Tuesday, May 29, 2012
On the trail of the OSP! (Orange flesh sweet potato) In late 2010 potato breeders within a large international project released news of OSP varieties for east Africa. Consumption of these high beta-carotene tubers can help alleviate vitamin A deficiency. In these countries white fleshed sweet potatoes are common, but do not have the benefits of vitamin A for fighting diseases and good eye sight. Fast on the heels of this news, Susan MacKinnon and Shaad Olingo received cuttings of varieties and introduced them to Ruuju and Muchui womens groups in Kenya. Women agreed to first multiply the vines and then to distribute vines to women farmers and local schools so they could grow tubers. Today we saw the fruit of their labour at KK Ndege Primary School. Together with Mwenda, the Muchui horticulturist, a small portion of the schools crop was harvested. The UPEI nutrition student interns oversaw the harvest and dashed to the kitchen to wash and chop the tubers. The cook was a willing participant and OSP were added to the githeri right then and there! KK students found the githeri ‘sweet’ and our feeling was pretty sweet as well. Colleen Walton, May 2012
Monday, May 28, 2012
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Jambo! Dr Jenny and Fergie here from the 2012 Nutrition team! It has been a very busy and exciting week for the 2012 Nutrition and Business UPEI AUCC/CIDA Students for Development teams. We had hoped to post this sooner but had very limited access to email this week. And then we posted this blog under a new name by mistake and it didn't show up here! Sorry about that! We had a very good rest at Fairview Hotel in Nairobi on Sat and Sun nights. Wonderful food, hot showers and a few even jumped in the pool (it was a little chilly). Everyone agreed how useful it was to rest after a very long and rather bumpy trip but were eager to head to Meru for our work. When we left Nairobi, Colleen and I noticed a huge improvement in the highway since last year- the expansion is almost complete. We got out of Nairobi very quickly, but then a rather long ride to Meru. We stopped for lunch near Embu and it took a very long time to get served. Jennifer Murogocho, our wonderful host in Meru, was ready with a delicious hot meal when we arrived about 430 p.m. on Monday. Delicious beef stew, cabbage and kales and rice. She has a beautiful Kenyan house and was so welcoming towards us Canadians! Started Tuesday with a bang: Haley (one of the business students) was sick to her stomach. Worse yet, it was her birthday! She slept for awhile, got up and got dressed- a real trooper. We suspected that it was something she had eaten as I had some grumbles too… but not sure what it was. We had a very hot day today for our first visits to farms. We were baking in the sun walking up a hill from Margaret to Joyce’s farm. I ended up going back to Meru with Haley who was not feeling well while the others remained and went to visit Muchui women’s farms. I worked with Jennifer to prepare some Thai chicken, mango salad and guacamole with the wonderful produce we had purchased as we left Nairobi. When the rest of the team returned, Sam was sick to her stomach- likely from too much sun. This was in spite of dressing properly, using sun screen and drinking water. I had bought a fan for Haley at the Nakumatt-which I then put in Sam’s room. Well worth the $43 it since it really improves the air circulation in the back bedrooms at Jennifer’s. Since Tues, Haley is fully recovered, but several of us have ‘the runs’ which we have nicknamed ‘Terry’ as in ‘dysentery’ J But nothing too serious and we are all eating and drinking lots. Dr John warned Jen T. that it would happen, but I was seriously spoiled with no one having any sickness in 2010 and 2011. Being in Meru was a real culture shock for us. On Tuesday we saw a lot. We visited a few farms and went to the Muchui Business Centre. I expected it to be really different here but I think its hard to believe how different it really is until you are here. On Wednesday we went to Ruuju which is about a 45min drive from where we will be staying this summer. The ﬁrst thing we did was go to Ruuju school which was amazing!! All the kids came running from their classes as soon as they saw us arriving in the Combi! They all sang for us and then all wanted to shake our hand and get their pictures taken. It was such a great feeling to be there. I can’t wait to go back. We met the head master Julius, who is studying for his degree in education, but made a special trip to greet us and understand what our work would be for the summer. We then walked to and saw another few farms that day. All the women love showing you their farms as they are very proud of them. Thursday was the ﬁrst day with the Champs! In 2010 and 2011, Kaylynne Parkes, Christina Tucker, Amy Rawlinson and Harrison Blizzard worked with ‘champs’, who were women who were good cooks and good farmers, and therefore ideal educators and role models for other women in the community. We met with the Muchui champs in the morning: 5 original champs from 2010 and also 5 new champs for 2012. It was the first time using a translator, but Sam did just fine. The women all seemed just as happy to be there. We went over a few of the things we were going to try and work on with them this summer, including using orange sweet potatoes, which have been growing successfully this winter through the support of Farmers Helping Farmers. We were also hoping that we would be able to convince them to drink their tea after their meals as when they drink it with the meals the oxalates in the tea prevent some nutrients from being absorbed. They all laughed at us when we told them about this. It just goes to show how different it is here and the customs that they have. We will meet with the Ruuju champs next week. In the afternoon the nutrition students worked on transferring files from previous years work and doing short schedules for the women’s groups and the schools. It was nice just to sit at Mama Jen’s and work. We had quite a few laughs, some at Jen’s expense! One thing that was really funny was there was a gecko and Sam went to pick it up and its tail fell off but the tail kept moving. We all had a good laugh!! I got to take dinner to the guards that night and got a picture with them. It was pretty cool and really makes us feel very safe. Friday morning we were up early to pack up the Combi and we're on our way to Sweet Water Game Park! We make a quick stop at the hospital residence where we will be staying for the rest of the summer to drop off our stuff. It’s a really beautiful place and much nicer than we expected. We got to meet Sister Naomi and Sister Mary and they said they will have a dinner for us on Sunday night when we get back. We also went to KK Ndgege school on the way. The purpose of this was to check out the cookhouse and the school feeding programs as they are new this year. They have a wonderful garden where they get the vegetables to make the food for the children each day (each child gets two meals each day at school, ugi and githeri. Jen says the garden is amazing compared to the tiny plot last year. They started growing OSP (orange sweet potatoes) and they picked a few today, they were HUGE! All of us nutrition students were amazed by them and I think the Kenyans thought we were a little crazy! We asked if they would add them into the githeri today as they are sooo nutritious and would be very good for the students. They agreed so we worked with Dorcas, a wonderful teacher at KK, and the cook to wash them, cut them and added them to the githeri for the first time! It was really cool. I guess you may have to be in nutrition to see the awesomeness of that!