A Day In The Life

Today we spent “a day in the life” of rural Kenya.  We divided into 3 groups and went to 3 shambas, or farms.  Each of the farms is the home of a member of the Muchui Women’s Group.

Farmers Helping Farmers has been working with the Muchui Women’s Group for almost a decade.  Women’s groups are common in Kenya.  They’re like cooperatives, where the women work and learn together.  In the case of the Muchui Women’s group, they have set up their own “business centre” which operates as a central base.  FHF employees Stephen, Salome and Gikundi work regularly with the women.  The group has grown from an original group of 70, to include another 11 women.  Through their association with Farmers Helping Farmers and the Andreas Baur Foundation*, the women have had access to screenhouses where they can grow vegetables for sale.  Screenhouses, by the way, are screened in greenhouses that protect the plants from birds and other predators.  Most also have drip irrigation lines to help in the dry months in Kenya.

*The Foundation is named in memory of a young man from B.C . His family donates money to projects in his name.

Enough history, now to the interesting stuff!

Our group was assigned to the shamba of a member of the Muchui Women’s Cooperative named Rose.  Also at the shamba today was her husband Lawrence, her daughter-in-law Janice and grand-daughter Ivy.  And there was 96 year old “Mama”!  Neighbour Rosemary and little Victoria also dropped by. We actually had a smaller audience than at some of the other shambas, where people came from miles around to watch the “mizungu” or “white people” work!

We were warned to expect physical labour and the day did not disappoint.  At our shamba, a group was assigned to work in Rose’s screenhouse, which she shares with another woman in the cooperative.  It’s a beautiful big screenhouse, full of tomato plants reaching up to the ceiling.  The first fruit are just starting to form.  So the plants need to have the suckers removed, to promote the growth of the fruit.  Rose will eventually take most of the tomatoes to market, raising money towards the family income.  And, of course, we had Mr. Tomato himself – Stephen Mwenda – with us to help guide us.

One of the events of the morning was removing the horns from one of Rose’s five cows.  I didn’t see it myself, but I hear there was a bit of blood.  Taylor wanted to bring them back to Canada but we all said no!

Kelly and Peter got to work on the stew, cooking over the wood-fired stove.  They also later chopped some firewood. Carolyn and I got to do the wash…by hand, of course.  There were four buckets of cold-ish water and we had to scrub with a bar of soap.  It was hard work bending over the buckets.

After lunch (an excellent stew by Kelly and Peter), we were asked to sort potatoes in a shed.  Carolyn and Peter are both seasoned potato graders and worked their way diligently to the bottom of the pile.  And I’m talking about 8 large sacks of potatoes later.  I don’t think Rose and her family expected them to finish!

At some of the other farms, Tammy, Cara and the youth did a variety of other tasks.  They were clearing a potato field, spreading dry manure, picking and sorting tomatoes and more.

The highlight at our shamba was when Taylor, Carm and Kelly got a chance to milk the cow by hand. Rose was very accommodating – because this was Taylor’s big wish for the day…along with taking home the cow horns!  The dairy cow was very patient and all the Islanders were able to get milk from her, which we then helped to deliver to a nearby school.

We worked hard but it was a very welcoming atmosphere and by all reports it was similar at the other shambas.  We thank the members of the Muchui Women’s Group for their hospitality.

On our way back to the guest house, we drove deeper into downtown Meru to visit a fabric shop. We’re all starting to collect souvenirs to take home.  That’s all the hint you are going to get!

It was also very exciting to finally receive Tristan’s backpack, which had been missing.  The team at the Sportsmen’s Safari in Nairobi have worked hard to track it down.  Asante Henry!

Tomorrow will be an emotional day.  We are heading to Kamuketha School to officially celebrate the opening of Callum’s Classrooms.  If you’re new to this blog, you can read more about our project at callumsclassroom.wordpress.com.

After a year of fundraising, it’s kind of surreal to think we will see the classrooms in person tomorrow.  And I will be sharing with the families at Kamuketha the love and support from everyone on Prince Edward Island and beyond who has helped to make these buildings a reality.   They are more than buildings.  For many of us, they are a symbol of our love for Callum and how much we miss him.

You get what I mean about an emotional day.

I will share more about our visit to Kamuketha tomorrow.

Asante sana, Nancy

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