School Gardens in Kenya: our results
From mid-April through early June 2022, Nourish All collaborated with Kijana Global Innovation School to expand their environmental programming. There were two primary goals: design and build green spaces at the Kijana School; and create educational experiences for students and faculty. We collaborated with several local and international partners, and from May 5 - 30, founder Samantha Koches and board member Jessica Sun were on-site in Butere, Kenya.
Check out our Labor of Love (and Plants)
I. Design and Build of Green Spaces
We designed and installed kitchen gardens around the playground, to produce both food and an interactive experience for students. Four garden boxes, each with a unique size and design such as a three-tiered corner box, lined the playground. One serves as the nursery, where we started six different varieties of seeds -- kale, spinach, tomatoes, chili, capsicum, and onion -- all that germinated very successfully! We also planted groundnuts, garlic, kales, and ginger which have been sprouting up nicely.
In a separate area by the kitchen and playing fields, we built a brick-lined watermelon patch. In the school's dedicated farm area, Samantha, Jessica, and groundsman Ruben planted over 100 cuttings of cassava and over 200 cuttings of sweet potatoes -- for what will be a bountiful harvest in the Fall! In total, we acquired over 10 types of food-producing plants and seeds -- cowpeas, groundnuts, spinach, kale, onion, tomato, capsicum, chili pepper, ginger, garlic, watermelon, cassava, and sweet potato.
The pollinator garden was designated to one border wall of the outdoor classroom lawn, offering students a place to practically learn about insects and the importance of pollination. We sourced and planted several different flowering species to attract butterflies, bees, and flies -- roses, hibiscus, false heather, thunbergia, yarrow, and prairie verbena.
Greening the campus
Kijana's brightly colored swing set was set amongst a barren dirt patch, lending prime opportunity to green and brighten the space. Together with our local partners, Nourish All transplanted grass to serve as soft, green ground cover. We also created decorative detailing with a variety of flowers, a pollinator plant called false heather, and ornamental bushes. We lined the playground with perennial fruit bushes such as suriname cherry and mulberries and herbaceous plants such as lemongrass, so the students will be able to learn, snack, and play amongst beauty.
The central lawn which serves as an outdoor classroom area was our final focus. We created a robust design intercropping indigenous trees and fruit-bearing trees, perennial fruits, medicinals and herbs, and ornamentals. The intent was to provide shade and cooling of the campus as well as provide foods and useful plants for the students and staff. We planted 29 total trees: 19 fruit trees of 4 papaya, 3 lemon, 2 mango, 2 avocado, 2 moringa, 2 plum, 1 jackfruit, 1 guava, 1 orange, and 1 fig and 10 indigenous trees of 4 bottlebrush, 2 pine, 2 prunus, and 2 croton. We planted 10 perennial fruit bushes of suriname cherry and mulberry, which will provide fruits for years to come. We planted an herb garden of rosemary, mint, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic and spaced lemongrass around the campus for pleasant smells and use for tea. With guidance from local organization SHWARI, we applied permaculture principles of water conservation by planting vetiver grass in high-flowing water areas along structural walls and underneath water tanks in order to slow soil erosion. Lastly, with help from students in Grade 4, we lined the school fence with passionfruit vines to create better privacy hedges as well as provide sweet fruits and beautiful flowers.
II. Educational Experiences
Virtual Collaborative Workshop
We kicked off the project with a collaborative educational workshop for Kijana faculty - Jim (founder), Malack (teacher), Mercy and Prideluck (Environmental Team). Ed Chandler of Garden Creator Studio based in Sacramento, California led a 2-day workshop on landscape design principles for three Kijana staff. We learned principles of landscape design and emerged with a shared vision for the Kijana campus garden design.
While in Kenya, Nourish All partnered with local permaculture organization SHWARI, composed of 4 permaculture educators and designers named Jenipher, Moses, Moses, and Carolyn. SHWARI taught 4 separate workshop sessions at the Kijana School engaging 30 students, 15 teachers and faculty, and 2 community members. The topics included introduction to permaculture principles and ethics, soil building in Africa, companion planting, seed starting, compost, insects and pollination. We are very grateful for their sharing of permaculture knowledge and specific regional expertise!
Nourish All and Kijana organized a field visit to a local permaculture food forest and demonstration site called Balitah Ravens Farm in nearby Butula town. The site is part of Practical Permaculture Institute, led by renowned educator and practitioner Josephat Barasa (JB) who focuses specifically on creating food abundance in schools across East Africa. We chose to include students from a neighboring public institute Buchenya School to lift not only Kijana students but also their surrounding communinty. JB led our group of 32 students and teachers -- 10 students and 6 faculty from Kijana School, and 14 students and 2 teachers from Buchenya School -- on a day-long tour and educational lecture. All of the attendees left with a newfound passion for agriculture, practical permaculture skills, and full bellies of delicious food!
Hands are dirty, hearts are full
Nourish All is incredibly proud to have collaborated with Kijana on this comphrensive school garden project that will endure for years to come. We are grateful for support from our partners listed below, and look forward to visiting Kenya again soon!
Garden Creator Studio -- California-based landscape design educator and consulting, founded by Ed Chandler.
SHWARI-- organization of permaculture educators and practitioners based in Sabatia, Kenya: Jenipher Nyangah, Carolyn Ambundas, Moses Makachia, and Moses.
Practical Permaculture Institute -- permaculture education, demonstration site, and practical application focused on schools, founded by Josephat Barasa and based in Butula, Kenya.
Kijana -- education NGO founded by James Cummings, headquartered in North Palm Beach, FL with efforts focused in Western Kenya; founders of Kijana Global Innovation School.
(thank you in Kiswahili)