self-suffiency

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Scarcity of food is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Access to healthy food at a reasonable price can be an obstacle to the well-being of children from modest backgrounds. Since the 1980s, food prices have constantly increased, especially in Africa, where income inequality leads to an inability to earn money and people often resort to a barter economy. Consequently, in sub-Saharan schools, children sometimes come to school on empty stomachs, and since the prices are very volatile on the food market, the cost for the school to feed the children is a real challenge. Many people have abandoned traditional foods in this area, and people are starting to forget indigenous varieties of plants.

Enter Julien Kauer, who wants to raise awareness and encourage the use of local food sources. Kauer, from Switzerland, created a project to lead the Isegeretoto School in Western Kenya to self-sufficiency.

Please tell us about the project.

It’s an organic farming project called Food Sovereignty at Isegeretoto School, Kenya. It’s my second time coordinating an organic farming project at Isegeretoto School, a primary school of around 300 children in Malaba, Kenya. The second project started in February 2015, and our aim is to produce enough to fulfill the need of the school in terms of food: cereals, vegetables, fish, milk, oil and mushrooms. The food self-sufficiency will allow the school to reduce the school fees to increase the access to a quality education for children in our basically rural area.

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What is your strategy?

We base our techniques on organic farming, as we believe that it can enable us to preserve our soils for the future. It will provide healthier food for our children because we only use natural means to grow the food. We rely only on available means to ensure the food security of our school. In our region, even the mechanization, so to say, is unavailable: The whole work of plowing, fertilizing, planting and weeding is done by hand. This also is a step toward food sovereignty, as by using simple means, we master the whole chain of work. In addition, the use of a tractor brings the risk of expensive repairs, which could easily bankrupt a farmer in our rural area.

What are the results of your approach so far?

We have been very successful in all the goals we have set. We’re almost finished planting and fertilizing our fields, and we have started working together with around five different agricultural institutes of Kenya. We have employed many people from the region, whereby we taught them practical techniques we are using. We’ve also founded an environmental club in the school that enables children to participate in activities on the ground with us.

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Do you have media to share with the community?

Yes, I’ve started a Youtube channel that presents in a very concise and inclusive way our activities from week to week through short videos. And I have to say, the video media, but overall every kind of 2.0 media, is a real chance for a small initiative like ours to have visibility. It allows us to get support from all over the world in a few clicks, and other people starting those kinds of initiatives can see us and interact in a very constructive approach.

What are your plans for the future?

For now, our aim is to build two traditional houses for mushroom production and to start planting the indigenous trees that we’ll implement in our agroforestry fields. We’re going to introduce 1,000 fingerlings by next week. We also want to increase our fish production, which provides a quarter of our needs in fish, so we’ll continue with the fishpond we have. Finally, when we have enough funds, we’ll start renovating the three other fishponds that are now out of use.

by Vincent Magnenat

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