school to be child friendly by teaching them skills they can easily practise while at home. Tomatoes, fruits and vegetables consume better part of the family budget since they must be in the daily menu. Families and schools in urban setups need to embrace this type of farming since it’s cheap and the materials are readily available,” she said.

A pupil, Humphrey Kona, said he had installed a similar farm back at home.

“The farming model is easy and affordable since we transform used pet bottles, barren stone and concrete wall into vertical green wall farm enabling us to improve our nutrition at home and in school. I also sell some of the produce and get money,” he said.

Daisy special school headteacher Rosemary Obiero says the technology is friendly to the learners especially those using wheelchairs.

Apart from the green wall farm, the school has goats and cows.

“Through the introduction of green wall farming which does not require much land, we are able to produce our own food. It also helps in equipping learners with skills and it’s friendly to disabled children,” Mrs Obiero said.

She, however, said the school needs assistance in soil sampling and topography to further its farming venture. “If this is addressed it will help the school produce more food and help in buying wheelchairs and other essentials for the pupils since we depend on well-wishers to provide for the learners who mostly come from needy families.”

She further said since agri-business is now an in-thing and nearly everybody wants a piece of the farm, she urged well-wishers and researchers to come up with innovative ways to help the school invest more in farming.

“Our vision is to develop pupils who can use simple approaches to connect with the environment and address basic life necessities using sustainable materials with minimum maintenance costs,” she said.

Vertical farming is a revolutionary and more sustainable method of agriculture than its counterpart as it lowers the requirement of water to up to 70 per cent and also saves considerable space and soil.

This innovation in the field of agriculture with sustainability as its motto is making more and more heads turn today with its eco-friendly methods and making the possibility of farming real in difficult environs.

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow by another two billion people, and feeding it will be a huge challenge.

Due to industrial development and urbanization, we are losing arable lands every day. Scientists say that the Earth has lost a third of its arable lands over the last 40 years.

Increasing food demand due to a growing population along with ever decreasing arable lands poses one of the greatest challenges facing us.

Many believe that vertical farming can be the answer to this challenge.

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