Connecting Gardens and Classrooms in Kenya and Scotland
"The joint crises of climate change and biodiversity erosion can both be addressed by planting gardens everywhere - full of biodiversity; full of the celebration of life, well-being, and abundance. Gardens of hope everywhere. Farms that give real food."
New year message 2015, from Indian environmental activist, Dr Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade.
“It is our hope that things will work out positively to enable our schools to exchange information and experiences that will increase the knowledge of our youth in world affairs and cultures, making them better global citizens, with a livelihood that treasures life, human rights, culture and the environment.”
Samuel Muhunyu, director of NECOFA Kenya.
Crofting Connections has formed a partnership with NECOFA Kenya School Gardens Initiative, which works with rural schools and communities in the Eastern Rift Valley. It has very similar aims to Crofting Connections. This partnership echoes a wider global movement to raise the profile of local small-scale food production all over the world.
Four Crofting Connections schools have been awarded funding by the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms to host exchange teacher visits with four Kenyan schools, using food growing in the school gardens as a starting point for learning about local food production and for delivering Learning for Sustainability and Global Citizenship. Both projects recognise the need to retain population in remote rural areas, by helping pupils to acquire the knowledge and skills required to live and work in their own communities.
The project aims to establish connections between Crofting Connections schools and NECOFA Kenya schools in order to increase understanding among Scottish and Kenyan pupils, teachers and the wider community of global citizenship, sustainable development, international education and education for citizenship.
The visit by Kenyan teachers took place from May 30th – Scotland 10th 2015. In addition, we received funding from the Arkleton Trust to bring two NECOFA project staff and two community leaders to join the Kenyan delegation, which gave our Scottish teachers and pupils and their local crofting communities an opportunity to explore some of the wider community issues which both Crofting Connections and NECOFA Scotland seek to address. A reciprocal visit of the Scottish teachers to Scotland is planned for autumn 2015.
Pupils in Scotland had the opportunity to meet the Kenyan delegation and to talk directly with them about life for children and young people in Kenya. They were able to explore ways in which links can be made with Kenyan pupils to learn about global and local food systems. During the reciprocal visit, pupils in Kenya will have a similar opportunity to learn from the Scottish delegation.
Pupils are already starting to share stories and exchange knowledge about each other’s culture - learning about music, stories and dance; describing the school day; comparing school meals and swapping recipes; describing what it is like to live in a rural community and comparing their gardens.
The Kenyan delegation arrived in Inverness before travelling to spend five days working in their respective partner schools in Orkney, Shetland, Argyll and West Highland. In each area, they met local food producers, including crofters, and teachers and pupils from other schools.
They then returned to the Inverness area for a one-day conference on June 8th, hosted by Highland Council, which brought together the partner schools to share their learning with education managers and teachers from all the local authorities, as well as representatives from Education Scotland and the Scottish Crofting Federation. We are working in partnership with three of the regional Development Education Organisations and with the education services in the four local authorities in order that a wider range of schools benefits from this opportunity.
The visitors also participated in an evening discussion for teachers, senior pupils and crofters, hosted by Scottish Natural Heritage, on the role of small-scale farmers in wildlife conservation in Kenya and in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Samuel Muhunyu said:
“Co-existence and conflict are issues that can't be ignored but unfortunately many times the rest of us quickly pass judgement that is often ill-informed. It is a subject that will enrich our knowledge and partnership especially in guiding young minds to respect and conserve natural resources while at the same time respecting and supporting livelihoods for small scale farmers who are custodians of these resources.”
The discussion was illustrated by a photographic exhibition of the iconic animals of each country – the lions, leopards and elephants of Kenya and the wild cats, pine martens and red deer of the Scottish Highlands – the scale may be very different, but their beauty and importance to the biodiversity of each country was a good context for the discussion.
Introducing the Kenyan Delegation
Amos Gachuki is the head teacher of Michinda Boarding Boys’ Primary school which is located in Elburgon Town, Molo District Nakuru County. The school population comprises is 550 students, 23 teachers. A number of leaders at national and regional level went through the school which also has a school garden with 70 members. Besides being head teacher for Michinda, Mr. Gachuki is the chair for head teachers in Elburgon division. Apart from being the school administrator he teaches mathematics and actively participates in school garden projects. He is a member of Slow Food in Kenya. In 2010 Michinda School was rated 1st nationally among all schools that practiced schools gardens. Students and teachers from other schools come to learn about the establishment, organization and management of school gardens.
Nancy Kirui is a teacher at Olenguruone Primary school that neighbours Olenguruone secondary school. She is the patron for the school garden that brings together students from both schools. The schools are located in Olenguruone Town, Kuresoi District of Nakuru County. Nakuru is part of the region that was previously referred to as the “white highlands” because the region was home to many European large scale farmers during colonial period. Olenguruone primary school has a population of 600 students and 20 teachers. Nancy heads the English, Kiswahili examination panel and drama and music clubs. She is also the patron of the school garden project which involves 60 students. At community level, Nancy is actively in women’s empowerment and family counselling.
Agnes Mutahi is a teacher at Sachangwan Secondary school located at Sachangwan centre in Molo District, Nakuru County. Her school has a population of 370 students and 15 teachers. She is the head of Science Department and member of the school disciplinary committee. She teaches biology and mathematics and she also finds time to play role of patron for school garden and environmental club which has 60 members.
Jeremiah Lebene is deputy head teacher of Lomayan primary school in the semi-arid Marigat District on the shores of Lake Baringo. In the last 20 to 30 years his community was practicing pastoralism but because of several factors among them climate and raids by neighbouring communities they are gradually evolving into agro-pastoralism in which they practice rearing of livestock and crop farming. Jeremiah is the patron for the 4-K club in which students learning gardening, environmental conservation and culinary education. Jeremiah is also a committee member for the Marigat Teachers Savings and Credit Society (commonly referred as SACCO). In the Sacco teachers are able to saving part of their salaries and at their convenience they are also able to access credit for their personal and family development.
Agnes Salim is from the indigenous Ogiek community that has lived in the Mau forest practicing ‘hunter-gather’ lifestyle until quite recently. Because of invasion of the forest by other communities and land excision, the community has been forced into a livelihood that involves farming and crop rearing. Poverty and illiteracy are very high in the community.
In the national elections conducted early last year she was elected to represent her community (Marioshoni) as member of the county assembly a role she is playing quite actively and working with other community leaders and stakeholders. Until her election to the political position, Agnes was involved in women’s empowerment initiatives and campaign for girl child education. She is a great grassroots community mobilizer.
Senior Chief Samuel Sekeu is the administrator for Ilchamus location in semi-arid Marigat community of Baringo. The Ilchamus ethnic community is a small indigenous community that is sub-tribe of the Maasai. They are the only “maa” speaking community that traditionally practice fishing and eat fish. Before becoming Chief Samuel was a school teacher in which he excelled and when the need for a chief arose in the community, the villagers and leaders prevailed on him to be their leader. Samuel’s responsibilities include linking his community to the county and national government, fostering development initiatives, conflict management and transformation and educating the community on their roles and responsibilities in governance and leadership.
Samuel Muhunyu is the director for Network for Ecofarming in Africa (NECOFA) an African movement promoting Ecologically Sustainable Agriculture. In Kenya NECOFA is operates as local NGO whose members include community groups (women groups, youth and self-help groups). For over 20 years Samuel has worked in community development as employee of the public service, teaching in an agricultural college and as team-leader in the civil society organization. He has designed and participated in implementation of several initiatives in primary and secondary schools, youth polytechnics and colleges focusing on community livelihoods especially food and environment management which have also been replicated in other organizations and schools. At the moment NECOFA is focusing most of its efforts towards improvement of the environment and livelihoods for community living along the Molo River basin which connects the Mau forest in the wet highlands and Lake Baringo in the dry semi-arid.
Jane Karanja works as a programme officer with NECOFA, working closely with small scale farmers and schools in areas of environmental conservation, food and nutrition security. She is a graduate of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy and she works closely with teachers and students involved in the school garden projects, especially in culinary education. She is responsible for the documentation of NECOFA activities and ecotourism attractions in the Molo River basin.
Crofting Connections is a partnership project between Soil Association Scotland and The Scottish Crofting Federation: It works with over 150 schools in the crofting counties of Scotland, many in remote areas, to introduce the study of crofting past, present and future into the curriculum. The aims of the project are to deepen the connections between children and young people in crofting communities through place–based learning and to introduce pathways to meaningful local employment for those wishing to remain in or return after studies to their local communities. Crofting Connections is a member of the Learning for Sustainability network. See http://croftingconnections.com
Network for Ecological Farming in Africa (NECOFA) is a community-based NGO promoting Ecofarming - ecologically and socially sustainable Land Management. It works towards empowering communities to sustainably access education, health, food security and social dignity. NECOFA Kenya has activities in Nakuru, Baringo and Makueni counties and works with rural community groups and schools. It has very similar aims to those of CCx in relation to preparing young people for work in their own communities. NECOFA Kenya is coordinating the visit to Kenya by the Scottish delegation.