Kenya Farming with Teenagers

November 2014

For many high school teenagers in urban areas in East Africa, the idea of being a farmer or spending any time farming is less than agreeable; in fact if you ask them, they say farming is not ‘cool”.

Growing up in a technology-driven environment with a focus on flashy gadgets like cell phones and tablets, there is undoubtedly more pressure to be considered ‘cool’ and hip, especially during the school holidays when teenagers would rather spend all their time and what resources they have on fun events like concerts, movies, or hanging out at the mall.

Our holiday house in Kinangop, Naivasha, has eight teenage girls enjoying a much-needed rest and relaxation period after a grueling school year. Our girls have all graduated successfully into Form 3, though school is still weeks away in January.

Right now, they are spending long days relaxing in front of the TV, reading novels and romping outside in the breathtakingly fresh air of the Rift Valley. But they have also embarked on a truly remarkable project; each of the girls recently tilled a small allocation on the farm and planted a vegetable.

Alexine planted onions, Vivian planted Kale, Sandra planted cabbages, Irene planted potatoes, and Cecilia planted spinach.  Vemiah planted Napier grass to feed the cows on the farm, while Helidah planted peas and finally, Janet planted carrots. The project was designed by VF coordinator,  Grace Wandia,  as a way to encourage our young women to contribute to their own welfare and learn important life lessons.

Because despite the push towards education and professional jobs, the reality for most people in Africa, is that they have to maintain a close relationship with the land in order to achieve food and financial security. However, many young people no longer have a positive attitude towards farming even though after graduation, the difficulty of finding a job may eventually force them to return to rural areas to farm for a living.

But our girls took to the project with incredible enthusiasm.

They worked together, helping each other out with the preparation of the land and the sowing of the seeds. As the rains progress, they will spend more time on their allocations weeding and tending their crops in various ways to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Come April, says Ms. Wandia, when the girls are home for the Easter Holiday, they will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. “It is an empowering experience for them to make such a huge contribution to the cost of their welfare. All of the girls have a sense of pride about growing the food they are going to eat, about investing in their future,” Ms. Wandia commented.

All over the developing world, women still make the biggest contribution towards agriculture, spending more time than men on farms and farming activities such as irrigation, weeding and harvesting. It is one way to ensure their survival and that of their children.

And while our girls are no doubt headed for college and stellar careers in various professional fields, they also understand and value the life lessons in their holiday farming project. As African women, they will be prepared for all eventualities; they can improve their incomes, increase their self-sufficiency and raise healthy families through farming.

 

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