After the founding of Bethlehem Home Kouko Academy, it was clear that the school required a stable food source to nourish its expanding student body.
To meet that need, Charles Tei and Habil Ogola partnered with college students and Dr. Lisa Baker to propose the construction of a large school garden whose produce would be used to make school meals. The garden would also serve as a place where Kouko students could learn from their teachers and from Mr. Tei about the principles of sustainable local agricultural production. Straw to Bread and the faculty of Kouko
Academy hope to see the garden become increasingly integrated into the curriculum of the school to pass on practical knowledge in sustainable agricultural production. Since even the orphans attending Kouko possess small parcels of land, these practices can serve the students in their own farming efforts at home.
The project proposal was accepted to be presented at the ninth annual Unite for Sight Global Health and Innovation Conference, hosted by Yale University in April of 2012. The Unite for Sight GHIC is the world’s largest global health conference, as well as the world’s largest social entrepreneurship conference, drawing leaders, researchers, professionals and students from all over the world. The presentation, entitled “Replanting the Seed: Developing a Community Garden Program in Rural Kenya” was well received, and the garden construction began in May of that same year when American students travelled to Kenya to assist in the garden’s implementation. Kouko Academy attendees and American students tilled land side by side with jembes, local hoeing tools, and sowed seeds for the first harvest.
The Bethlehem Home Kouko Academy Garden rests on a plot just off the main road, near the school. Designed to produce nutrient-rich crops, the garden is home to a variety of local vegetables, as well as butternut squash, green beans, sweet potatoes, maize, tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, and several fruit trees. Before the initial planting was complete, many community members were already flocking to see the garden and learn about its construction and composition. This confirmed Mr. Tei’s belief that the garden would serve as a valuable demonstration plot to the wider community.
So far, the garden is successfully producing food that is going towards the school meal program. As part of the vision of the school, we hope to expand the garden in the next two years to increase its size, output, and educational potential for Kouko Academy students.