Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our first week in Kenya 2011

Our first week in Kenya January 30, 2011
By Teresa Mellish
Eight of our team arrived in Kenya on Monday evening (January 24th) – two days later than we had planned- courtesy of a snow storm in Prince Edward Island which delayed us a day and then a technical problem with a Kenya Airways plane in Paris delayed us another day. All of our luggage arrived with us except one box of medicine which has not been found yet. Angus arrived on Thursday evening on schedule. We expect Daniel later this morning.
The vets have worked in Mukurwe-ini. So is Carolyn who has visited the twinned schools there. Annemarie has accompanied the vets.
Susan and I have visited both the Muchui Business Centre and the Ruuju Womens Group on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Muchui women have had a maize crop failure- they did not receive enough rain for a crop. The Ruuju women also did not have enough rain but they expect to have 50% of the yield they might normally expect.
At Marega we also visited one of the grain silos and the maize cribs we have been testing for maize storage on five farms. We were told that both worked well but ideally a farmer should have both of them!! The maize crib allows the farmer to store the maize on the cob; and it provides a place to store the maize on the cob while it is drying. However weevils still destroyed part of the crop. After the maize is dried and removed from the cob, the silo protects the maize from all pests.
We also visited one of the homes where we have funded a small stove for cooking the family’s meals. It is working well and the woman was very happy with her smoke-free kitchen.
We were pleased to know that the cook at the Ruuju school is still soaking the maize and beans before they are cooked and served to the children. The head master at the Ruuju school told us that the school had the highest score ever in the 2010 national exams and they placed first in the district. He credited the school lunch program with helping them achieve these results.
The Ruuju School garden looks as good as it has ever looked but the polythene on the greenhouse roof needs to be replaced.
At both Kiirua and Marega we have funded a small greenhouse (8 m x 15 m) for tomato production. Tomatoes were planted in the greenhouses in October and the crops looked good. The Marega greenhouse has been just been connected to a continuous water supply ( the women had been carrying water to it ) so the plants looked a little water stressed. We also visited a greenhouse in Meru where they are growing tomatoes in plastic bags in the greenhouse. At the same location they are growing sweet peppers in another greenhouse.
On Thursday Susan and I along with Shaad, Farida, Martin and Salome traveled to Nairobi. We visited the Canadian High Commission, a researcher at CIMMYT and a researcher at CIP. We met with a maize breeder at CIMMYT ( an international maize breeding organization) to learn about new drought tolerant and early maturing varieties of maize and to find out where we can get the seed. At CIP , the International Potato Research Centre, we learned about the work being done on sweet potato varieties which we want to get for the lunch programs at schools. The orange fleshed potatoes are high in Vitamin A, which is lacking in the children’s diet.
On Friday Angus joined us and we attended the training program offered to new greenhouse owners by the company selling the greenhouses. It was very informative but they would not give us a copy of their fertilizer recommendations until we told them that we would not buy any more greenhouses until they did. Much of their information is proprietary- for instance they would not tell us the content of their “Smart” fertilizer.
Yesterday we visited a greenhouse supplier looking for netting to protect the school gardens from birds who eat the crops during dry periods. He can supply it- and I think we will try it at one school first. It is going to cost more than I expected it might!! We also visited another greenhouse company who has experience in grafting tomatoes and says he can sell us a greenhouse package with better support for growing the crop. We also purchased some orange fleshed sweet potatoes for our training sessions with the Muchui and Ruuju women early next week.
Today (Sunday) we will travel back to Meru and continue to work with Muchui and Ruuju women.