Saying “Asante sana” and “Tutaonana”

We’re checked in, through security, and ready to depart from the Nairobi airport, but we’re far from ready to say goodbye to this wonderful country! It’s time to fill you in on our third week of activities.

On our return from a fabulous weekend at the Sweetwater Game Reserve, we welcomed two new veterinary students from the University of Nairobi, Edward and Francis. We became fast friends and they were a great addition to our team for the week!

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Our final week in Kenya consisted of seminars around Meru county. Monday was spent at the Ngusishi Dairy Group where we gave another seminar to a record-breaking crowd of over 160 farmers. It was really encouraging to have so many farmers eager to learn and asking great questions! They enjoyed the demonstration by Matt and Stephen of how to heart tape a cow to estimate a cow’s weight (see photo). They even gave us amazing gifts, consisting of beaded purses, Kenyan hats and certificates of appreciation, to show their gratitude for the work of Farmers Helping Farmers. We were so touched and will definitely treasure these gifts.

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We travelled back to Ex Lewa on Tuesday to see lots of cows with problems and we gave our first seminar in the area. There was a big crowd of farmers and we enjoyed seeing all the people we’d met last week again. At Ex Lewa we were also given another token of appreciation, shirts and scarves! The generosity and kindness of the Kenyan people never cease to amaze us, and we are so grateful to have such lovely gifts to bring home.

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On Tuesday night our team split up to spend the night in three separate farmers’ homes as a “billet night” to become even more familiar with the local community and how everyday life in Kenya works. We all thoroughly enjoyed our nights with these local families and we’d like to extend a big “asante sana!” for their hospitality. We were all up bright and early at our respective billets to help milk the cows (by hand!) and deliver the milk to the pick-up station nearby.

After breakfast Wednesday morning, we said our goodbyes and headed off to the Buuri Dairy Group for a long seminar in the hot afternoon sun. The heat was worth it though as it was a great seminar with many engaged farmers and we were joined later in the day by some colleagues from Vets Without Borders Canada! This group arrived in Kenya on Sunday and will be travelling around the Meru area for 3 weeks, doing work very similar to ours as they assist and educate the local farmers. After the seminar, we saw an interesting case of a cow that occasionally stumbles as she walks and has been doing this since she was a young heifer. Other than her clumsiness, she was in great condition and a happy cow so we just gave advice on how to manage her so she doesn’t injure herself. The Buuri Group, in true Kenyan style, was once again too kind and sent us on our way with Kenyan hats to wear proudly! Asante!

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On Thursday, we were joined by our friends from Vets Without Borders as we travelled to the Muthiru area to see some sick cows and visit the dairy again. On our last working day in Kenya, we got to see our first case of Lumpy Skin Disease, a common viral condition that causes skin lumps all over the body. Fortunately, this cow had been treated and was well on the road to recovery! After a long day on the road in Muthiru, we said goodbye to our friends Edward and Francis who took a matatu back to Nairobi. It wasn’t too sad however, as we knew we’d be seeing them the next day when we took a tour of the vet school. On Thursday night, we were treated to an amazing “going away” party by our friend Jennifer in Meru. The food was amazing, the drinks were cold, and the company couldn’t have been better. It was the perfect way to end the best three weeks!

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We were up bright and early this morning, Friday, to make the long drive back to Nairobi, where we were greeted at the vet school by our friends Maseka, Makena, Edward and Francis! We were so excited to see them all again and they gave us a grand tour of the campus, including the small and large animal clinics, the post-mortem room, the lecture theatres and the beautiful grounds. It’s such a big campus compared to ours, and of course much warmer.

As we sit in the Nairobi airport, waiting to board our flight to Zurich, we can’t believe that our three weeks have already come to an end. This rotation has been planned for and dreamed about since this time last year and the reality is better than we ever could have imagined. In addition to being an incredible clinical rotation full of Kenyan cows and calves, we met amazing people whom we will never forget, learned new words and customs, enjoyed new food, and saw stunning animals and landscapes. Thank you to Farmers Helping Farmers and John VanLeeuwen, AVC, UPEI, and our many supporters for making it happen. All that is left to say is, until next time Kenya, tutaonana!  

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Goodbyes – and hellos. Kwaheri and habari as our teams arrive and depart!

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It is hard to believe that for the first team of vet students and Farmers Helping Farmers volunteers, their time in Kenya is over.

It has been a busy time for all. More highlights to come below. But before they left, they enjoyed the hospitality of the wonderful Jennifer Murogocho at her home in Meru. It’s always important to have the social events as well as the work, to share stories and reflect on the experience.

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And now a new group has arrived. They are four preservice teachers from UPEI’s Education program. They will spend six weeks at FHF twinned schools. We look forward to their blog posts, coming soon.

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Winston Johnston, FHF staff Salome Ntinyari and Reg MacDonald introduced the UPEI teachers to the schools where they will be spending six weeks in the classroom.

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Here are some other highlights from the FHF team’s time in Kenya.

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Reg MacDonald (left) and Winston Johnston (seated) spent a lot of time visiting the FHF twinned schools, checking on the status of water tanks, screened gardens and cookhouse kitchens. Here they are having morning uji, or porridge, with students at Kamuketha School.

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Reg and Stephen Mwenda in front of one of the water tanks donated to schools through Farmers Helping Farmers.

In the two photos below, Winston and Reg are speaking to students at King’O Secondary.

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Many of the staff and head teachers have been hosting visitors from Farmers Helping Farmers for years, so it’s like Old Home Week when we come to visit.

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They also visited some secondary schools, including Buuri Secondary, which is twinned with Three Oaks High in Summerside.

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In the photo below, Winston visits the physics classroom, where notes are projected on a screen, thanks to a projector donated to Buuri by Three Oaks.

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There were also several volunteers involved with teaching bookkeeping classes at dairies and women’s groups.

Teresa Mellish and FHF staffperson Stephen Mwenda are seen here with members of the Joy women’s group.

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Ken presented the Buuri Dairy Cooperative Society with a new printer- so they can provide a printed statement to each dairy farmer at the end of each month showing how many litres he/she delivered to the dairy that month and the price paid per litre along with the total paid to the farmer.
Reg introduced the directors of the dairy to the farm bookkeeping course we offer and they would like to have all of their farmer trained in farm bookkeeping. The Buuri Dairy Cooperative Dairy is one of two new dairies we are starting to work with. They gave Ken and Reg a beautiful red Masai blanket!

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As always, our intrepid FHF team is always interested in seeing how different crops are doing in the area of Kenya where we work.

Seen below: mangoes,coffee,vegetables,black beans,sunflower,dairy farming and orange fleshed sweet potatoes – which all do well in Kenya!

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Asante sana – many thanks – to our Farmers Helping Farmers team who volunteered their time to travel to Kenya, at their own expense. You can see the amazing partnership that we have with the people we have met in Kenya, and these visits keep us connected.

Asante also to our wonderful FHF staff in Kenya who take photos and share them with us back in Canada. Asante Stephen Mwenda, Salome, Leah, Stephen Chandi and Douglas Gikundi.

Here are a few more photos of our team in action.

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Exploring Kenya – and more cows

The vet students are back with our second blog post, coming direct from the Sweetwater Game Reserve where we are enjoying a much-needed weekend of rest and relaxation!

After the walk-in clinic on Saturday, we took a break on Sunday. The day involved a sleep in, and then a climb up a local hill, where we had the most spectacular view. Later, we had a delicious early dinner at Jennifer Murogocho’s house in Meru – she is such a nice lady.

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The work week started off with a trip to the Buuri Dairy Group to deliver a “basics” seminar. The Buuri Dairy is a new partner of Farmers Helping Farmers, only about 9 months into the partnership. After visiting several local farms to address specific cow problems, we headed off to the seminar. There was a large group of farmers and we had the chance to practice our presenting skills by answering a few of the questions on our own, with the help of a translator of course! We went on our way from the dairy with two huge bags of potatoes and some sweet peas as a thank you from the group. Delicious!

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Tuesday was a visit to the Lunuru Dairy Group where we were greeted with the most wonderful “welcome” song from the farmers, who were primarily women. It was so joyful and made us feel very welcomed and appreciated. We had to cut our time there slightly short as we were followed by rain for the 3rd time in as many days. Is wasn’t too much of a disappointment, though, because as our friend Ken Mellish likes to say “the rain does more for the farmers than we ever could!” The rain stopped, and so we did go out to see some cow cases before heading back home.

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We spent the day Wednesday with the vet tech employed by the Naari Dairy Group, Bernard. We visited many farms in the area, seeing sick cows, performing artificial insemination, and also touring around some of the top farms, with breaks for tea on the farms occasionally. The number one farm in the Naari region has 22 milking cows and produces around 350 L of milk per day! Impressive. One cow had diarrhea and Terra learned the hard way that you don’t want to stand behind such a cow, especially when they cough.

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On Thursday our group enjoyed a cultural day where we visited St. Theresa’s Mission Hospital in Kiirua and had a tour around. The hospital was very busy and we were so impressed with the staff and the facilities. The doctors in public hospitals are currently on their second month of a strike so private hospitals like St. Theresa’s are absorbing all of the people who have nowhere else to seek help, often at reduced or no cost to the patients who often cannot pay. We also went to see the students of Mitoone Primary School, which is very close to our house. The students were all incredibly dedicated and intelligent – it definitely brought back some memories of long division and geography! The day finished at the St. Theresa’s Children’s Home, which is run by the same group of nuns as the hospital. We spent time feeding babies – probably the most challenging task we’ve faced so far – and playing with the children who live there. It was heartwarming and humbling to see their smiling faces and the compassion of the sisters who take care of them.

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Friday completed our week with a visit to Muthiru Dairy Group where we delivered another “basic” seminar to a group of mostly new farmers. They were eager to learn and we got more experience answering questions about mastitis, nutrition, reproduction and general husbandry. Friday afternoon was also time for a resigned “see you later” to our friends Maseka and Makena from the Nairobi University as they headed back to Nairobi to allow two new students to join us Sunday night. We had such a fun time with them and got to know them pretty well over the 9 days; we even stopped at Makena’s home on the way to Muthiru to meet her parents, see her home farm, and admire the huge mangoes they had on their mango trees – and they gave us some as we left. Yum! At the end of the day, we were very sad to see them go, but we will be joining them at Nairobi University next Friday for a tour of the vet school before we head home. On our trip back from Muthiru, we hit a small snag thanks to a flat tire, but our driver David expertly changed it in no time and our brief delay was rewarded by a family of elephants standing roadside just outside of Kiirua! We stopped and watched them for nearly half an hour, completely awestruck, and were treated to the sight of a very young baby elephant as well. What a great warmup before our weekend in Sweetwater!

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And so our second week draws to a close! We’re currently debating whether to hit the pool or continue enjoying the view of Mount Kenya with a herd of zebra and a sleepy rhino just outside our tent. With one more week to go we’re excited to see what else this amazing adventure brings us. We’ll be back next week with our last post!

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From Canada to Kenya: Helping girls stay in school

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Farmers Helping Farmers is excited to be teaming up with the Empower Sewing Group in Guelph, Ontario to produce Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits. They will be distributed to our FHF twinned schools to girls who may otherwise stay away from school when they have their periods. These kits will give days to girls – valuable days in school – that will help them pursue their future.

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The story starts with Jean Hume, whose daughter, Janice Whalen is a past president of Farmers Helping Farmers. Jean’s grandson, Daniel Whalen, travelled to Kenya in 2015 as part of the FHF Youth Tour.

Here is how Jean tells the story of the Days for Girls kits:

Days for Girls is an International Charitable Organization  with headquarters in Washington D.C.  Days for Girls Canada, has their headquarters in Red Deer, Alberta.  The goal of this organization is to permit girls in developing nations to attain an education in a dignified way. This is possible through access to quality, sustainable, feminine hygiene solutions and community-based health leadership programs.  

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A year ago, my friend , Anne Parsons attended a quilting workshop and at the event  the Kitchener /Waterloo Days for Girls Chapter had an exhibit as they were appealing for donations of quilting cotton.  The program captured Anne’s attention and she proposed it to me as a possible undertaking to establish a team here in our retirement community,  Village By The Arboretum, in Guelph.

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There are beautiful facilities here in our community so we applied for space and time to use the Hobby room.  We advertised with an explanation, that we would be meeting on Wednesday mornings and that we needed volunteers to come and help us prepare the kits. There are jobs that do not require sewing so all women were welcome to join.  

We were thrilled with the interest as women from all across the “Village” came. Many had spent time in African nations and other developing countries in some form of teaching capacity. One of our members is over 90 and still able to set the work pace for all of us!  She has made 16 trips to Uganda working with teenaged girls. We discussed our needs and materials and thread and equipment and financial donations came in from themselves and their friends.

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The kit contains two shields, made of quilting cotton, PUL (poly laminated urethane, prevents leakage) and two snaps, eight flannel insert squares that form the pad when folded in thirds, two panties, one facecloth, one bar of hotel size soap,  two litre-size ziplock bags and an instruction sheet. All of the components must meet the specifications of the Days for Girls Kit. These are then packed into one of the zip locked bags and inserted into a cotton, draw string bag made also by the women.   As the snaps and zip lockbags, facecloths and panties and PUL all have to be purchased, donations of money are essential.

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The sewers have enjoyed the fellowship of working together especially with women whom they have really not known.  So for some it is a social outing.   Many have been quilters but have saturated their families with quilts and this gives them the satisfaction of creating something that will benefit young girls and really in return, as the more empowerment that women achieve, the better equipped this world will be.

The 300 kits will last approximately three years.  With an average of 12-14 women coming every week, it took us about 9 months to accomplish the 300.  Bear in mind there was a learning curve to meet the standards!!! 

-Jean Hume
Guelph, Ontario

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Asante to Jean and her team in Guelph, Ontario!

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to create these feminine hygiene kits and get them to Kenya!

First, Jean’s son-in-law Jamie Whalen brought the five load hockey bags from Guelph to P.E.I. in his horse trailer!

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Then the kits had to be transferred from the hockey bags into suitcases for the trip to Kenya.

 

More on that from FHF board members Liz Townsend:

On Friday February 3rd, a coordinated effort by Farmers Helping Farmers Board members transferred Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits into suitcases that will be checked baggage from PEI bound this month for Kenya.

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Starting with large hockey bags full of kits, FHF president Rosemary Herbert and board member Liz Townsend packed the suitcases and loaded them into Liz’s car.

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Finally, they had one more transfer to the waiting van of FHF past president Carolyn Francis.days-for-girls-1

The suitcases will be taken to Kenyan girls by UPEI student teachers going for a Practicum and the Farmers Helping Farmers team of Carolyn, Liz and Wendy MacDonald going to work on a new Safe And Inclusive Schools project.

The journey for all these kits started with an amazing group of women in Days for Girls who actually sew and assemble these wonderful, reusable kits that enable Kenyan young women to stay in school as proud members of their families and communities.

Quite a journey to make a critical difference in the daily lives of young women!

More photos to come from Kenya.

Asante sana for this wonderful effort.

 

 

Reg’s update on bookkeeping sessions

by Reg MacDonald

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Reg, Winston and FHF employee Leah Kariuki recently held a bookkeeping training session with the Makena Mithatene Women’s Group.

Seventeen members of the group were present for the session, their first. Thanks to Leah for translating.

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The women were keen learners. While in Kenya, we have time only for that one session, but staff employee, Leah, will do a follow up session in a couple of weeks and will continue to work with the women in the future.

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Following the session, the women hosted the FHF group for a lovely lunch meal. Several group members then were happy to show us their kitchen gardens.

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Here is Reg again, this time with the Upendo Women’s Group.

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After the sessions, Reg and FHF coordinator Teresa Mellish enjoy presenting calendars from Canada to members of the women’s group who have helped to organize the sessions.

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Holiday Campaign cows making a difference

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Published by Teresa Mellish 

Yesterday we visited the ExLawa Dairy. We have been working with the dairy for four years and shared in their steady progress. One of highlights was seeing the “loan cows”. These are cows which are financed by our Christmas fund raising campaign. Donated money is given to the dairy and they loan it our as a revolving loan. We visited a farmer who had received a loan to buy a cow two years ago. The cow had milked for a lactation and was ready to calve again next month. The cow had milked well and this was aided by FHF staff training him to make silage to store his forage through the dry season.
An additional benefit was the farmer was able to use the cash flow from this cow to convince the bank to loan him money for an additional cow. It was easy to see looking at his small farm that things were progressing. He was completing his house and he had crops growing in his fields for the dry season.
Another Farmers Helping Farmers success story.

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A quick note from Daktari John – Dr. John VanLeeuwen

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A quick note from Daktari John
Things are going really well here in Kenya. Especially today because it rained for 2 hours in Naari, so the farmers and their crops and livestock will be thrilled, and healthier. A timely good rain can do more for more people than we can – a fact I am willing to accept. It has been dry so the rain will really help.
The 3 Canadian and 2 Kenya students are doing a fantastic job. Here are a couple of photos of seminars in Buuri and in Lunuru.
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While at Lunuru, we provided them with some of our dairy cattle management handbooks. They are very popular, and provide lots of useful and practical information for the farmers. There is a copy on our FHF website.

We had the pleasure of working with the new vet tech at Naari Dairy, Bernard. He is knowledgeable, hard-working, and very personable, so a good catch for the dairy group.
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It has been busy with long days (8 until 6 or 7), making time go by so fast. Only one more week with the farmers around Mt Kenya. The fresh ripe mangoes are keeping us going. Wish we could bring some home with us for you. I guess you will have to settle with some of the photos and memories.
Greetings from all our partners (friends) in Kenya.

Travels to Nkubu

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During this trip, the volunteer team from Farmers Helping Farmers is making some new contacts and potentially, new partnerships.

Winston Johnston, Ken and Teresa Mellish travelled for the day to Nkubu, which is on the other side of Mount Kenya from Nanyuki.

*check out the map below to see where Nkubu is in relation to Meru!

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Winston, Ken and Teresa had a chance to meet with community groups in Nkubu.

Here Farmers Helping Farmers staff person Salome Ntinyari helps with the translation! She’s the one in the bright red sneakers!

We are always happy to have her with us, especially when meeting groups for the first time.

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Winston Johnston is a member of the Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty and is always eager to meet with Rotary members in Kenya.

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Teresa Mellish made a presentation to the Nkubu Rotary about Farmers Helping Farmers.

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We in Canada look forward to hearing more about the time in Nkubu and the people that Winston, Ken and Teresa had a chance to meet.

Vets in Kenya #1 – Cows, cows and more cows!

 

fhf-vet-10As our first week in Kenya comes to a close we’re taking a day of rest to reflect on our first impressions of this beautiful country. We arrived in Nairobi on Sunday evening after nearly 48 hours of travel from Eastern Canada. On our first Monday in Kenya, we managed to hit the ground running and recover from our jet lag with visits to an elephant orphanage, the Kazuri bead factory and the Nairobi National Park. This wonderful day was topped off by a welcome dinner with Henry and Susan, who are employees of Sportsmen’s Safaris, trusted and long-term friends and coordinators here in Kenya.

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After our day of tourist activities we drove to the Wakulima Dairy Group in Mukurwe-ini and got a tour of the factory, sampled some yoghurt and met many people who are involved in the dairy. It was such an amazing place and we were fortunate to see how all the work of the farmers in Mukurwe-ini and Farmers Helping Farmers is paying off. That evening, we were joined by two senior veterinary students from Nairobi University, Makena and Masika, who will stay with us until next Friday! They have already added so much fun and flavour to our time and they are teaching us a lot about life in Kenya.

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The rest of the week went by in a flash with many farm visits to consult with farmers in the Mukurwe-ini area about the health and well-being of their cattle. We had our first seminar in a community where Farmers Helping Farmers has been working for several years so we spent the time communicating some of the research results that have been obtained. The farmers were very engaged and loved hearing about the research. After a brief visit to the head office of Ex-Lewa Dairy Group, we visited a few farms in this area where we saw the true effects of the long drought. As we are heading into the end of the dry season, many cattle are being affected by poor nutrition, and it is a challenge for the farmers to find appropriate forage and feed for their cows while also providing for their own families.  

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On Friday evening, we arrived in Naari, in Meru County, which will be our home for the rest of our time in Kenya. We immediately starting preparing for the annual walk-in clinic which was to take place the next day. This clinic is where farmers are invited to bring their cattle to a set location and, for a small fee that goes to the local community, are able to have their cattle dewormed and also have any specific health concerns they may have addressed and treated, if appropriate. Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and we set out to start our big day. We treated and dewormed approximately 600 cattle over about 11 hours with brief breaks for lunch (a huge ASANTE SANA to the local women’s group who provided an amazing meal) and also to wait out a thunderstorm which drenched the land in some much-needed rain. We saw many cases of East Coast Fever, a tick-borne disease that is common in free-grazing cattle in this area, and many problems attributed to the poor nutrition due to the drought. Overall it was a tiring, satisfying and heart-warming day that taught us how to think on our feet and adapt to the situation.

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We feel that we’ve already done so much this week and we can’t believe how quickly it has gone by. The next two weeks will surely bring more learning opportunities (and more amazing food and scenery!) that we can’t wait to share with everyone back home.

Until next week, kwa heri (goodbye)!

Celebrating solar lights!

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Today the team from Prince Edward Island visited the Mwende women’s group and brought some very special gifts, thanks to Farmers Helping Farmers supporters in Canada.

Every women’s group has their own ‘uniform’, as you can see from the green and black dresses that they are wearing. This would have been a day of great celebration in the community.  Some of the women are singing as the gifts are being handed out.

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The group from Canada was pleased to present all of the members of the Mwende group with a solar light, donated through the Farmers Helping Farmers 2016 Holiday Campaign.

The solar lights are very important to the women who do all their business on the phone so the cell phone has become a valuable tool. Cell phones are much cheaper than in North America but without electricity in their homes, many of the women have to travel to villages and pay to have them charged.

And the solar lamps have also, anecdotally, led to better results at school for families who have them.

Light in the home after dark means the children can do school work. Because if the child has to walk 45 minutes or more to get home and school is not over until 4:00 p.m. and it is dark at 7:00 and there is supper and chores, there is little time for school work before dark.

The light is also portable so if the women need to go to the outhouse after dark, or check on the animals or scare away a wild animal attacking their livestock a light would be very useful.

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The women were eager to show their P.E.I. friends how well their gardens are growing. FHF has supported the construction of these screened gardens that keep hungry birds and animals out.

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The screened gardens allow the women to grow healthy vegetables for their families and to sell, to generate money for the household.

Asante to all of the supporters of Farmers Helping Farmers who help to make life better for the Mwende and other women’s groups in Kenya.

That is something to celebrate.