Crofting Connections has formed a partnership with NECOFA Kenya School Gardens Initiative, which works with rural schools and communities in the Eastern Rift Valley. It has very similar aims to Crofting Connections. This partnership echoes a wider global movement to raise the profile of local small-scale food production all over the world.
Four Crofting Connections schools have been awarded funding by the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms to host exchange teacher visits with four Kenyan schools, using food growing in the school gardens as a starting point for learning about local food production and for delivering Learning for Sustainability and Global Citizenship. Both projects recognise the need to retain population in remote rural areas, by helping pupils to acquire the knowledge and skills required to live and work in their own communities.
The project aims to establish connections between Crofting Connections schools and NECOFA Kenya schools in order to increase understanding among Scottish and Kenyan pupils, teachers and the wider community of global citizenship, sustainable development, international education and education for citizenship.
The visit by Kenyan teachers took place from May 30th – Scotland 10th 2015. In addition, we received funding from the Arkleton Trust to bring two NECOFA project staff and two community leaders to join the Kenyan delegation, which gave our Scottish teachers and pupils and their local crofting communities an opportunity to explore some of the wider community issues which both Crofting Connections and NECOFA Scotland seek to address. A reciprocal visit of the Scottish teachers to Scotland is planned for autumn 2015.
Pupils in Scotland had the opportunity to meet the Kenyan delegation and to talk directly with them about life for children and young people in Kenya. They were able to explore ways in which links can be made with Kenyan pupils to learn about global and local food systems. During the reciprocal visit, pupils in Kenya will have a similar opportunity to learn from the Scottish delegation.
Pupils are already starting to share stories and exchange knowledge about each other’s culture – learning about music, stories and dance; describing the school day; comparing school meals and swapping recipes; describing what it is like to live in a rural community and comparing their gardens.
The Kenyan delegation arrived in Inverness before travelling to spend five days working in their respective partner schools in Orkney, Shetland, Argyll and West Highland. In each area, they met local food producers, including crofters, and teachers and pupils from other schools.
They then returned to the Inverness area for a one-day conference on June 8th, hosted by Highland Council, which brought together the partner schools to share their learning with education managers and teachers from all the local authorities, as well as representatives from Education Scotland and the Scottish Crofting Federation. We are working in partnership with three of the regional Development Education Organisations and with the education services in the four local authorities in order that a wider range of schools benefits from this opportunity.
The visitors also participated in an evening discussion for teachers, senior pupils and crofters, hosted by Scottish Natural Heritage, on the role of small-scale farmers in wildlife conservation in Kenya and in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Samuel Muhunyu said:
“Co-existence and conflict are issues that can’t be ignored but unfortunately many times the rest of us quickly pass judgement that is often ill-informed. It is a subject that will enrich our knowledge and partnership especially in guiding young minds to respect and conserve natural resources while at the same time respecting and supporting livelihoods for small scale farmers who are custodians of these resources.”
The discussion was illustrated by a photographic exhibition of the iconic animals of each country – the lions, leopards and elephants of Kenya and the wild cats, pine martens and red deer of the Scottish Highlands – the scale may be very different, but their beauty and importance to the biodiversity of each country was a good context for the discussion.