Feed the Future
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Happy Campers: Growing Agricultural Leaders in the Community

The following blog is part of a series intended to share experiences of U.S. agricultural educators with a global audience. For more information about the Ag Educators Corner blog series on Agrilinks, click hereThis post was written by Madison Taylor and Dr. Nina Crutchfield and submitted by the InnovATE project.

Photo: 2016 Gayaza Farm Camp participants and staff.

The notion of camps and camping elicits fun memories of good times with family and friends, but what if the positive energy of camping could be harnessed for purposeful educational outcomes? One camp in Uganda is doing something amazing: creating future agriculturalists and community leaders. Gayaza Farm Camp has begun a positive change in growing agricultural leaders with a hands-on, entrepreneurial approach for students. With the help of industry experts, educational staff and agriculture professionals, students attending Gayaza Farm Camp have the unique opportunity to make a positive difference in agriculture and become leaders in their communities.   

Gayaza High School (GHS) is the oldest all-girls boarding school in Uganda and is situated just north of the capital city of Kampala. Founded in 1905 by Christian missionaries, the school mirrors the British education system with seven years of primary and six years of secondary education. GHS is divided into four years of lower secondary classes (equivalent to grades 7-10 in the U.S.) and two years of upper secondary classes (representing grades 11-12). The residential campus is full of focused students and innovative teachers, surrounded by all aspects of agriculture.

Over 82 percent of the workforce in Uganda works in commercial and subsistence farming. In an effort to innovate the industry and engage the next generation of producers, the Ministry of Education is developing initiatives for youth in agriculture. The staff at GHS recognize opportunities abound for their students in this sector. Teachers have been actively engaged in the process of drafting the initiatives. This process has led the staff to utilize their school farm as a learning laboratory for all students. This is a dramatic paradigm shift from a school farm’s primary purpose of supplementing the school’s budget.

Teachers are using the farm to deliver lessons in English, math, biology, technical drawing and production agriculture to give context beyond theory. Lessons are being taught on the farm, exposing students to the science of agriculture, entrepreneurism and the lure of the agrarian lifestyle. With a threefold desire to engage industry experts, connect with more students, and replicate this educational environment in schools throughout the country, Gayaza Farm Camp was conceived.

Initiated in 2014 and using the GHS farm and campus, Farm Camp provides experiential learning opportunities for students, teachers and community members to acquire agricultural skills, witness sustainable production, connect with agricultural entrepreneurs, and engage with industry leaders. Adult leaders are very conscious of designing experiences to inspire students to become producers and future leaders. Since inception, over 35 Ugandan schools and more than 500 students and teachers have participated. 

The five-day event includes keynote speakers, agricultural competitions, technical demonstrations similar to many U.S. 4-H and FFA camps, expos and fairs. The event creates a shared sense of unity and excitement for agriculture. Living on campus, participants experience the life of an entrepreneurial farmer, complete with 5:00 a.m. milkings, while learning daily care and tasks associated with cattle, hogs, chickens and rabbits.  On the other side of the farm, participants are introduced to fruit and vegetable production, growing and use of native plants and sustainable farming practices for a small plot of land.

Farm Camp engages community members including veterinarians, local farmers, agriculture ministry officials, horticulturalists and university professors. The volunteers spend time working with the GHS Young Farmer Club members to develop lessons and practice co-presenting. The GHS Young Farmers are group leaders and “experts” answering questions as they move participants between workshop stations.

Events such as these occur around the world and ignite a passion for agriculture for everyone, including young and old, novice and expert, student and teacher. The GHS Farm Camp truly is planting the seeds for growing tomorrow’s leaders in Ugandan agriculture and society.

View the 2016 Farm Camp summary report here.

Madison Taylor is a junior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she studies agricultural communication, agricultural education and international agriculture. Dr. Nina Crutchfield is an experienced agricultural educator now working as a local program success specialist with the National FFA Organization.

This blogging series on Agricultural Education is curated by the PSU Global Teach Ag! Initiative and the Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education (InnovATE) project. To learn more, visit: http://aese.psu.edu/teachag/global. Questions or ideas to collaborate? Email teachag@psu.edu.