A strong school lunch program and education offers hope for the future
By Garrett Jewett, Farm Journal Foundation program coordinator
Nearly 20 years ago, Millicent Akinyi Obare was named principal of the Nyaminia Primary School in Yala, Kenya. When she started, she inherited a woefully inadequate school lunch program that varied in size and quality.
Children who are chronically underfed can develop debilitating mental and physical disabilities, referred to as being "stunted." Nearly 35% of Kenyan children are stunted, according to the U.S. Feed the Future.
Hungry students are more prone to attention and behavioral problems and frequently miss school. Those who did attend often left at lunch to find a meal.
To increase the long-term sustainability of the school lunch program, Obare partnered with 4-K, the Kenyan 4-H program, to involve the students and community members in agricultural and enterprise activities. There are more than 5,000 members of 4-K.
In the U.S., 4-H is celebrated for keeping youth engaged in agriculture. In Kenya, similar to the head, heart, hands and health of 4-H, 4-K stands for kuungana, which means to unite; kufanya, to do; kusaidia, to help; and Kenya. Using a 4-H enterprise model developed in Africa, the Nyaminia Primary School 4-K program is now ranked as the second best school in all of Kenya. It offers a school vegetable garden, maize plots, dairy production, forestry projects, barber shop and photocopying service.
The 4-K program provides enough food for all 920 students, subsidizes education costs of 50 children, sends excess food to areas affected by HIV and AIDS, and funds two full-time employees.
Bright futures. In November 2013, Obare and two of her students, Naiomi Atieno Ochieng and Dancan Odhiambo Inda, came to the U.S. to speak to the National 4-H and DuPont Pioneer staff
on the success of the 4-K program. The group also toured DuPont Pioneer and DuPont Crop Protection labs. DuPont Pioneer partners with 4-H in five African countries to engage youth in developing skills to address food security issues.
On a recent trip to the U.S., two Kenyan students and their principal had the opportunity to see first-hand the future of agriculture at DuPont Pioneer and DuPont Crop Protection labs. Photo by the author.
For the DuPont representatives, it was an opportunity to see how their commitment to global ag development has affected the lives of Kenyans.
For Obare and her students, it was an exciting opportunity to see technology that will likely drive productivity increases in Africa in coming years.
Despite the technological differences between the DuPont research labs and Obare’s school, it was clear that hard work and dedication are still the best ways to change the world.
To all the American youth involved in agriculture, Obare says, "You are the future—the solution to what you see as wrong with the world."