How farming has supported families to overcome the challenges of COVID-19

Gold Award participant, Gregory, from Kenya was lured into taking up the Award because of the Adventurous Journey. Little did he know, he would discover and enjoy so much more than this.  

21-year-old Kenyan farmer nominated for the Duke of Edinburgh award

Tell us about your Award – Why did you start your Award?

I learnt from a friend about the Award in the University. I was told about how they go on Adventurous Journeys – that’s what pulled me into the Award, only to learn that I was expected to do so many other things!  The opportunity to hook up with friends was also encouraging.

What do you like about the Award?

That I get recognised for doing something I like, getting the certificates is a good motivation to do the Award. I feel accomplished every time I learn something new of my choice, when I take regular exercises, the friends I make, and giving back to community.  In the University, those in the Award are very cooperative and have become friends, we do a lot of things together, even outside of the Award.

The way I get to do many different things has made me a better person.  I am a better organised person, I plan and track what I am doing, I have become a more creative person because of the demand the Award puts on me.

That I am on ORB (Online Record Book), has also given me an interest in the digital world.

What do you find challenging about the Award?

To do the Award every week, for the required hours is challenging. The time demand to do all the activities and still attend classes and other activities that require my attention.

Getting the discipline to do activities I committed myself to,  the personal commitment that I have to stick by even when no one is following me up.  I have to motivate myself and find a reason to do the activities.

What sort of challenge are you facing in your day-to-day life as a result of COVID-19? How has this impacted you?

Because schools have closed, I have extra time that I had not planned for, so I have found myself idle with not much to do. I find myself worried and thinking more about my future, and whether I will complete school.

The University has suspended classes, it means my Course period will be delayed. This is discouraging as it has delayed my completing school and graduating by a year.

The restriction to interact with my friends whom I cannot always meet as many times as I would like, physically means spending more time at home, which is very monotonous, and the fear of contracting the virus keeps me at home most of the time.  There are low moments when I wish I could be with my friends.

Is the Award helping you with any of these challenges? If so, how?

Yes, the Award has been very helpful over this pandemic period.

Because I have to do my three activities, this is occupying quite a bit of the extra time, where I am doing farming, I am spending some time at the Community Tree project and I also play volleyball.

Although my school is being delayed, I think completing the Award while at home will also bring some sense of achievement, so it is not too bad after all.

Although my social life with my friends has been disrupted, the Award has pushed me to create new relationships, in  the community in a way I had never done.  Working with community members in my farming project and the tree planting project  has made me get more connected with them, I feel more useful and contributing to the welfare of my community.   I have never been so involved with my community the way I am now.

Gregory from Kenya

Have you had to adapt your Award activities as a result of COVID-19? If so, how?

I completed my Silver activities in February, 2020  and selected my Gold activities.  For my Skills, I started attending accounting classes offered by PASA- a students’ accounting body.  For my Voluntary Service, I planned to volunteer at the University  Library and then Skating for my Physical Recreation.

With closing of school, and to enable me do the Award at home, I had to select new activities because none of those I had selected at school was available.  I change my skills to farming, my community Service to volunteering at a community tree project and physical recreation to volleyball.

Has anything remained the same?

Yes, I have kept in touch with my Award Leader, who monitors my progress.

Have you found any interesting solutions to help you continue with your Award during COVID-19?

Yes, through engaging in skills that can be done at the comfort of my home.  For my farming Skills, I am utilising the family farm; this minimises interaction with people outside my family.

Also the skill I am learning are a continuation of what I study in school- Agribusiness management, part of which is a course on crop production.

Are you using your Award (and particularly your Voluntary Service section) to help your community deal with the challenges of COVID-19? If so, how?

Not in Voluntary Service,  but in my Skills Section,  where I have extended the activity from just learning  to also teaching my neighbours the same skills that I am learning.  This has kept the young people I am training, who are my age, busy and in the process have found a source of income.

Do you think being involved with the Award helps you and your community at this time? If so, how?

Yes, homes including my own,  that were buying vegetables are now producing their own, thanks to my farming project that has spread to several homes through the young people I train.  By extension, this is ensuring there is food security and ensuring consumption of safe and healthy food during this period. The families as also saving money as a result.

Also teaching, impacting and motivating my fellow young people in my neighbourhood on various agricultural skills I have learned helped keep them busy, and involved in more positive activities than what they would otherwise be engaged in.

Gregory from Kenya

Do you have any other comments or ideas you would like to share?

My parents are very happy with what I am doing.  They are surprised that a piece of land that was un-utilized is now productive and a source of vegetables and even source of income.  They talk about how something that started so small has become huge.  My younger siblings have now joined the project.

I feel a sense of accomplishment that I am being helpful in my community.

If I was not doing the Award, I would not be as focused, I would be spending more time watching TV and not really doing something to push me to reach my potential.

I wish other young people would find activities that they can engage themselves in during this period to impact their lives and the community while helping fight the pandemic.