Quakers in the World

Quakers in the World

SEEDS, a non-profit venture in Kenya


SEEDS is short for Seeds Educating Every Deserving Student. Its fundamental purpose is to provide funds that will help to enhance the quality of education in the Quaker Schools in East Africa.  It is a non-profit enterprise based on maize farming.  The growing of large acreages of corn (maize) is a stable and profitable form of agriculture in Kenya. 100 acres of farmland have been leased in Western Kenya, and the project will run for ten years in the first instance.  SEEDS is being led by John Muhanji, the director of Friends United Meeting Ministries (FUM) in Africa, and is run from FUM’s headquarters in Kisumu, Kenya.

Currently, there is no reliable funding source or budget for educational initiatives among the Quaker schools in Kenya. The government has limited funding and even this funding is not evenly distributed. Any educational efforts such as the peace curriculum projects in the primary and secondary schools are limited in scope by the necessity to rely solely on US donors for funding. The donor base and funding are often limited and projects cannot effectively move forward while funds are being raised. Parents and the community contribute, but much more is needed. The SEEDS plan is intended to provide a stable funding source, which could fund specific education projects in the Quaker schools as these are needed. The vision is that the Quaker schools will become leaders in school improvement throughout Kenya and East Africa.  SEEDS funds would be able to address some of the gaps in the existing funding structure, and assist with identifying key needs for school improvement and quality education.

The vision for the SEEDS project was conceived in discussions with John Muhanji and American Quaker visitors to Kenya in 2009-2010. The visitors had observed that there were many educational needs within the Quaker schools. They wanted to identify ways of meeting these needs in order to improve the quality of the Quaker schools for the children they serve, Quakers and non-Quakers alike. As the brainstorming sessions progressed, it became evident that even a small agricultural enterprise could provide some of the funds for this.

FUM Board decided to make a loan to its Africa office in Kisumu, Kenya, to provide start-up capital for SEEDS. 100 acres of land was purchased, and a further 100 is in prospect. A Board of directors was set up to oversee the project, and advise on priorities for work in Quaker schools.

There are many possibilities, including:
  1. Support for the secondary and primary peace curriculum initiatives, including training for school leaders and teachers of the curriculum
  2. Funding for efforts promoting academic excellence
  3. Professional development for teachers on a range of professional and subject topics
  4. Training in peace and conflict resolution for teachers and students
  5. Computers and Internet connections for schools
  6. Quaker studies programs for schools and their communities
  7. Business ventures which would involve the school and community  (one school has already started a bakery which could be expanded to provide more revenue for the school)
  8. Expanding animal or agricultural resources to benefit the school and community, and vocational training associated with this
  9. Textbooks for each student (most students have to share at present)
  10. Additional literacy resources
  11. Creation or expansion of libraries on campuses
  12. Scholarships for documented orphaned students

These activities will need coordinating and managing by an education professional, and an education secretary is to be recruited in 2012, based in the Kisumu office. Start up funding has come from British Friends, but SEEDS will take over when funds permit. SEEDS will fund the costs of workshops and other activities from the outset.

A further benefit of SEEDS is the employment and training it can provide. At a time when there is much youth unemployment, SEEDS is providing work and entrepreneurial skills development that may well lead to further enterprises being established, which in turn will provide employment for others.
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