Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Drip irrigation ensures Muchui women have kitchen gardens

What a change there has been in the kitchen gardens of the Muchui women. Despite the fact that the rest of the garden is yellow or brown , they each have a small area that is green with vegetables for their family use.

We saw kale, onions, and tomatoes being grown using the water from the drip irrigation tubes lying close ot the ground. The drip irrigation emits drops of water from holes placed every few inches where plants are strategically located to benefit from the water. The rest of the garden is very dry.

Ten years ago I visited this area in May and none of the women had kitchen gardens because it was so dry. I returned home to PEI at that time to plant my own kitchen garden and I knew I would work towards the Muchui women having their own kitchen garden for their families.

It is still very dry in this area but the drip irrgation technology is appropriate for them to grow kitchen gardens. Their families' diets are improved with the production of kale for theiur sukuma wiki.

Teresa Mellish

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

UPEI Nutrition Student Interns

Submitted by Colleen Walton

Doreen Pippy and Sharla Goodwin, both 3rd year nutrition students at the University of PEI, have embarked on their investigations to analyse the diet of the Ruuju Primary and Kirua Boys school students. They will compare the amounts of "protective", "energy" and "body building" foods consumed by the children to those amounts recommended by the Kenyan government who has adopted WHO recommendations. They will interview students and their mothers and will provide education sessions for the mothers, the school cooks and students. Their results will help Farmers Helping Farmers to work with the schools and the womens groups in their crop diversification efforts to introduce new crops and technologies to the area in an effort to improve the nutrition of the students.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Martin Gikunda is getting married!

Yesterday we attended the pre-wedding party of Martin Gikunda and his fiancée Fetha Mukiri. The pre-wedding party is a fund raiser for the wedding which is to be held on August 23rd.

A similar event on PEI would be a community shower. The difference here is that the whole community is invited and are encouraged to make cash donations through the auctioning of yams, chickens, and plaques (with religious sayings) to be hung in your home.

Martin is the horticulturist with the Muchui Business Centre. Fetha is a teacher. Both Fetha and Martin have university degrees in agriculture.

Both Damaris and Salome assisted with the auctioning along with members of Martin’s church.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eight Down and Five to Go!

Submitted by Patsy Dingwell

Carolyn and I are extremely pleased with the results of our visits to eight schools in Nyeri District. We now have a much clearer picture of their progress since twinning and their current and future needs.When we visited Muhuti Secondary we were treated to a dress rehearsal for their Traditional Dance competition. This is the first year that Muhuti girls have joined the dance troupe. On Friday the thirteenth, they will be performing in a provincial competition in Murkurwe-ini town - defending their championship! Mwati Primary School will also be performing as three time National champions! We are so impressed with the dedication of the teachers, many of whom will remain at the schools every night and alternate week ends. Administrators receive no or very little extra salary and generally they are the ones who will do week end shifts.

We have managed to collect all the information and have great photos of home and school life for our PEI students to prepare their presentations. We also visited three potential twin schools. Ithangi school is one of these schools. There, we were touched by the sight of orphans wearing special uniforms that were purchased by the GCI team in 2006. These uniforms were a different color (green and pink) and had Global Classroom Project embroidered on them. Ithangi School was started in 1983 and has 160 students. They have eight teachers, only five of whom are paid by the government; parents are paying a small wage for the other three teachers. They have no electricity and do not anticipate getting any soon as they are far from the electric grid. They have a small water tank and when it is empty the children fetch water from a river. When we asked Headmaster, Patrick Thumi, for his priorities, he was very clear that Ithangi needs more teachers and textbooks. They certainly recognize the value of education and keep it as their number one priority.

The Kenyan children and teachers continue to inspire us!

Ruuju Primary School

Submitted by Colleen Walton

Farmers Helping Farmers began working with the Ruuju Primary School in January 2006. Since that time the project committee, Damaris (Horticulturist) and Shaad have profoundly changed the school. Rain water collection, vegetable garden with drip irrigation, a small greenhouse, a maize storage bin and cook house now grace the property. This infrastructure, with the support of the parents and Damaris's careful control, all support the school lunch program. Student performance has improved both academically and in sport, and enrollment has increased as students from other schools join Ruuju so they can have a good lunch each day.

Ruuju Primary School has about 70 nursery students and 100 students in Standard (Grade) 1 and 86 in Standard 2 and 3. Each has a single teacher. The enrollment in the school has increased as a result of the lunch program, but the government has not seen to add buildings or teachers. The drop out rate is very high in the higher grades which could be expected with such a high student ratio. Damaris, the chair of the Womens Group is a Standard 1 teacher and is stressed at the fact that she is unable to put emphasis on the students having a difficult learning time.

A new CIDA funded project began in September 2007 with the Ruuju Womens Group. This Group is keen to work with Farmers Helping Farmers to expand the diversity of crops that they grow, technologies that they use, and learn about new crops better able to withstand drought. With climate change people are unable to rely on the rain that is the backbone of their food security; thus drought tolerant crops are critical to their lives. Production of other crops that can provide nutritious food for the family and generate cash can help the family be more sustainable and improve their meager standard of living.

Computerizing the financial records with the Ruuju Womens Group

Billy MacDonald (left) and Bobby Cameron worked today with Damaris Kagwiria, Horticulturist with the Ruuju Group, to begin computerizing their financial records. She had excellent manual financial records in her ledger but we are interested in having electronic records so that we can in Canada can understand the financial position of the project as well.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Twinning Schools

Submitted by Patsy Dingwell and Carolyn Francis

Jambo from Kenya!

This week has been a busy week meeting old friends and making new ones. Carolyn and I have been working in three twinning schools to learn more details about them. We have also been able to teach some classes! More about that later. Our first school was Kihuti Secondary School which is twinned with Vernon River. Kihuti has about 390 students and 18 teachers. We were greeted by Headmaster, Mr. Thiong’o who gave us a tour and introduced us to the staff. We were humbled to know that they are so grateful for Farmers Helping Farmers and the Twinning program. They were very anxious to get Vernon River’s and our personal e-mail addresses. They have used twining funds to buy more computers (they now have 10) and also purchased a phone and equipment for internet access. It was also wonderful to see a good library with many books. Although, unlike home, the books are kept in a very large cupboard with a locked iron bar running across it We were glad to learn that a teacher was assigned to check out books at regular intervals and they are working towards a librarian. One very interesting sideline that we learned is that Kihuti school will buy extra notebooks (scribblers) and make them available to the poorest students; Noah, the deputy master, says this has reduced absenteeism so much, because in the past, children would stay home when their parents did not have money for notebooks.

On Thursday and Friday Carolyn and I split up so we could visit two schools. I went to Mwati Primary which is twinned with Morell and Carolyn went to Gathukimundu , Miscouche’s twin school. I am hoping Mwati will become the “Little School That Could” It is the smallest and poorest of the twinning schools. and has many difficulties to overcome, however, already we see many improvements. The new staffroom, built with twinning funds, was very neat and organized and the teachers are so grateful to have lots of shelving to store their books and supplies. Before, they had to use cardboard boxes placed on the floor of the classroom or carry the supplies home with them each evening. While I was there, I saw the new water tank, purchased by Montague Intermediate High School. What a wonderful gift! The older, (and very rusty) metal tank was still in use but the new black plastic tank will ensure that the students will have clean water for quite some time. I also saw a workman mixing and shovelling cement to cover the clay floors in one of the two classrooms that The Rotary Club of Ch’town Royalty is funding this year.

Weston Murathe , is a bright eyed, very keen young teacher who loves to teach math and science. He is the teacher whose salary is paid for by Morell Consolidated students. We also pay the salary for Elizabeth Njoki, the social studies teacher. I did not meet her yet, as she was out sick. I hope to meet her Monday. I was also able to see and photograph the books which were bought with PEI donations. I was happy to be able to talk with and teach the twinning class. What a challenge to get the students to speak up, they were very quiet and not used sharing opinions during class time. Break time outside was a different matter though. They all wanted to know about my house and wanted their photos taken.

Gathukimundu ! What an inspiring school! Many of you have met Lucy Wachira, the headmistress, when she was on PEI in 2006. We’ve been told she has become quite famous and looked up to for her abilities as a headmistress and her association with PEI. Her school has placed second in the national exams for all of her province! When you visit there, it is not hard to see why. The school grounds and buildings are clean, bright and organized. They take much pride in all that they do. The students love learning about Canada through twinning letters and the pre service teachers. It was lovely to see the new books that Lucy had purchased with twinning funds. She says these books are high interest books to supplement the text books used by the students! While there, Carolyn saw a class of students in the library reading books that have been purchased by Miscouche Consolidated which is twinned with Gathukimundu. Carolyn both observed colleagues and taught some classes. After teaching on Thursday, her students brought her gifts of sugar cane, an orange and macadamia nuts on Friday.

Over all it has been a busy but very rewarding start to our school visits in Kenya!

Projects Made a Difference

Submitted by: Colleen Walton

We are visiting Wakulima Dairy Co-op these early days of our trip. This group has been a partner with Farmers Helping Farmers for 11 years and in this time has grown substantially under the careful management of an elected Board and visionary Chair. With training on better cow feeding and hygiene coupled with a 10,000L milk cooling tank, supported by FHF over the last 4 years, the average milk from a cow has risen from 2- 3 L/ day to 7 litres per day and the dairy group collects up to 23 - 34,000 L/day up with targeted production of 30 – 37,000 L by the end of 2008. The Dairy is made up of over 5,000 farmers and this increased milk production, and thus revenue, has contributed injected significantly in the local economy. When we visit this area we are thanked by many people for the contribution that FHF, with the support of its donors and CIDA, has made in the community. I feel honoured to be receiving these thanks and feel amazingly touched by their gratitude which I’m not fully sure that I can convey to all the people that make their donations to make the work of FHF possible.

We arrived in Kenya

Jambo! The FHF teams have arrived in Kenya! After an uneventful 22 hours of travel and a welcome rest at the Fairview Hotel the teams are already into their tasks.
Patsy Dingwell and Carolyn Francis will begin their public engagement project with school visits on Tuesday and will spend the next eight days at twinning schools in the Mukurwe-ini area.

Teresa Mellish and the UPEI interns; Bobby Cameron, Billy MacDonald, Doreen Pippy and Sharla Goodwin have began their work by visiting at the Wakulima Dairy on Monday and the Othaya Dairy on Wednesday.

Colleen Walton is working on the CIDA funded VSF project, working with Othaya Dairy and Ruuju Women’s Group and catching up with old friends with existing project partners.

The Islanders are absolutely delighted to be joined by Shaad Olingo, our Kenyan coordinator, who will make sure that we are all on track!

As the old saying goes “first impressions last a life time,” Kenya has been a unique first for the UPEI interns.
“ I was somewhat nervous on how I would be accepted as a minority, but the Kenyans were more curious than judging. The children would follow me to shake my hand

Soccer was the language

Soccer was the language
by Billy MacDonald

The children were playing soccer at the Kinyinjere Primary School when we arrived. I went over to the group and motioned for one of the children to kick the ball to me. When they did, I kicked it back and then all of the children started to get involved. Then I started towards the goal with the ball and all the children followed. I managed to get a goal before I lost the ball!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Detective work in greenhouse management

Posted by Teresa Mellish

We were delighted today to have an opportunity to visit the first day of the June 4-7 2008 Meru National Agricultural Show sponsored by the Agricultural Society of Kenya. Although our visit was unscheduled and too brief, we saw and learned from several relevant displays.

We were so impressed with the display of the Muchui Business Centre featuring their Agroforestry Project. Their display included live macadamia trees, olive trees, pine trees, grevillea trees and mango trees along with large photographs of the features of the Centre!

Shaad headed straight for the Seminis company display. This is the company that sells the Anna F1 variety of tomato seeds that we have used in the greenhouses at Kiirua and Marega. We recognized that we need training in greenhouse management and the Seminis agent agreed to provide it. Shaad will email him with the details of the problems we have seen in the Marega greenhouse.

We also saw two examples of portable vegetable gardens at the Bio Intensive Centre and we made a valuable contact at the Ministry of Health.

Photo shows Martin Gikunda (left) with Shaad Olingo, the Seminis staff with Colleen Walton.