Sunday, February 12, 2012

Visits to the screenhouses

While visiting Muchui Women we had the opportunity to visit some of the screenhouses and to take some time to talk with the women.
The weather situation in the area is the area has been highly variable. Last year was a devastation drought followed by a very wet period. The rains were damaging with even houses swept away. The rains stopped at the end of December which is about a month early. However, the Muchui women had good seed, planted in good time and in with good spacing. They will in the next month start to harvest. They expect to have an adequate crop. This is not the case for many farmers in Kenya.
The screenhouses we visited were planted and growing vegetables. Most have kale, spinach, onions and eggplant. Some of them have a variety of vegetables such as beet root and squash. The women are harvesting crops to feed their families and have surplus vegetables to sell. Because of the current dry weather the current price of vegetables has gone up. This provides a great opportunity for these women to sell surplus vegetables at a very good price.

Several of these visits stand out. We visited one older woman who did not have a very prosperous farm. There were several small houses in her compound where members of her extended family lived. Her screen house was producing about average. She told us “Her belly was full, her extended family was well fed and she had vegetables to sell”. This was in an area where vegetables were nonexistent where there was no drip irrigation. To me this is exactly what this project was designed to do. She had sold 2000 Shillings (about $25) worth of vegetables the week before.
It will be interesting to see what happens to insect populations in these houses. The birds are being kept out and are not eating the plants. However the birds are not eating insects from the plants under the screen. Also, there will be no large predatious insects.
We found that, in most cases, the screenhouses were well managed. The FHF horticulturist is essential to this project.
As they get familiar with growing crops in these screenhouses the structures should be insurance against drought and provide a good source of food and cash for the families.
Ken Mellish

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