Maria Loigero stands in the shade of the bright green corn stalks—it’s a few months before harvest, but already Maria and her friends can’t touch the tops of the plants when they stretch up on their toes.
The crop may tower over the Grade 6 student, but it can’t hide her enthusiasm: “Whenever we harvest it makes me proud to see that what I helped plant will feed all of us.”
Maria attends Esinoni Primary School in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, and the 11-year-old leads her class in farming duties, helping with watering, weeding, planting and harvesting. In addition to corn, the school planted a vegetable garden to grow cabbages, carrots, onions, kale, and very recently, tomatoes—each ingredient essential to the school’s meal program.
WE partnered with Esinoni in 2014 and immediately started building new classrooms and working on a clean water system for the community and school. The garden was first sown in 2015 when the primary school began its boarding program for senior students in Grades 6 to 8. And one key ingredient to its success would be feeding those students.
Today, the garden feeds young minds as much as it nourishes bodies, as students learn new skills. Each senior class is responsible for duties on alternate weeks. Last week, Grade 7 class prefect, Kennedy Imoli, lead his peers in pruning the kale crop. Maria is up next week, when her class will transfer seedlings from the nursery to the kitchen garden. Everyone is looking forward to the corn harvest at the end of July, when the crop will be turned into the Kenyan staple ugali, a favourite starch at dinnertime.
WE correspondent Zeddy Kosgei spoke to student leaders Maria and Kennedy about their garden duties and the farm’s significance to the school.
WE: The school has obviously been busy with the farm this year! Tell us what the students are responsible for.
Maria: We take turns planting, weeding and watering the vegetables. When the corn is ready, the entire school will help in harvesting. We usually spend time at the farm in the evening after classes.
WE: Why is the farm important?
Kennedy: The farm is important because we get fresh food from the farm. It also reduces the school fees that our parents have to pay. They don’t have to pay for our food because we get it from the farm for free.
Maria: The farm is also helpful because I can see the plants and weeds that we learn about in science class. It’s helping me to understand the topic of plants more.
WE: What else has working at the farm taught you?
Maria: We have learnt the value of hard work. We know that if we don’t take care of the farm we won’t have anything to eat. It teaches us responsibility.
WE: What’s the best part about working in the farm?
Kennedy: It’s fun because I get to do it with my friends. We do things like weeding and watering together.
WE: And finally, what’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not in class or helping with the farm?
Maria: I like singing. When I’m not in class I like spending time with my friends, reading story books.
Kennedy: Playing football with my friends.
Interviews have been condensed and edited, translated from Swahili.