Wednesday, November 21, 2007

FHF Intern Update - 10 days to go!

We visited 40 farms in Othaya last week and learned some important information that will help FHF members when they come in January. Some points I have noticed is that the milk production, per animal is on average lower then those in Wakulima. Also, only about ½ of the farmers we talked to use a teat dip after milking. Most of the farmers there feed napier grass and maize plants as the main staples of the animals diet. As well, dairy meal and pollard was fed at most farms.
This week we arrived in Embu to begin work on our final project for FHF. The Embu dairy has received funding for 50 biogas units. In preparation for the biogas, we are visiting the potential biogas farms to see how they cook now, etc. Biogas in Embu is rare, and most use firewood to cook with. Some use charcoal and paraffin. Everyone is excited about the prospect of biogas coming. Stephen and Faith, the FHF staff at Embu, are accompanying us around to each farm. They are very enthusiastic about the future of the dairy. Stephen noted that he was trying to convince some farmers in one area to grow maize as a crop for the cattle, but people in the area were very resistance to change and did not want to try anything new!
The three of us have noticed the difference in the farms and animals at the Othaya and Embu dairy, compared to those in Wakulima. The housing is especially different I found – in wakulima all farms have zero grazing units with a concrete base, while in Othaya and Embu they weren’t as common.
Today we are in Nairobi because Chelsea’s mom is coming for our last week here. We are picking her up at the airport and then heading back to Embu. Saturday we are planning a big ‘feast’ at our driver, Dominic’s house in Thika. He invited us for a dinner with his LARGE family (over 50). We are going to roast a goat and eat chapatti’s!! It will be quite the experience I’m sure!
That’s all for now - Cheers.

Julie Mutch

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Three weeks to go!

Well the last couple weeks have been very busy here in Kenya! We finished our work with the Wakulima Dairy and last week Dr. LaCroix , the dean of science at UPEI came to check up on us. As part of our internship with Students for Development, a representative from the University has to come see us! We toured him around the Dairy, went to see the biogas units, and interviewed those that will be receiving the biogas units. Dr. LaCroix also got to experience Kenyan tea ( half milk, half sugar, half tea !haha), and driving on the dirt roads when it is pouring rain!

One of the days was spent doing focus groups with farm women who ship milk to the Dairy. Dr. LaCroix accompanied us as well. We learnt SO much from them about the role the Dairy plays in their lives, why it is hard to get women to run for elected positions at the Dairy, as well as who makes the financial decisions in the family.

Here is the first group we talked to. They were all so helpful and had great responses to our questions.

At the end of the week we went on a safari to Samburu Game Park. We saw lots of elephants, zebras and giraffes, and we also saw two lions which was pretty neat.

After our safari we rode some camels.....that was fun! Except we were quite sore the next day!

On his last day here, we all went into Nairobi for a city tour. In the evening we went to the famous Carnivore Restaurant accompanied by our travel agent (whom many of you know), Henry. It was a great way to end the week!

The last few days, we have been in Mombasa for a mini-vacation! We got lots of sun and had an overall great time! The drive was long...7 hours each way but it was worth it!

Now we are into our final 3 weeks here in Kenya. Time has really flown by!

On Monday we are starting our work with the Othaya Dairy. We have between 30-50 farm visits to make. The information we are gathering will be used by FHF in the coming years.
Next weekend we are moving to Embu for our final 2 weeks!

Julie M.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Milk Run!

This week we had the opportunity to go on the milk run with the Wakulima Dairy and talk to the farmers about the impact the Dairy has had on their families and community. The run started at 11 am when we met our driver Bernard at the Dairy.
There are 2 milk runs for the dairy every day. One starts at 3am and the other starts at 11am. There are 4 truck routes, and some people that live close to the dairy take it directly there. We COULD have gone on the route that started at 3am...but I needed my beauty sleep you know! The route we took in the truck with Bernard took 4 hours and we had 30 pickups and collected 2500 litres.

Luckily it wasn’t raining so the roads weren’t terrible, but in the long rainy season (April and May) they have a big problem with the trucks getting stuck on the roads, and thus, the milk will spoil sitting in the truck. The dairy has even fixed some of the roads themselves because the government would not. Bernard told us that the Dairy has discussed getting refrigerated trucks so that spoiled milk will not be a problem.

When the Dairy first started in 1991, their first milk shipment was 35 litres from 32 members. Now, they collect 27,000 litres daily.

The 3am milking goes to the Dairy where it is cooled in the tank which was bought by Farmers Helping Farmers. The 11am milking goes directly to the processing plant, Brookside, which is about 60 km away. Before the cooling tank was added, milk was only picked up once a day because the evening milk would spoil before they could get it to the processor.
So back to the milk run.... on each truck there is a quality control person, a recorder, and a helper. They sit in the back with the milk cans. The truck has scheduled stops along the road. Everyone waits there with their pink milk production card and their can of milk. Most of them have between 5 and 10 litres of milk at each pickup. Their milk is weighed, and then recorded on their production card. The card is passed into the dairy at the end of each month and then the money is put directly into their bank account at the Wakulima SACCO .

It was really neat- everyone on the route knew who we were (the farmers from Canada), and kept coming up to us and thanking us for all the Canadians have done for them. It is one thing to see the funds that have been invested into the Dairy, but it means so much more when the people who were most affected by the improvements, personally thank you for making their lives better.

Oh, and our driver – Bernard. He has been working at the Dairy for 3 years. He was previously a driver in Nairobi for 7 years. He is at the dairy at 2am for the first milk run, and doesn’t return until 10 pm, after he take the afternoon milk to the processor. He works for 25 days, and then gets 5 days off. His family lives 10 km away from the Dairy, but he can’t live there because it is too far away and he has no means of transportation. He travels home for 5 days every month. If it wasn’t for the Dairy, Bernard would still be working in Nairobi as a driver and sending money home to his family – like so many in these areas do. Now, he can go home and see his family on a regular basis. He also contributes to the local community.

This coming week we are happy that Dr. LaCroix from UPEI will be joining us. We have lots to show him and are looking forward to his arrival on Sunday!

Until next time,
Julie Mutch

Saturday, October 20, 2007

We are working in Mukure-ini now

Hello Readers,

We are currently in Mukurwe-ini working with the Wakulima Dairy. The past 2 weeks have been relatively uneventful as we have been doing a lot of data entry etc.

Last Sunday however we attended church services at a girl’s secondary school in Meru with Jennifer. It was fun and the girls were all very interested in us. I recently (through Farmers Helping Farmers) donated funds to pay for a girl’s secondary education, and while at the church services was able to meet the girl. It was very touching.

Last Monday we came to Ishamara and to even hotter weather than Meru. We had meetings with Duncan in the beginning of the week, he is such a helpful man. We spent the next two days interviewing all the members of the board of directors for Wakulima. Regina came with us to translate and show us where to go, what an amazingly helpful woman.

Yesterday we spent the day talking to the staff, management and customers of the Wakulima Dairy SACCO. The customers are so interesting and had a lot of really good answers, and most if not all told us how thankful they were for the Dairy. When asked what impact the Dairy has had on her life one woman looked at me and said ‘’now we are full!’’ while patting her belly.

Next week we will be going to do work at the Dairy itself, as well as on a milk run, which we are all excited about. Also, we are patiently counting down the days until Dr C. Lacroix comes from UPEI (seven more).

Chelsea Morrison

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Kinyinjere Primary School

by Julie Mutch

Another week has gone by in our internship to Kenya and we spent the week with members of the Muchui Women’s Group. At the end of the week we spent the day at Kinynjere Primary School. The school is twinned with a class at Tracadie School on PEI.
The purpose of our visit to the school was to hand out mosquito nets to the special needs class, as well as the nursery kids ( kindergarten ). We handed out nets to the rest of the school 2 weeks ago. This is the first time most of them would have mosquito nets to sleep under. The kids were very excited to see us again. After we handed them nets, the children began singing for us. They were so good! Eventually, more of the children came out of their classrooms and joined in. ( I don’t think much work got done that day in class!)
During the lunch break, we passed out candy to every student at the school. They were very excited to receive a small gift! Also during lunch, we invited all the students out onto the football field and gave them a brand new football ( soccer ball to us). Last time we were at the school we noticed that they were playing football with a small piece of rubber taped together, so we decided we would get them a new football to play with at lunch. The girls played a game, then the boys. We somehow then got asked to come into a couple classrooms while the teachers were having lunch. The students asked us to teach them something. Anything at all. All they wanted to do was learn. We let them ask us questions - about anything at all and tried our best to answer them! They were very curious about the Canadian school system and how it was different, and Katie got some questions on biology as well!
In the afternoon we held a small focus group with children that have a parent in the Muchui group. There were 6 at that school. We asked them about the women’s group and how it has made a difference in their lives. Their responses were excellent, and heartbreaking at the same time. Most explained that before they had water tanks( from the women’ s group) , they would have to miss school to walk to get water from the stream, and that many times they would not have any food at their house and the women’s group would feed them. Now, because of the group, their parents are making some money, and able to plant tree seedlings and sell them. They all realized that education was the only way out of poverty for them, and that farming in that area was very tough because of drought.
This coming week we are continuing our work with the Muchui Group. It will be our last week in Meru!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ruuju Women's GRoup

Ruuju Women’s Group

by Julie Mutch
It is hard to believe that it is the end of our third week here in Kenya. This past week we were working with the Ruuju Women’s Group. The hour long trek out to Ruuju is an adventure in itself, and I must say I won’t be missing that part!
Shaad, the FHF Field officer here in Kenya that oversees the 5 projects was our driver all week. It was really fun having him join us. For anyone that has met Shaad, he is very fun to be around and always knows the answer to every question you have! I don’t know what we are going to do without him around! Though, he will be coming to check up on us as we move through the projects during our 12 weeks.
Our task at Ruuju was to gather information about the women in the group, and also to gather some information on the FHF Council. We conducted 30 interviews at member’s farms throughout the week and two members of the group acted as translators for us. All of the women we met were very kind and welcoming to us. We got to see a wide variety of farms, anywhere from 1/8 acre to 17 acre farms. We also saw how much the women’s group has done for the community. All of the women were very thankful for the group. Through the group, the women have received water tanks, farm animals, bedding, kitchen utensils, school fees, just to name a few. We also got to see what the women grew on their farms, and what they would like to grow in the future. The main reason that these women lost a lot of their crop was because of drought and disease.
As a thank you to the women for allowing us to visit their farms, we gave each woman 5 packages of seeds donated by Vesey’s Seeds in York, PEI. They were very thankful for the seeds. Though nothing was expected from the women besides their time and willingness to answer our questions, we received many gifts in return. We took home two live chickens (which I’m sure we’ll be having for supper some day soon...!), many bananas, black beans, ground nuts, papayas, avocado, squash, fresh eggs, and one member even gave us handmade fruit baskets.
The response from the women was overwhelming. Even though those these women have very little, they still were quite happy to give us so much.
Next week we are starting our work with the Muchui Women’s Group. We will be working with them for the next two weeks.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rael Kimathi uses drip irrigation to grow green vegetables and tomatoes on her small farm.

by Teresa Mellish

Rael Kimathi is a very good farmer. Her homestead has many trees and her crops always look the best in the area, even in the drought. Her farm is located beside the Muchui Business Centre and she is both a sponsor of the Centre and benefits from the technologies at the Centre. She is member of the Muchui Womens Group and her daughter, Salome, works at the Muchui Business Centre. She has donated a piece of land to the Muchui Womens Group for the “mother plot” where they have planted the improved varieties of macadamia, passion fruit, bananas and mangoes to be used for grafting.

She is now building a big greenhouse on her farm- which will use drip irrigation to grow tomatoes for sale. She is already scaling up the technology Farmers Helping Farmers introduced to the Muchui Womens Group

When I visited the Kiirua district last week, it was dry and very windy. No crops were growing and the area did not receive the last rains. Rains are expected in mid-October and always optimistic farmers are plowing and preparing the land to sow seeds before the rain.

This is where the members of the Muchui Womens Group farm. Each of the members has a water tank and most of them are hooked up to the water pipe which brings water from Mount Kenya into the area. However there is no rain water in the tanks and it is expensive to purchase water from the water pipes; it costs 250 Kenya shillings (CAD$4) to fill the 4600 litre water tank. Consequently water is used frugally and sparingly.

It was so wonderful to see some green crops amidst the otherwise brown vegetation on the three farms I visited. These farms are using drip irrigation in their kitchen gardens to grow kale for home consumption. As a result, the diets of these families includes kale, served in the form of “sukuma wiki”- much like boiled spinach or swiss chard with onions.

We also saw drip irrigation in the small greenhouses which are being used to grow tomatoes for home consumption and for sale. The variety of tomatoes has been developed for greenhouses. Rael Kimathi said she has already sold tomatoes worth 1000 shillings.

The drip irrigation pipes lay on the ground and have a small hole at spaced intervals to allow water to drip out at exactly the same place as one kale plant is located. No water is lost to evaporation.

This has been possible for two reasons. The technology and materials for drip irrigation are available in Kenya because of the large scale greenhouses used to grow vegetables and flowers for export from Kenya. When we were in Kenya in January, 2007, we found a supplier of the pipes for the Muchui Women members.

Six donors to our 2006 Christmas campaign each donated $100 for a vegetable garden for a family. We used these funds to set up the six greenhouses at the homes of six members of the Muchui Womens Group to demonstrate the drip irrigation.

As a result, all of the 62 Muchui group members now want drip irrigation!! Martin, horticulturist at the Muchui Business Centre, priced the drip irrigation materials for the members. The 1200 shillings required to purchase the drip materials was obtained by selling maize to the Business Centre and providing an additional 300 shillings each.

We continue to be amazed by the willingness of the Muchui Group members to try new technology. These women are traditional farmers who are not in a position to risk anything. There are several women in the group, such as Rael Kimathi. who are exceptionally good farmers and who are always the first to try new methods. The others see the new technology and then are willing to use it on their farms. Our lesson is that with appropriate technology and financial support direct to the farms, we can help improve the quality of their lives.

We will continue to work with these women to identify new crops and different ways for them to grow food to support their families.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bed nets given to Kenyan tudents

Bed nets were given today to 300 pupils and teachers at two schools, the Kiirua Boys Secondary School and the Kinyinjere Primary School. These bed nets will be used to cover the beds of the students while they sleep so they will not be bitten by mosquitoes which may transmit malaria to the students.

The nets were purchased from funds donated by the Summerside Intermediate School. There are 122 pupils at at the Kiirua Boys Secondary School in Forms 1 through 4 (equivalent to Grades 9 through 12 in Canadian schools) ; most stay in dormitories and we purchased double bed size, extra long rectangular nets so they would cover bunk beds. The 158 students in Standard 1 to 8 (equivalent ot grades 1 to 8 in our Canadian schools) are all day-school students, so we purchased single bed conical nets for them to use in their homes.
The nets we purchased were recommended by the Canadian Red Cross and all nets were treated with insecticide.

Chelsea Morrison, one of the UPEI interns, hands a net to a student at the Kirua Boys Secondary School.
One of the students at the Kinyinjere Primary School stands beside her bed net in her home with Jennifer Murogocho, Chairperson of the Muchui Womens Group.
A student at the Kiirua Boys Secondary School stands beside the bed net which covers 4 bunk beds in the dormitory.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bio gas generator changed our lives

Robert, one of the directors of the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Limited, told Teresa Mellish that the bio-gas generator on his farm changed their lives.

He showed us the biogas generator which was installed in March 2007. Robert farms on steep land so the bio gas unit is located above his house.

He puts one bucket of manure from his dairy cows and two buckets of water into one end of the heavy gauge plastic tube each day. He takes the same amount of composted manure from the other end of the tube each day.

The composted manure is put on his napier grass to fertilize the grass and is used to grow kale for family consumption.. The nutrients in the manure are more readily available to produce crops than the raw manure which is put into the bio gas generator.

The methane produced by the bio gas generator is carried through a plastic pipe into his house to a burner. He said they could cook food for three to four hours each day with the methane.

Robert said that his mother is delighted that there is no need to gather or carry fire wood any more for cooking food and there is no smoke in the cooking area. He told us that his mother is amazed that cows can produce fuel for cooking!!!

Robert is milking three cows now and expects a couple to freshen soon. He milks his cows three times a day. The milk from the first two milkings is sold to the dairy and the milk from the third milking is used for the family’s consumption. Robert’s farm is half an acre.

We were told that the materials for Robert’s heavy gauge bio gas unit cost 28,000 shillings ($430) and it is supposed to last for 10-15 years. (We were also told that the price has gone up to 34,000 shillings or $525). Materials for a lighter gauge unit cost 15,000 shillings ($250).

Funds for this bio gas generator were donated by the Rotary Club of Stratford.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Beef farmers talk the same language all over the world

The Ole Sein family in Kiserian, Kenya are very interested in the photos Julie Mutch of Earnscliffe, PEI is showing them of the Angus beef cattle on her family's farm.

She had just finished visiting the Ole Sein farm where they have beef cattle, sheep and goats.

Julie is in Kenya with two other UPEI interns, Chelsea Morrison and Katie Testu.

They will be documenting work on the governance of several Farmers Helping Farmers projects.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reflections from Heather

Submitted by Heather Lea
May 23, 2007

I recently returned from Kenya, where I was doing teaching practice through the University of Prince Edward Island in a rural village called Mukurwe-ini close to Mount Kenya. I have only been home for two weeks but I wish I were still there. The country is beautiful, the climate is ideal and the people are welcoming and kind. I once heard the saying "Westerners have the watches but Africans have the time," and it is very true. People are very laid back and willing to stop and help someone or chat with a stranger for over an hour before carrying on with their day.

I also had the privilege to witness how thankful Kenyans can be for donations that come from Prince Edward Island. There are little bits of the kindness of the Islanders all over Murkuwe-ini. Farmers Helping Farmers’ influence on the community, as you know, is outstanding and the hard work of fundraising in Island schools has really paid off in the community. Schools have been set up with feeding programs, have gotten money to pay an extra teacher that they were short, and have had water tanks installed because of the hard work that island students have put into fundraising for this community.

The Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty secured two classrooms by donating new doors and windows to the Mwati Primary School in Murkuwe-ini, Kenya. I taught in the Mwati school and I know how much these donations have helped the students. The classrooms are now sheltered from the elements and are secure enough to keep books in the classroom. It is currently the rainy season in Kenya and getting to school and back home is quit difficult. A teacher or student has to walk several kilometers up and down cliffs and hills in the rain and on slippery terrain to get to school everyday. Then when they reach school they have to deal with the wind and rain coming into the classroom. Donating the doors and windows has created a safe, warm and dry environment for the students and teachers.

Another donation that the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty made was a laptop computer for the head teacher of another school, the Gathukumundu Primary School. The computer traveled with us from Canada and when we gave it to Lucy, the head teacher, she was so thankful and excited that she invited all the teachers into her office to look at it and touch it. All their hands gently tested the screen and keys in giddy amazement. Then she took the computer home to practice with it before her computer lessons started the next week. She was a bit nervous to learn how to use the computer, as I remember being myself when I first started using one, but she rose to the occasion and learned to use a lot of the different functions of the computer. I think the person who benefited most from the new computer is her ten-year-old son Steven. I would teach Lucy different computer techniques during the day and then she would go home and Steven would be able to learn the lessons and then figure out many other things on his own. I was very impressed by how fast Lucy and Steven learned how to use the computer. Their school is now connected to the Internet and capable of doing so many things with their new computer.

I know that I was more warmly accepted into this community because of the kindness and dedication of all the hardworking fundraisers on PEI. When people speak of Canada in the village they only say good things and I believe that the connection between the Island and Mukurwe-ini is strong, unbreakable and filled with compassion for strangers.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Schools and First Impression

Well! The group of five island teachers has arrived in Mukurwe-ini. We are settled in at our residence unwinding from our second day at our schools. The house is quite comfortable and we are adapting quite well to the African food. Although the bugs are much bigger here than they are in Canada!

We went to the market on our way to our homestead. What an experience! The children were just as overwhelmed by us as we were by our new surroundings. The market was really busy – there are people everywhere! All the children pointed and laughed, then followed us around waiting to shake our hands and touch us. They spoke English greetings to us and were delighted when we replied.

Although we have seen pictures we were still overwhelmed when we walked onto our school grounds. Not many Canadian schools have banana trees or views of mountains and farmland. It is amazing to see how much can be done with so little – and we all wonder why we feel the need to have so much in our classrooms at home.

We were all very surprised to see how well behaved the students were and how attentive they were to their work. The competitive nature of the schools was also very surprising. It is certainly different to assign student work and know that every student in your class will complete it. Kenyan schools are extremely competitive because their marks determine the next step they will take. Their primary exams determine what secondary school they will be eligible for. Moreover, secondary exams will determine where they will go to university or college. It is not only strange for us to be in their school environment – it is strange for them to have us there. They are fascinated by us. Every time we walk into a classroom or assembly and it is not unusual for us to have many shining eyes watching us from classrooms and windows, roadsides and from behind market stands.

The community lends a hand to its schools by cooking meals for the staff, cutting grass, hauling water, and even funding teachers salaries when the school falls short. Even with their primary education being free families still have difficulty finding the funds for their children to achieve proper education. In many cases the cost of uniforms and school materials are too much for the family to afford and they are left with no money for transportation to get their children to distant, better resourced establishments where they can compete to get into secondary schools.

Canadians are held in high regard here. The Prince Edward Island community makes an especially positive impact on each of the schools we teach in. At Mwati the teachers are happy to tell us how the building where the staffroom is located was built by Farmers Helping Farmers. As well, the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty has recently supplied doors and windows for two classrooms which enable them to safely store their books and materials. At Gathukimundu there are many reminders of the connection the school has to Canada, along with many resources that have been cared for carefully because they have been donated by various groups from home. Just this month, there has been a new laptop donated by Maitland MacIsaac on behalf of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty who supplied funds for the purchase. The computer will be of great help to administration for keeping marks and records on file. They also anticipate getting internet service soon, which will help them with educational resources. Staff members at Kihuti have mentioned to Danna and Sara about donations they have received that have helped to buy resources for the school.

Last year’s teachers are remembered fondly and there is still a connection between them and this community. Meredith’s letters that were sent over to friends and past students were received with pride. As well, letters received from twinning schools were received with great pleasure and interest. When there is mention of FHF volunteers (Patsy, Teresa, Ken, John, and past teacher and veterinarian volunteers) our new friends get a look of joy that shows us how much they appreciate the kindness of Islanders.

Although we have only been here for less than a week we feel as though we have experienced it all – but we know that there is still so much to see, to learn, and to experience. This be will the adventure of a lifetime and we look forward to all that lays ahead.

Love from Kenya,
Cynthia, Sara, Danna, Heather, and Ashley J

Monday, March 26, 2007

Quick Update

Greetings from the five teachers in Kenya!

We're sorry that it has taken so long to fill you all in on the wonderful time we're having. Between our weekend excursions and technical difficulties, we've found it hard to find the time to send this update. We are placed in two primary schools and one secondary school and we are all so thrilled by the student's behaviour and the welcome we have received both inside and outside our schools.

We do have a detailed post written, but unfortunately we lack the ability to upload it at this time, so keep checking because we have a lot of interesting things to tell you. We just wanted to let you know that we do occasionally think of home between bargaining at the markets and playing with the children. Stay tuned for more from the temporary Kenyans!
Much love,
Sara, Heather, Danna, Ashley, and Cynthia

Friday, February 16, 2007

Andrea and Olivia

Beginning the journey back to Canada.

Our last farm visit was on Wednesday. We visited a small farm in the Embu countryside of a farmer who was just getting into dairy. He had 2 crossbred cows and one healthy looking bull calf. We dewormed his animals, and then along with Faith, we (Anna, Olivia and Andrea) walked to another 2 farms to deworm their animals while John and Simon waited for the other farmers to arrive. On our journey through rural Kenya, we passed a school with both primary and secondary students. They were on recess and when they saw us coming, about 200 students rushed the fenceline screaming “Hello” and “How are you?”. We shook a few hands and moved on so as not to get them in too much trouble with their teachers. The deworming at the other farms was uneventful, but at the second farm we walked to, we met a woman who is 120 years old, according to her daughter in law. It was phenomenal to see someone who has been alive more than four times as long as we have. We couldn’t help but think how much change in the world she must’ve seen. She was sitting under a tree in the shade outside, and shook all of our hands. She could not speak, but communicated with us well. She had apparently had 13 children, 3 of whom are still alive today.
After leaving the farm the departure started, but not before Daniel got stuck in the country in Charles’ broken down car (apparently due to a fuel pump problem), putting us a few hours behind schedule. We took our last walk through Embu to the Embu Dairy and said our goodbyes. We all received gifts from them for our work while we were there. We expressed our sincere gratitude and also left gifts, and loaded up in the van to head to The Chairmans House in Mukurweni for our farewell to the Wakulima group.
On arrival to Mukurweni, we were greeted by many smiling faces. We met up again with Ken, Teresa, Heather and Shaad. Many of the members of the WSHDG arrived, including our billet families, and we had a fantastic dinner with them. After dinner, we were all given kikuyu names and presented with gifts.
This experience was quite something for the three of us. We were called up to a chair in the middle of the crowd and offered 2 Kikuyu names, and were asked to choose one. Andrea chose Gathigia, Olivia chose Wanjiku and Anna chose Muringo. After having chosen our names (and usually with a cheer from someone in the crowd -because most of the time someone had a daughter or son with one of the names we had chosen), we were each given ‘kiondos’ (which are purse type baskets made of woven sisal or cloth). These kiondos are traditionally carried by Kenyan women when they hunt for jobs, are shopping or for special events. We were then wrapped in a ‘chuka’ which is a woven piece of fabric which Kenyan women wear around their shoulders for warmth. These beautiful pieces of fabric and bags were the perfect touch of Kenya to bring back home with us and exactly what we had been searching for as mementos.
We were also given WSHDG t shirts. Teresa was given a similar gift but with a bigger kiondo and chose between two Kikuyu names, one which came from a great leader and another which came from a hardworking woman, which must have been difficult for her to chose, since she has both of these qualities in abundance. John, Ken and Daniel were made elders, and were given hats made of sheepskin, WSHDG t-shirts and hats and also chose Kikuyu names.
We gave gifts for the group members, although we all feel that they deserve much more and hope that we can continue to contribute something to these wonderful peoples’ lives for a long time. We each gave our personal thank yous to the group and to those with whom we made special friendships. We told them we would remember Wakulima forever.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

All in a day'swork photos

Work at Ruuju Primary School:
Fixing a water tap
Children with new books
Hearing views rom a focus group

Monday, February 12, 2007

A working day at Ruuju primary school

All in a day’s work at the Ruuju Primary School by Teresa Mellish

Yesterday Heather, Ken and I worked at the Ruuju Primary School. This was our last day at this school of 455 students located in Marega.

Heather worked with Irene Muga, our facilitator, to hold a focus group with 10 women who are parents of some of the children at the school. She wanted to evaluate the project so far and find out what challenges there were. She found out that the parents are very happy with the project. Although we have provided the capital for the vegetable garden, the cookhouse and the water tanks, the parents provide the maize and beans for the “githeri” for daily lunch for the children as well as the sorghum and finger millet for the porridge for the primary aged children. These parents own very small shambas (1/4 acre) so they have to rent land sometimes as far away as 10 km. Since the children are being fed at school , they now can go and work at the rented shamba for the full day instead of having to stay home to prepare a mid-day meal for their children. Or perhaps there was no mid-day meal for some children. We were told that the students had to carry water to school each day; now the parents are very happy there is clean water at school.

Ken replaced all of the water taps at the water tanks. All of the taps were leaking and wasting precious water in addition to creating a muddy area around each tap. Shaad and Clement, our driver, assisted with this wet job- they were all soaked at the end of it! He also met with Damaris, the horticulturist,

Teresa handed out the books provided by a Christmas donor. The $100 donation at Christmas time paid for 40 English language story books for the children. The children were also very excited to get 5 volley balls from Heather.

When we drove away we reviewed the changes at this school. Since children are being fed at noon each day, the mean score for the national exams taken by the standard 8 students went up by 18 points last year. There is a vegetable garden demonstrating how to produce new-to-the-area vegetables - Damaris talked to two farmers in the morning explaining which pesticides to use to produce blight-free tomatoes. There is a cook house with energy efficient stoves built with funds provided by Jack Kelly where meals are cooked each day. There is clean water for the students use each day. But most important of all there is a project management committee with whom we have a working relationship- something we did not have a year ago (Colleen will be so pleased!). And there is a plan for next year.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Kinyinjere Primary School

Hard Working Kenyans

Submitted by: Ken Mellish

February 1/07

I think it is fair to say that some of us in the developed world think that if “those people would just work harder” development aid would not be necessary. Let me tell you about some Kenyans we have met since we came here.

Yesterday, we were returning from giving a seminar on feeding dairy cows and Heather was planning to visit some farms to do an impact survey to help measure the impact of our project here in Embu district. I recognized the farm of Lillian and Newton Waweru, where we had visited last year, and I thought we should stop again. Both of the Wawerus are retired school teachers and have a dairy farm with five milking cows. Mrs Waweru told me last year that she had been a long distance runner in her youth and was responsible for leading the Kenyan long distance running team to Gold and Silver medals at the Seoul Olympics! However, what really intrigued us about their farm was their flower enterprise. They are growing a lily that after it flowers forms a stalk of berries. These stalks are used in Europe in arrangements of cut flowers. They not only grow and market these flowers but have organized their neighbors to grow these ornamentals and they do the marketing. When we visited the farm about ten of the neighbors were there learning how to prepare these stems for market. With pride we were shown the top grade which is called Amber because of the amber color on the berries. The Warerus have enough bulbs to plant an acre on their farm next year and should sell $60,000 worth of stems from the acre. They have worked out the growing, harvest and marketing of this crop and have created a new industry in their area. They are not only working hard they are working smart.

Every day we meet hard working Kenyans. We are staying at the KARI guest house. KARI does agricultural research and this house is here to provide accommodation for visiting agricultural researchers. The house is managed by Nellie who also manages the catering at the KARI cafeteria. She lives in an apartment at the end of this house. She makes us breakfast before going out to work in the morning and dinner after we return. Meals are well prepared, the kitchen is clean and the house hold is well organized. She helps organize us also. Yesterday she asked me why I would go out with a wrinkled shirt when there was a pressing iron in the house.

Sportsmens Safaris and Tours provides transport and facilitates our work here in Kenya. For the past twelve years the owner Henry Macharia has us picked up at the airport, has us driven to our projects, provides banking services, and takes care of us while we are in Kenya. Typical was last Sunday when the veterinarians were arriving at 6:30 am. Henry was at the airport early, dressed in “business casual”, meeting our jet lagged group and sheperding them through customs. They bring a large amount of donated veterinary pharmaceuticals and carry more that the typical tourist. Henry goes to the appropriate Kenyan Government office and gets an import permit. He assembles this with packing lists and other paper with letterhead and stamps and uses this to impress customs officials. This all takes planning and extra work to make it happen. The drivers with Sportsmens put in long hours on incredibly bad roads. They are on time, the vans are clean and well maintained and they support us in every way possible.

These are only examples of the people we meet every day who work hard. The men and women on the farms work hard to support their families. The old women who we see bent double carrying wood by the side of the road have destroyed their bodies working hard. The women who carry milk to the pick-up point where men on bicycles take it to the coolers work hard.

Sure, we see groups of men sitting idle in the towns discussing politics and wasting the day. The level of industriousness make me think that in spite of the challenges of lack of infrastructure, governance, AIDS and weather extremes, this country has a future. As Henry told me on the weekend when we were discussing race relations: “God made us all the same”.

Kinyinjere Primary School needs a lunch feeding program

Kinyinjere Primary School, Kiirua, Kenya

By Teresa Mellish

Feb 2, 2007

The Kinyinjere Primary School in Kiirua, Kenya is twinned with the Tracadie Cross School in Prince Edward Island. I visited the school yesterday to see the water storage tank and the books that had been purchased with funds donated from PEI.

The 4600 litre water storage tank was purchased with the combined donation of the Elliot River School in Cornwall and the funds donated for twinning by the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty. The school text books were purchased as a result of a Christmas gift from the Park Royal United Church Sunday School Class shown on the opening page of our website.

This school has 166 children in classes from Primary (Kindergarten) to Standard (Grade) 8. Each of the 9 classrooms has an earthen floor and a hole in the wall for windows. Each class has wooden benches for the students to sit at- they need more benches in the lower grades because they have more students than benches.

We talked to some of the students to find out more about them. The photo with this blog is four students in Class 3 and the classroom photo is their classroom. The children are holding a coloured marker we gave to each of them. Kenyan school children wear uniforms to school.

When we asked them what they did with their free time, they told us that they all work at home on their farms. This includes carrying water from the kiosk which is piped from the top of Mount Kenya. Other chores are carrying firewood, digging in the shamba or caring for the cows as well as washing dishes and clothes. On their farms they usually grow maize (corn), beans and potatoes. Some of them had a cow or two.

They find it difficult to study at home, where there is no electricity for light. One boy told me that there was only one lamp which was kept in the kitchen. Another told me there was no paraffin for the lamp the previous evening. Instead they do their homework right after school when it is still light ( it gets dark here at 6:30 pm) or they come to school early to do their homework before school.

Many of them brush their teeth with a branch as they walk to school in the morning. They break a branch off a certain tree and it makes a good tooth brush.

When we asked about their health they all said they sometimes miss school because of malaria. Two girls had headaches and needed eye glasses- but their families could not afford them One child was HIV+ and looked healthy because she was taking drugs for it every day. Another child is an orphan and lives with her aunt w ho is bed-ridden so she does the laundry and the dishes every day. Quite a few children were coughing.

Several of the children we talked to live with a single parent. Most children had between 4 -6 brothers and sisters.

They walk everywhere.

We found out that some students have only black tea for breakfast; others have tea with milk and a few have bread with the tea. They carry their lunches when they walk to school each day; they live between one and 5 kilometres from the school. Lunch may include ugali (corn porridge) or potatoes and vegetables. Supper is often githeri ( a mixture of beans, maize and potatoes). Their food is all grown on their shambas (farms).

The school is providing porridge (made with finger millet and sorghum with some maize and beans added) at 10 am to the students in primary classes and up to class 3. They would like to be able to feed all of the students at lunch time and they have asked the parents to provide 50 kg of maize each for the program. There is an excellent maize crop here and it will be harvested in late February, so the school hopes to start a lunch feeding program in March. However they need better cooking facilities to cook the food. Now they have an open fire between two stones in an out building.

We talked to three groups (total of 10 students) – each with three or four students. Boys and girls were included and the students were from Standards 3, 7 and 8.

All wore school uniforms- which usually needed to be washed and mended- except for one older boy whose uniform was clean and in good repair. The students in Standards 7 and 8 all had shoes . Only one student in Standards 3 had shoes; the other three were barefoot and their feet looked worn and dirty.

All seemed to have good teeth which they told us they brushed one/day usuallywith a tree branch; except for two students. One girl had several teeth growing in on top of others and a boy was missing several teeth. The girl said she had been to the dentist but her family could not afford the work required. The boy was small, he did not look well and he complained of watery eyes, headaches and a cough.

The children told us that they all had missed school because of malaria- which they described included headaches and abdominal pains. They do not have mosquito bed nets in their homes. One student complained of a skin rash that was itchy.

Most of the children had bright eyes; a couple did not.

They were mostly shy but answered our questions. The Standard 7 and 8 students answered our questions in English; the Standard 3 students were not fluent in English so most of their answers were spoken in Kimeru and were translated into English for my notes.

What One Year Can Do!

Submitted by Heather Angell

February 6, 2007

When greeting friends after a long separation the question that often arises is, what have you been up to? A response often received is, well not too much. This was not the case when arriving at the Muchui Women’s Business Center. The Muchui Women are a self help group of 61 members. Muchui translated from Kimeru to English means very hard working and today was the perfect example of that.

This being my second trip to Kenya I was able to witness first hand just exactly what one year can do! When greeted by our Muchui friends I noticed instantly the amazing impact that had been created in one short year. The business center main building construction is finished and a large greenhouse stands tall outside the building despite three wind attempts to destroy it. Inside it houses prize winning tomatoes by any horticulturalist standard and the first set of grafted macadamia trees. They are a lush green in color thanks to the careful watch of FHF/Muchui women employees, Salomi Kimathi and Martin Gikunda. The perimeter of the building is protected by a wind break of pine trees and a large metal structure so the greenhouse will no longer succumb to the wind. The business center area also has several sand beds where the seedlings first hatch and a variety of vegetables (watermelon, eggplant, kale, tomatoes) growing. The vegetables are used as a source of revenue, seedling replacements, and for demonstration purposes for the whole community to benefit. The center’s makeup has blossomed into a three pronged business that includes a farm input supply store, vegetable seedling and crop sales, and of course the tree seedling production.

The entrance boasts a shiny bright stone sign that welcomes customers to the Muchui Women’s Business Center and once again demonstrates the professionalism and pride of this group. A mother plot of various fruit trees, macadamias, and vegetables have been established forming the future foundation of the business center and the key to self sustainability. All of this, where one year ago, the area was plagued with drought so severely that the women were unsure of where their next meal would come from. Now that is progress!

Like any farmer anywhere in the world you are always at the mercy of the weather. The plentiful rains must be given some credit to this outstanding progress but what is always constant with these women is their vision for the future and hope.

While conducting on shamba surveys evidence of the training was everywhere. The tree nurseries are thriving the women are diversifying into other areas such as dairy, goats, and rabbits, and growing many new crops such as pumpkins, eggplant, and carrots. The business center has been transformed, the shambas have been transformed, and the earth renewed.

All of this in one year!

The Experiences of Anna, Andrea and Olivia

Day 5
Last evening all of us had the good fortune to be hosted by a community member. We had dinner with them and spent the evening at their homes exchanging ideas and learning about cultural differences and similarities. Anna woke at 2:30 a.m. and helped Esther milk her cows by hand ( a lot harder than Esther makes it look.) and under an almost full moon. She, then walked to the milk pick-up site and awaited the arrival of the Wakulima truck at 4:00 a.m. It was a terrific experience.

Olivia stayed with the secretary of the Wakalima Dairy Group. The farm had a beautiful crop of coffee and maize, as well as passion fruit trees. There were five cows, which is a large number by Kenyan standards, and these Holstein cows were the largest Olivia had seen since coming to Kenya.

Andrea stayed with Mama Sue, a successful local farmer who has been widowed for about 10 years. Mama Sue has dairy cattle, coffee and fruit and she is looking into getting a bio-gas system on her farm. Andrea’s experience was enlightening. Mama Sue is a retired school teacher and all five of Mama Sue’s children have been to college with two pursuing Masters degrees. This is a great feat, and indicative of Mama Sue’s great success and knowledge. Some female neighbors joined us for dinner, and Andrea found them all to be very well educated, ambitious female farmers.

Today was spent much the same as the other days here. We went to a number of farms and fielded questions from the surrounding farms while sitting under a tree. We examined several sick cows, one of which had East Coast Fever which is endemic here and not found in North America so it was exciting for us --- but not so great for the cow. It is treatable and we began treatment before leaving the farm. We said goodbye to the Nairobi students and spent several hours in Karatina walking around what is the largest market in Africa. As you first enter you smell fruit and then you see many people sitting on blankets under umbrellas selling mangos, carrots, onions etc. There are also people selling beans in large 80 kg bags. Of course, there is also an area where baskets woven from sisal, wood carvings and masks are sold. We probably spent too much money but had a great time practicing our bartering skills. Before heading home we stopped in to check email at the cyber café and then picked up the most Canadian-type junk food we could find. Tomorrow we will visit another farm in the morning and then spend some time at a school that is twinned with a school in PEI. In the afternoon we head north to Meru crossing over the equator which is exciting for all of us.

Day 6:
The women in Wakalima work very hard, carrying large bundles of napier grass strapped on their backs for several kilometres. Napier grass is not native to Kenya, but because it grows easily and in abundance, it is fed to the cows here. It is similar to hay but it is fed freshly chopped for the most part. We, being the athletes that we believe we are, foolishly thought it would be interesting to attempt to carry the napier grass bundle that one of the women had brought to the seminar. HAHA... pictures tell a thousand words. Andrea and Olivia struggled first to even pick it up a few inches off the ground, then with the help of our trusty driver, Simon, we managed to get the pack on our backs, only to fall over when the weight of it was given entirely to us. The crowd of farmers that had gathered had a good laugh with us crazy Muzungos (white people).

During the journey to Meru, the change in the countryside was remarkable. It went from the very tropical, steep and hilly regions of Wakalima with lots of bananas and tropical plants to the savannah like regions surrounding the equator with cacti and animals roaming over large open ranges. At the equator we stopped to see the demonstration of the clock-wise or counter-clock-wise rotation of water which is different depending on if you are in the northern or southern hemisphere. We spent too much money at the shops there and then continued on to Meru. We arrived and were treated to dinner at Jennifer’s house. She is the head of the Muchui women’s group.

Day 7:
We spent the morning walking from farm to farm taking surveys. We split into three groups and each group went to four farms. The countryside was truly breathtaking, with fields of hand seeded corn in perfectly spaced rows mixed with sunflowers, and fields of wheat. We saw for the first time oxen and donkeys pulling carts and packed with supplies. Due to the efforts of FHF and the fact that there has been a lot of rain this year, the women, their families and farms are in better shape than they were last year. Most of them said that they have enough to eat, their crops are doing well and the Group has made a real difference in their lives. We had lunch at Jennifer’s farm and spent the afternoon walking around Meru.

This day will stay with us the rest of our lives. We arrived a hundred meters from Jennifer’s farm and were greeted on the road by the entire Muchui women’s group singing and dancing. We got out of the van and danced with them to the farm. They continued to sing to us songs about how FHF has changed their lives for the better (which we didn’t know at the time because we couldn’t make out a word of the songs they sang in swahili). They taught us how to dance to their songs, laughed with us as we tried to learn their words and steps. We then sat and talked with them for several hours. It was a fascinating exchange of cultural ideals and traditions. They welcomed us with open arms and I left today feeling a part of their circle. After lunch we all had a chance to thank one another and we exchanged some gifts. Seeds that we had brought from PEI (donated by Vessey’s seeds) I had been explaining to one of the women the kind of foods that we eat and was describing the vegetables that make up a salad. I was so happy to see that one of her packages of seeds was for cucumbers a vegetable she had never heard of but that we had just spoken about. It was truly a remarkable afternoon one that I will never forget.

Today, Teresa was interviewing some of the women in the Muchui group regarding their health, as well as that of the families. A retired nurse translated questions for us, as we sat away from the group under a tree. The questions were about the number of children in the family, how many went to school, and whether there was enough food. One woman who was interviewed really caught my attention. She had four children, all of whom were in school. She had no husband, whether he left her or died, I wasn’t sure. She was not feeling healthy, although she had enough food this year, and enough money to send her kids to school. She was grateful for the FHF work that had been done in her community, and she had ideas of how to improve her financial situation. In spite of her not feeling well, she had welcomed us in her colorful dress, singing and dancing at our arrival. Her face was bright, and she had a big smile, and shook our hands strongly as most of the other women did. She shocked me when Teresa got to the question regarding whether anyone in her family have HIV/AIDS. The woman, suddenly took a very serious face, and looked at us all individually, and after a moment of contemplation, she said "Yes". When asked for further clarification on who in her family was affected, she said "I do". I think that is a moment in my life that I will never forget. I think that moment of contemplation was her wondering what we would think of her, I don’t know that for sure, it was just the feeling I got. I was amazed as I sat there, next to a woman, who made enough money to put all of her children through school, who had enough food until the next harvest, and who seemed outwardly happy and energetic, yet she was a single mother in Kenya with HIV/AIDS.

Kenyan women work hard, very hard, harder than any group of women I have ever met, they carry things that I could never even lift - for miles, and they seem to stay positive, have faith that things will get better, and they support each other. As Canadians, we take things for granted more often than I care to admit. But to sit next to that woman, and listen to her talk about the things that she worries about in her life, and the hardships she has, yet how she continues to plan for the future amazed me. I don’t think I will ever forget today, and hopefully I will carry with me a thought of her, when I think my life is getting rough.

Vet Students From Kenya and Canada

By Rina Wangila, Metrine Nyanja, and Brigid Muasa

On January 31st, we arrived at Mukurwe-ini at 11 a.m. very eager to meet the students from the Atlantic Veterinary College. None of us had been to the village before, but it was pretty easy for us to locate the Wakulima Self Help Group. The project Self Help Group has been partnering for ten years with Farmers Helping Farmers from Canada, and it showed. It was quite impressive to see how the milk plant was well equipped as compared to the other farmer’s co-operatives in the country. There was a well equipped laboratory to run milk quality control tests such as California Mastitis Tests and Alcohol Tests. The management of the self help group is commendable.

We went to a bunch of farms near Mukurwe-ini where we examined and treated cattle with problems such as lungworm pneumonia, mastitis, and surgical removal of extra teats. We also gave farmers an opportunity to ask questions regarding dairy health management and disease prevention. The frequent questions were about retained afterbirth, mastitis, infertility, nutrition related conditions such as copper deficiency, and low milk production. We were able to answer most of the questions from the farmers with guidance from the professor, Dr. John VanLeeuwen. A frequently tackled subject was pharmacology since we used the drugs that were donated by Canadian pharmaceutical companies. We were introduced to a new dewormer, Cydectin, that’s an easier pour-on product, one that could easily be done by the farmers. To us students, these were very interactive sessions as they were similiar to an oral exam scenario without the exam stress. These were very informative sessions.

Socially this has been quite a wonderful experience with us tasting candy made out of maple syrup (A.K.A tree sap) which is a delicacy in Canada, and the Canadians getting a taste of sugar cane (A.K.A tree bark). We have talked a lot about our respective vet schools and discovered that there are some differences but the basics are pretty much the same. Our ways of life are also a bit different. For instance we walk to a lot of places, not as exercise but just as part of our lives but the Canadians were a little surprised as this is not common there and most people use cars.

This has been a really good experience for us as we get to interact with farmers and the local practicing vets and get real first hand experience on what goes on at the field level, making us better equipped to handle these issues when we graduate. Getting to know some Canadians and their customs, and describing some of our customs and activities has been a great additional benefit. Just the other day we gave Andrea a lesson "How to hand wash your clothes 101". As for how it went, we will leave it at that. Ask her.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Kenyan Veterinarian Cases

John VanLeeuwen

(Feb 5) We started working with the vet here in Embu, Dr. Francis Kathuri. He graduated in 1993 from the Nairobi vet school. He has lots of practical experience, which was obvious right from the start, having lots of confidence. He has also had students with him before, and taken a facilitator course before, so he was familiar with the teaching and learning process to guide the students toward the right diagnosis and treatment and prevention. He gave me a chance to relax a bit because I was no longer on the "hot seat" all the time to "direct" the students. We pooled out knowledge and experience to try to come up with the best answers to the following problems (sorry for the technical jargon!). We had a cow that had blind teat cisterns in 2 quarters, and so Francis opened them up with a sterilized wire (not medical grade, just a wire, but it seemed to worked, at least temporarily, getting milk into the teat cistern). Then, he put in a long sterile teat cannula into where the hole where the wire was made in order to prevent it from healing shut again. I haven’t seen anyone do this before, but he says that he has done this successfully before. I look forward to seeing how well this actually works. This is a genetic trait though, so the cow should not get bred again. In Canada, that problem would usually require a costly surgery and implant. In Kenya, necessity is the mother of invention. We also saw a couple of cases of anaplasmosis (a blood parasite spread by ticks that we don’t get in Canada) that was very interesting to the students.

Today (Feb 6), we were joined by three more vet students in their final year at the Nairobi vet school (Sam, Mac and Evelyn). They were very happy to join us because they get limited hands-on practical experience in their curriculum. And what a day we had for them. We had another two cases of anaplasmosis today, so they didn’t miss out on the cases yesterday. We saw a 7-8 year old down cow, which went down prior to calving last week. She was likely low in calcium and glucose. She was induced to calf successfully and treated for her low calcium and glucose. However, she was still down today. She had pressure sores, but was still eating, and had no mastitis. In Canada, a cow like this would be lifted by a tractor in a sling, or put into a "cow swimming pool" to assist her to rise, and then give her legs some exercise. However, this is Kenya and so we improvised again. What is ample here is labour. So 8 young men came to the farm, and with ropes and empty feed bags, they literally lifted this cow up, and " walked" her to a new softer grassy area in the shade. Now that is a novel way to "walk your cow". And it did seem to help her because she started using her legs a bit. And when we set her down, she sat up straight (with some sand bags supporting her side) and started eating grass. We shall see if she gets up on her own. She was very sore from being down for a few days.

The final case of the day was a "great learning case" for everyone, including Francis, a heifer with a uterine torsion. This is something that every cow vet student should see before graduating, and so the students were ecstatic. She started appearing to calf on Saturday, but stopped and didn’t do anything since then, and today was Tuesday. I wondered if it was a torsion. We rolled the cow, while I held onto the calf and uterus, so that the rest of the cow would "catch up" to the rest of the twisted calf in the uterus. Again, with lots of muscle help, we needed to roll her twice, each time untwisting it a bit. That was not the end of the problem though, as I had to use an improvised calf snare (a piece of clean rope – improvisation is a useful skill here) to pull up the "turned back head" through the cervix so that the calf could come out. It was a tight fit getting this 80 lb calf out of this 700 lb heifer but we made it, and the heifer was fine afterwards. We tried to convince Simon (our driver) that we deserved some ice cream for our hard work, but we’re still waiting. Maybe tomorrow! (PS. We got the ice cream!)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Eight people will leave for Africa soon to spend up to a month working with four Kenyan projects.

(Pictured back row l-r: Andrea Dube, Olivia Harvey, Danny Bondt front row l-r: Heather Angell, Dr. John van Leeuwen, Ken Mellish, Teresa Mellish Missing from photograph: Anna Portnoy)

Dr. John van Leeuwen from the Atlantic Veterinary College along with three 4-th year veterinary students will help the dairy farmers in the Wakulima Group as well as the Embu Group to improve the health of dairy cows and calves. They are taking donated veterinary pharmaceuticals for their work valued at $30,000. Anna Portnoy from Bonshaw, PE, Olivia Harvey, Petitcodiac, NB and Andrea Dube , Lake Echo, NS are all looking forward to their first visit to Africa. This is part of their veterinary training and this international rotation gives them experience working in a developing country while they help Kenyan farmers. They are receiving support from the Atlantic Veterinary College, Pfizer, Wyeth, Schering, Intervet as well as Vets Without Borders and the World Vet Congress Foundation.

Danny Bondt from Kingston is traveling to Kena for the first time. He plans to visit all four projects. As a semi-retired dairy farmer, he is looking forward to working with the dairy farmers in the Embu project and showing them how to get more milk from the cows by feeding them better.

Ken Mellish from New Perth has been to Kenya several times and he will be working with the dairy farmers at the Wakluima project to oversee the installation of a heat exchanger at the dairy plant. The exchanger will take the heat from the warm milk as it is cooled, to produce warm water to be used for the washing of milk cans. Clean milk cans contribute to improving the quality of the milk. Ken will also work with farmers to install bio-gas digesters which will use manure to produce bio-gas for fuel to cook food. He will also work with the Muchui women to identify drought-resistant crops which will grow better in the very dry area they live in.

Teresa Mellish from New Perth will be embarking on a new venture for Farmers Helping Farmers. She will be assessing the health of the members of the Muchui Womens Group. She is also taking necessary medical supplies valued at $11,000 to the hospital and clinic in the area they live in near Meru. These are donated by Health Partners International of Canada. In addition, she will work with the Ruuju women to develop a project. These women now support the project at the Ruuju Primary School in Marega where over 400 children are being provided with a school lunch using the vegetables they have grown on the school property with funds provided by Farmers Helping Farmers and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). She will also visit all the twinned schools and will be delivering the funds raised through a special Christmas promotion to Experience Kenya for Christmas.

Heather Angell from Grand Pre, NS will also be working with the group to evaluate the projects funded by Farmers Helping Farmers. This is required by CIDA which has matched the funds raised by Farmer Helping Farmers for these projects.

The group is looking forward to a huge change in Kenya. There has been a lot of rain since they visited last year- when the entire