Friday, January 17, 2014

Agriculture students practice adaptation skills from Joto Africa

By Bett Kipsang’

Teachers and students of Mithuri secondary school in Ol-Moran Division of Laikipia County have started making and conserving hay after reading the Joto Africa Magazine. The school’s principal, Mrs. Margaret Njoroge has known the Maarifa Centre for the last two years.

Students lift a bale of hay they have made
She found Joto Africa to be very beneficial to her as she could read many articles about adaptation measure being done by people in many other dry lands like Mutomo and Kyuso. “I have started a kitchen garden, near the school’s water tab so that we utilize waste water from the kitchen and spillovers from the tab’’ she said.

The catchment of the school is inhabited by pastoral communities who are mostly hard hit by effects of climate change. “Dropout cases in the school are common due to high level of poverty and migration in search for pasture for the animals’’ the principal said, adding that some of the families leave their school going children with neighbors as they move away with animals in search for pasture. Girls in particular are married off earlier sometimes to older men who pay cattle in form of dowry.

After reading the magazines, the principal decided to start a hay making project involving the agriculture students with an aim of empowering them to be able to encourage their families to preserve hay and leave a few cattle to support the students continue with school during droughts and when migration for the larger herds is inevitable.

The students are show how to tie a bale of hay
The principal has read many issues of Joto Africa, she remember reading about yams and cassava in Mutomo, women as key players in adaptation and effects of climate change in pastoralism, which includes issues 6 and 7 among others.

The Agriculture students have also started reading stories in Joto Africa magazine, delivered to their school from the Maarifa centre.
On Wednesday I went to the school to disseminate the Joto Africa Magazines, that is when the principal reported to me that she has mowed the whole field using a tractor and she needed skills on how to demonstrate hay making. On Friday, I demonstrated a simple method of making hay bales to students and teachers.

The method entails constructions of a rectangular shaped structure by fixing sticks on the ground, a sisal twin thread is first placed on the structure then dry grass are compressed and tied, a huge bale of hay is then removed and stored in a dry place. After the demonstration, students learning agriculture participated actively by making bales on their own.  The principal and agriculture teacher said they will organize student to continue making more bales during free time and will be stored in the firewood shade for the time being.

The project is aimed at breaking the circle of impoverishment among pastoral communities whose livelihoods are climate sensitive. Articles in the magazine have brought enlightenment and understanding of the people’s livelihood systems and hence ways to better adapt and take up opportunities to mitigate effects of climate change. While giving a vote of thanks after the exercise, a student by the name, Wilson Maina, made the rest burst into laughter when he said “from now onwards we will not be lifting up emaciated cows to stand during the dry spell’’

The youths are better placed for capacity building to become advocates and agents of change who will go out to challenge the prevailing misconceptions about their livelihoods. Participation of youths in decision making will see them shape their rights and family decision which are critical for their future and the development of their areas.
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