How Mayiga turned his school into a mixed farm

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How Mayiga turned his school into a mixed farm
How Mayiga turned his school into a mixed farm

Africa-PressUganda. In his essay, “Education for Self-Reliance” Julius K Nyerere, departed former president of Tanzania, emphasised the importance of schools providing knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will benefit the students when they go out to live in their communities.

He wrote: “This means that all schools, but especially secondary schools and other forms of higher education, must contribute to their own upkeep; they must be economic communities as well as social and educational communities. Each school should have as an integral part of it a farm or workshop which provides the food eaten by the community, and makes some contribution to the total national income.”

He went on to state: “Obviously if there is a school farm, the pupils working on it should be learning the techniques and tasks of farming. But the farm would be an integral part of the school — and the welfare of the pupils would depend on its output, just as the welfare of a farmer depends on the output of his land.” He further said that the revenue side of school accounts should include such things as income from the sale of coffee or eggs from the school farm and the value of the food grown and consumed by the students and teachers.

Model school farm

A recent visit by Seeds of Gold to Christ’s Embassy Primary School and LIA Christian Secondary School at Kasaka Village, Bukakkata Sub-county, Masaka District, clearly brought to mind what Nyerere would have wanted an African school to be.

Love in Action (LIA) is a Christian NGO which established the two schools more than 10 years ago on some thirty-five acres of land. So far nearly 10 acres are planted with coffee, cassava, and banana. The school also keeps pigs and goats.

Noah Mayiga, LIA Operations Director, told Seeds of Gold: “Most of the children in our school come from underprivileged homes and have difficulties with payment of school fees. So we came up with the idea to set up a farm on the school’s land with a view to raise some income for the school. Coffee is a good crop to invest in since there is a ready market for it and it is also a national cash crop on which Uganda depends for foreign exchange. We also thought we could teach good coffee farming practices to the children so that when they leave school they can turn into good coffee farmers. We also hope to teach good animal husbandry practices,” he adds.

Noah Mayiga inspects a pigsty at LIA Christ’s Embassy Primary School.

Livestock

The pigs numbering about 25 and perhaps as many goats are meant to provide some meat for the school children and to be a source of organic manure for the farm. He said that one of the main reasons for establishing the farm was for the school to produce its own food. He further disclosed that the school management is also considering going into poultry keeping as another income generation project for the school. “We have the land and the water,” he said. “The idea is really to reduce dependency on donated funds as an NGO. At one stage in the future we may not be fortunate to get funding but if we have our own source of income then we will be self-reliant.”

Source of food

The other reason he gave for establishing the farm is that it is a cheaper source of food for the school.

A walk around the farm revealed that coffee is in some parts intercropped with banana plantains and cassava all of which are growing with great vigour. But it is the trick used to keep the crops so good looking during the ongoing drought that puzzles nearly every visitor.

The coffee trees which were planted just a year ago have already born fruits and the school will be harvesting coffee in June next year which is really amazing.

Normally it takes two or three years for a coffee tree to begin fruition. The young trees at the school farm look so green and strong despite the prolonged severe drought that most farmers are worried about.

Agronomy

“I was born in a coffee growing area and I have a bit of knowledge about coffee husbandry,” says Mayiga. “I have been using some of that knowledge to supervise work on the farm. When the holes were dug we filled them up with soil well mixed with cow dung. And even at the time of planting we applied some artificial fertiliser that was advised by the area agricultural officer. Another thing is that we went for the best planting material; Robusta coffee that is high yielding and also known to be resistant to the dreaded Coffee Wilt Disease. Then we set up an irrigation system so that in case of drought we don’t lose our crop.”

Kasaka village is not so far away from Lake Victoria and at the school it was possible to drill underground water from a depth of just 60 feet.

Mayiga explains how a log will support the mature banana from falling.

The water is pumped into a tank placed some ten metres above the ground from which it flows into tubes that lead it to smaller tanks located across the coffee plantation. “We have been applying from three to four watering cans to each coffee tree at least once every week,” he explains. Another striking feature of the young coffee plantation is that it is almost entirely free of weeds.

Yet due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic lockdown there were no students at the school. “I don’t want to give you the impression that our students will be spending all their school time working on the school farm. We will still use some labourers even when the schools reopen. The students will only work on the farm as learners following a particular timetable that gives them ample time for all the other academic subjects. They need the farming skills just like all farmers’ children take up farming skills from their parents. Right now throughout the entire Covid-19 pandemic lockdown the schools are closed but we have continued to pay a monthly salary to the teachers. We have agreed with them to do some work on the farm and they are doing a great job. It is one of the reasons we have no weeds here.”

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