Cover Image
close this bookPrimary School Agriculture: Volume I: Pedagogy (GTZ, 1985, 144 p.)
close this folderPart II: Teaching methods
close this folder4. Outdoor activities
View the document(introduction...)
View the document4.1 Farm work
View the document4.2 Observational activities
View the document4.3 Experimentation

4.1 Farm work

4.1.1 Planning Farm Work

Planning farm work most of the time relies on the long standing experience of farm masters and headmasters. Sometimes this can lead to difficult situations, for example when planting time comes before the tilling or fencing is completed -which in turn means that planting is delayed and the school may be unable to harvest in time. The following shows how labour records of school farms can be used in order to plan school farm work efficiently. Figures are about a school that had an old coffee plot which was to be converted into a maize farm.

The total farming area was 6800 m².

Table 1 (p. 72) shows the labour distribution from February 17th to June 1st. Figures were compiled from the farm diaries kept for each class. Table 1 is a summary of work done. But it differs from the form used by the school. During periods when the demand for labour was high, it shows the amount of farm work done everyday. This is necessary since it is the only way to analyse in detail the difficulties encountered during this time.

Looking at table 1, what do we see?

1. Getting the farm started took about 300 hours, i.e. fencing and taking out the stumps of the old coffee trees. This accounts for 15.1% of all the work done on the farm. In subsequent years, of course, this labour will not be required.

2. The grass cut down during clearing was removed from the farm altogether. This is necessary if the whole farm area is being tilled. But when planting on the flat, one can reduce the tilling by following a minimum tillage approach as recommended by the IITA (International Institute for Tropical Agriculture) at Ibadan, i.e. tilling only the narrow strips where the maize seeds will actually be planted. The area between the rows of maize can be left untilled. This means that the rows for planting have to be pegged, ropes are used to mark the straight planting lines, and the grass is removed to the strip between them. This would save 520 hours or 16.1% of the total labour time since raking and gathering the grass is no longer required. But it does not only save labour. The grass left between the rows acts as mulch, keeping the soil temperature low, retaining moisture, and slowing down the growth of weeds.

3. Tilling only the actual planting area and leaving the space between the rows untilled reduces the amount of labour required considerably. Tilling needs a lot of labour (521.5 hours = 26.2%). Moreover, it has to be finished early in order for planting to start on time. Therefore, if labour can be saved here, it would be particularly welcome. Tilling using the minimum tillage approach would require only 323 hours. saving another 198.5 hours or nearly 10% of the total working time.

4. You will immediately see that the work could have been better distributed over the time available:

- All the work for fencing should have been done in February and early March. The way fencing was timed has a big disadvantage. It was interrupted by planting, so that the fence was left unfinished till the last day of March, because catching the correct planting time was more important. This left the farm very vulnerable during the early growth period of the maize.

All jobs not directly related to farming a particular crop should be shifted to the dry season.

- Tilling should have started earlier. This would have been possible had fencing been completed earlier, and had the school concentrated all its efforts on planting. The time taken for planting was 225 hours. Had tilling been finished on or before March 18th, the day when planting started, all the planting could have been done on that day as 238 hours were effectively spent on the farm on March 18th. The minimum tillage approach would have permitted this. Had all the time spent on raking and removing grass been used for tilling, the farm would have been almost completely tilled on March 1 8th without any other change in work organization. The first weeding is very important for maize and should be finished 10 days after planting, but in this case weeding was late and too prolonged.

- As far as possible, several different operations or jobs should be done on a farm at the same time rather than just one. This means you can have several small groups doing different jobs rather than have all the children doing the same work. Supervision is easier, and groups can take turns at each other's work.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 2 shows how farming could have been organized along these lines:

- Clearing and fencing done at the same time,

- Tilling starts in the first days of March while fencing comes to an end in the second week of March. At planting time the whole plot has been tilled. As tilling is reduced because of the minimum tillage approach it could be done even faster than shown in table 2, let us say in five periods of farm work. This would have the advantage that planting could start as soon as the first rains fell. After planting, very little work is left. The time could now be used for lessons on the farm work done so far and for observations with the pupils, e.g. on maize germination (during the first ten days after planting) and on the growth of maize after the first weeding. Interplanting beans with the maize would not have changed the amount of labour needed. Planting might have taken a bit longer, and harvesting the beans would have come earlier than the maize harvest. Table 3 shows the distribution of labour week by week both in terms of pupil hours and as percentages, for three different situations:

- First, there is the real situation as recorded in the farm diaries and shown in table 1.

- Second, there is the situation where the labour has been planned properly using the minimum tillage approach as shown in table 2.
- Third, there is a situation which assumes that the farm is already fenced or does not need a fence. This last situation needs only 1186.5 pupil hours as compared to the 1988 hours actually worked on the farm.

Table 3: Labour Distribution for Three Different Situations



Actual Situation
(Table 1)

Planning With Fencing
(Table 2)

Planning Without





hours %



































































After April














4.1.2 Important Rules for Practical Work in the Farm

Certain principles should be respected during actual farm work.

1. Make sure that all pupils in a class participate in school farm work. This is a question of justice and equity towards pupils, and a matter of honesty for the staff. Staff members should be discouraged from sending pupils to work in their houses or on their private farms during periods of school farm work.

2. Make sure that there are enough tools and equipment. Make a stock of simple equipment for the school, e.g. sticks marked to show decimetres, ropes made from local material, wooden pegs for marking, etc. Tell pupils in advance what they will need so that they do not forget to bring it to school: hoes, cutlasses, rulers, pens, samples of leaves or plants, etc.

3. Define the tasks to be performed clearly. Make sure that pupils know what they are expected to do. Task descriptions and instructions must not be vague but should indicate the exact method to be followed e.g. for clearing or planting. Part of the instruction is a demonstration by the teacher which will have to be repeated several times for small groups of pupils. If the demonstration is given to the whole class, some pupils might not be able to see properly.

4. The work area for each pupil or team should be well defined. Pupils must not be overworked by having too large an area assigned to them. But they must not be in each other's way either. They might injure each other with the tools, and their work will certainly be inefficient if they are too close together. If the work is heavy, the pupils will take it in turns, with one or two working at a time and one or two resting at the same time. For clearing, there is a simple way of avoiding the pupils being too close to each other: the pupils line up in front of the plot to be cleared; they stretch out both arms and adjust their positions in such a way that their fingertips just touch; if there are more pupils than is required by the length of the plot, they get other assignments.

5. Whether work is done in teams or by each pupil on his own, the teacher should always be present to supervise the pupils' work, give guidance and correct mistakes where necessary, and to do part of the work himself, possibly working with several teams in succession. This will motivate the children. Teachers should never assume pupils to master the farm work just because they have been told what to do and have seen a demonstration. Especially where new activities or new methods are being learnt there is need for continuous supervision and active guidance.

6. Labour records should be kept very carefully. They are a source of data for classroom work and for later planning. They also show the staff whether a certain crop was farmed efficiently or not.

7. School farm work should never be used as a punishment since it will create or reinforce a negative attitude towards farming. We sympathize with teachers who sometimes feel they ought to have something resembling corporal punishment. But to use work as a substitute for beating is certainly no solution.

8. Some people may be afraid that school farm work will take up too much time and push other activities aside so that pupils do not learn enough English, Mathematics, Religion or other classroom-based subjects. This fear is unfounded. The sub-units we have proposed are dominated by classroom work. Furthermore, provided the weekly teaching time is used carefully, more learning could take place than is the case today. The above example on planning a maize farm indicates that work requirements are much lower than is currently believed. The surface of 6.800 m² required a total of 2012.5 pupil hours from clearing to the time just before harvesting. Class 7 worked occasionally on the plot. If their contribution is subtracted from the total, it leaves 1777.5 pupil hours for 121 pupils. This means a total of about 15 hours of work per pupil for the whole period, or between just 1 and 2 hours per week. More time is unnecessary if the time used is well spent. There are times, of course, where more hours per week will be necessary, e.g. just before and at planting time, or at weeding time. But this can be made good during the long periods of maize growth. Furthermore, minimum tillage and a more efficient labour organisation will almost certainly reduce the total amount of work required.

- All pupils in a class should participate in farm work.
- There should be enough tools and equipment.
- The tasks would be defined clearly.
- Work areas should be well defined.
- The teacher should always supervise and do part of the work himself.
- Labour records should be kept very carefully.
- School farm work should never be used as a punishment.
- Other subjects will not be neglected, if planning is well done. There will be mutual reinforcement, instead.