Friday, October 28, 2016

DESIRE FARM – supplying food and hands-on learning

Genesis and her calf Mary
Desire Farm was established in 2009, to help provide food for the School Meals Program. The Farm has evolved tremendously over the last eight years, and its 10 acres in the Kanungu District now serve as training grounds, paid labor opportunities, a home for livestock, and a place to cultivate crops.

The animals reared there include 71 chickens, four Holstein Friesians dairy cows, and two Boran bulls. Broody hens have increased the clutch, so egg production will be at its highest when the chickens start laying eggs this December. Earlier this month, a female calf named Mary was born to Genesis (Desire Farm's first cow who gave birth last year to another female calf named Princess). More milk and eggs will help supplement student meals and earn revenue for the Farm through sales at local markets.

The crops grown there include maize, beans, bananas, kale, tomatoes, and onions. Over 95% of the maize planted in the last month has germinated, being the Farm's most reliable crop. Beans are often difficult to harvest because the crop is compromised by harsh climactic conditions such as prolonged drought and heavy rains. Nyaka Primary School and NVSS receive 70% of the bounty from Desire Farm's crops. Most of the remaining produce is sold at market and generated $292 of income for the Farm over the last three months.

Dedicated Farm Manager Richard Munyakazi works full days and sometimes into the evenings for ideal planting conditions. He is supported by two staff - one who oversees cows and the other chickens. During the busy times, 30 extra working hours a week are handled by paid day laborers who help harvest, prepare seed beds, plant, and weed. Guardians of students (mostly grandmothers but sometimes other caretaking relatives) commit to voluntarily helping the Farm for six hours a month, while students who live near the Farm are expected to voluntarily help for two hours a week during their vacations.

Volunteers tending to the farm
Desire Farm is becoming a hot bed of innovation and agricultural learning. By working on the property, local farmers are taught about seeding, transplanting, grafting, fertilizing, weeding, hybrids, and animal husbandry. Richard visits nearby villages to inform casual workers about the activities at the Farm. Students, their guardians, and visitors are also encouraged to attend experiential trainings. NVSS students help at the Farm once a week during their gardening time, and those on the vocational track may decide to invest their time in agriculture and learn by doing. Nyaka and Kutamba Primary graduates who do not attend secondary school know that they can come to the Farm to earn wages and learn how produce income from such a model enterprise.
Ideally, Desire Farm will continue to expand by adding more land for cultivating crops and rearing livestock. Even a small plot would allow the Farm to double its egg production and start growing mushrooms. Although there are significant challenges from weather and its remote location, Desire Farm will keep growing, gathering, and giving – to the community's benefit.

If you would like to make a donation to Desire Farm, to help purchase seeds, animals, and land, please visit this page. In the last section, designate your donation's special purpose as "Desire Farm and Nutrition Program." Thank you for feeding the children and their caretakers!