Presentation Primary School: Trees around our school

A group of students from classes 1-6 from Presentation Primary School learned about the different trees that are found near our school. Our teacher David was telling us about the uses that these trees have.

The trees that we talked about were: Jatropha, Mahogany, Fig tree, Shea tree, Neem, Dawadawa. Red and yellow berry trees.

Jatropha is a plant that can be used to produce oil. Mahogony tree has very hard and beautiful wood and therefore is used for carpentry, but besides that it also has medicinal value in easing stomach pains. Neem tree is also used as medicine to lower fevers. Dawadawa tree fruits are very nutritious and we use it in many dishes (like soups, stews and rice dishes).

After seeing all the trees we went to the library and everybody chose one tree to draw. We made picture of the trees and wrote uses of them next to our drawings.

National Farmer’s day and Harmattan

Logre Primary School’s headteacher Solomon and Mondo teacher Prosper decided to organize the food project one day before the annual Farmer’s day. This is a public holiday in Ghana and celebrated every first Friday in December, this year on 4th of December.

The tradition of celebrating this day and started in 1986 as a recognition of the important role farmers and fishermen play in the national economy. During that period, agriculture formed about 30%, one third of the country’s GDP. Two consecutive years prior to the first Farmer’s Day celebration, the country had suffered severe drought and wild bush fires, so the agricultural sector needed a boost of moral. So the second purpose the government had was to encourage and motivate the farmers to produce more. (GraphicOnline)

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Local family farming in their garden near Logre Primary School

This day is a vacation day for all workers and the whole public sector, a day off to enjoy literally the fruits of their own input. The best farmers and fishermen are nominated for prizes and they receive high recognition. The first best farmer received two machetes, a pair of Wellington boots and a preset radio (GraphicOnline), but nowadays the prizes are bigger and bigger. In 2015 the winner was entitled to a house and also took home a huge sum of money, a laptop and a car (Ghanaweb).

Every year the celebrations take place in a different region and city. This year it was special, because the 31st National Farmers’ Day celebration took place in Upper East region (UER) in Bolgatanga which is the closest bigger city to Kongo village. The theme of 2015 was Transform Ghana – Invest in Agriculture and almost 78 people were honored altogether (Ghanaweb). Bolgatanga is the town where Solomon lives and all Kongo was talking about the big event. The prominent people and elders were all invited to attend the celebrations.

The positive side of having the event carried out in Bolga was that the whole country turned their eyes towards their region. Upper East is the poorest of regions where the nature is the most severe and the famine and lack of education is the most prominent. However this was their occasion to show the hospitality of the locals and their warm hearts and positive assets.

The UER exposed the people of coming in to the agricultural potentials of the region and farmers got well informed about the eco-system, soil types as well as the weather and climatic conditions of the region. The winner of 2015 pointed out  the hospitable nature of the people commending them for their religious tolerance. (GraphicOnline) This is one of the aspects one could really feel coming to Bolga, Kongo or Logre site.

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Dried and burned savanna near Kongo

The period that Logre organized their food project was already the Harmattan season. The most flourishing rainy season came to end at the end of October, in November the surrounding sites started to dry up. In December it is when the crops really start to lack and the famine sets in.

The Harmattan is a dry, dusty strong wind that blows from the Sahara from December to February. It appears like fog but it is dust and the dust is so dense that it covers the sun. Some people could even describe it as pleasant because the small particles of sand dims down the heat coming from the sun. But for the locals it causes problems from drying the land completely to drying themselves: skins starts cracking and people suffer from occasional and sudden nose bleeds. Shea butter is the best moisturizer for dried skin and lips. (Easytrackgahan) Remind yourself how Sekoti Primary School prepared shea butter last year.

In 2015 the Harmattan started to unusually early.This is one of the consequences of the climate change. The result? The farmers are fearing that  the Harmattan could dry up cocoa seedlings but Ghana is one of the two biggest cocoa producers in the world.

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Lore PS Students reciting the songs

So due to Harmattan, it was rather difficult for the school to organize a preparing of the food or show the harvesting. They idea was to show the readers of the foodblog the local culture through some farming songs. The first step is that the group headed to the garden of the PTA chairman Mister Naab Dok. His family was planting pito (vegetable used not only to produce local alcoholic drink but the leaves are also used as vegetable in soups and stews) and tomatoes, even his smallest children were at the site with parents.

The garden was small but lovely, the had used millet sticks to fence it and protect from wild animals. On the way there we could really feel the Harmattan blowing. The headteacher was even about to cancel the event in fear of having bad audio quality and visibility. We still carried the project out in order to honor the preparation work the pupils had done but sorry for any inconvenience the sound may cause. Still, the picture depicts well the seasonal aspects.

The pupils were grouped by their duties, some of them were planting, some carrying water and watering, some accompanied with singing to keep up the good moral and the rhythm. Afterwards the group came together and started dancing to celebrate the end of work.

The headteacher translated the songs sung by the children. They were manly about honoring the works the parents do (the parts of all the participating pupils are farmers). Children need to respect the family and help out with farming activities. Sadly, it often implies skipping school for days do to the planting or the harvesting. Still, having food on the table is the second most important thing to survive after having clean water to drink.

As in the Northern part of Ghana the farming can only been done when the water is present, during the rainy season, parents are looking out for alternative ways of providing for their families. So the often crack stones or go mining gold to earn their living. The translations of the songs and the seasonal aspect of farming is also explained by the headteacher.

Sources used:

Sugarcane or maize? A challenge for kenyan farmers

Kenya’s economy is dominated by agriculture which is also the largest contributor to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP). But at the same time only around 15-17% of the land has sufficient fertility and rainfall to be farmed and only 7-8% can be considered to be first-class land. Kenya is a leading producer of tea and coffee, one of the biggest producer of sugarcane as well as the third-leading exporter of fresh produce, such as cabbages, onions and mangoes. Small farms grow most of the corn and also produce potatoes, bananas, beans and peas.

Farming sugarcane has been an essential activity in Kenya, especially in Western part of Kenya and also in Shianda village as there is a local sugar factory in Mumias. Sugarcane is mainly planted by farmers who deliver it to the processing factory after maturity. For farmers it has been convenient to grow sugarcane because the factory has been providing seeds, harvesting with transport and even incentives. But nowadays the factory is struggling with payments and because of increased costs of input, lack of incentives from the factory, farmers are withdrawing from growing sugarcane replacing it with maize and vegetables. Which is a good development as sugarcane’s growing cycle is around one year and people don’t use it for their own consumption. Now sugarcane farmers are facing a serious problem as they need to invest into inputs and fertilizers but have to wait a year before harvesting benefits and in addition the factory is delaying with payments resulting often with negative returns. As most of the farmers are small-scale, this kind of situation is increasing poverty and food insecurity in the area. So replacing sugarcane with maize is rather recommended. Maize can be harvested twice a year and people are using it for their own consumption. But even growing maize has its own disadvantages. When there is a dependable marketplace for sugarcane in the face of Mumias Sugarfactory, there is none for maize. Small-scale farmers in Shianda have two options when selling their maize, whether to sell it during the harvesting season, when the price is often below the net value or store their maize to even out fluctuations in market supply by taking produce off the market in surplus season and releasing it back onto the market in lean season, receiving higher price but suffer heavy losses, both of which are detrimental to the farmers. Furthermore small-scale farmers in Shianda village are lacking dependable marketplace and have no bargaining power over the price on selling their products. At the same time due to low job opportunities and lack of education in the area, for most people farming is the only option to earn some income. Farmers are facing many challenges to ensure food security for their families.

maize
maize
sugarcane

Like many other African countries Kenya is also struggling with desertification. The majority of local farmers use chemical fertilizers. Natural fertilizers such as compost are often preferred to chemical fertilizers. Also, the overuse of chemical fertilizers can have negative effects on the land. For the past twenty years the rains have not been very reliable. The prevailing dry periods have created food supply problems. The rains have been unfavourable to basic crops such as corn, potatoes and beans and food insecurity has resulted. Many local farmers are obliged to buy food to meet the needs of their family because the soil has become completely sterile.

Drought has eroded the country’s natural resources to an extent that they are inadequate for production and support for livelihoods. Droughts have accelerated soil degradation and reduced per-capita food production. In the last decade alone, four major food crises have all been triggered by desertification. Desertification processes have led to massive internal migrations, forcing communities to flee their localities to already-overcrowded areas thereby causing disputes over scarce resources use. Although the government has put in place National Food Security and Nutrition Policy, the quantity and quality of food available, accessible and affordable to all Kenyans, achieve good nutrition for optimum health has remained a challenge.

Text by Kaie Laaneväli

Materials:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_in_Kenya

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/lifestyle/article/2000086318/rapid-desertification-in-kenya-threatening-livelihood