Monday, June 21, 2010

Why Did the Elephant Cross the Road?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2010

Living in someone else’s house is really difficult. I am really not a fan. I feel like I am in the way and being a nuisance all the time. This week we are staying at a Lady’s house named Jennifer. She’s the head of the Muchui Women’s group, which is an agricultural based group that teaches women how to farm more efficiently; increase yields and provides resources to help do so. The group also provides some income for the women because the business center that the group is based out of pays the women to grow plants from seed, and buys the harvested crops from the women to sell later. Jennifer is a really smart woman and has been very successful and lives quite well for Kenyan standards. I think I must just be used to living on my own and doing my own thing because I’m having a really hard time eating by someone else’s time standards (we eat basically nothing all day and then have dinner at like 9pm, needless to say I am starving and really cranky by about this time everyday), moving at someone else’s speed and living by someone else’s rules. I don’t like being told what to do, and I can’t exactly say no in this situation. I’m trying to just roll with it knowing that it’s only going to be one week until I will be moving into where I will be staying for the next 2.5 months, a dorm room at the hospital.

Today was a really big day. We visited the Muchui Business center, and met some of the 64 women that belong to the group. We were trying to learn as much as possible about the crops that are being grown by the women and how they are used in cooking and how they are eaten. We met with Martin and Salomie, two of the people that work at the business center and they answered all of our questions and explained basically everything. The business center itself has some greenhouses and is doing some grafting of mango trees and other plants so that they can sell the grafted plants at markets. The women who belong to the group volunteer at the center and help maintain the greenhouses and the crops being grown there, as well as help maintain community garden plots that profit the group. The center also buys the harvested crops from the women and sell it at markets for a profit to keep the center running. Basically the Machui Business center, which is home to the Machui Woman's Group, educated female farmers on more efficient farming practices, provides resources that will allow them to implement these suggestions and facilitates an income for the women by purchasing their crops and hiring them to grow seedlings for them.

We spent the afternoon visiting two of the women’s farms from the Machui Women’s Group. The two we visited were the furthest away and hadn’t been visited by Canadians in the last 6 years so they were very excited to see us. Not surprising considering the road to get there was not even really a road. It was basically a strip of rocks and pot holes and mud. We were all crammed into the back of a truck bouncing around like crazy. Farmers Helping Farmers has provided funding for this group, supplying each women with a water tank and the gutters that divert the rain water from the roof to the tanks. The women here are absolutely gorgeous, with adorable little kids running around the farms. The diversity of the crops that they have been able to grow on small pieces of land is incredible. These women work so hard and have made a strong effort to practice the skills that they are being taught as part of the woman's group. They are the hardest working people I have ever met. Inspiring for sure.

Today I learned that I know essentially nothing about what I'm supposed to be doing while I'm here. I tried as hard as I could to be a sponge and absorb all that I could about the crops, the women and the farming practices and how it relates to school nutrition and nutrition in general but I was on sensory overload by lunch time. It's overwhelming to travel across the world to educate people when all you can think of is how much more they know than you do. I still have no idea what I could possibly teach these women; they are strong, independent, and intelligent. I am hoping that at least someone will learn something from me before I leave here, it will just be a matter of figuring out a gap that I can fill. It's going to be harder to find that gap than I thought it would be.

On the drive home from the school, we saw an ELEPHANT on the side of the road! And I thought seeing moose were exciting in Canada! Somehow I think an elephant would do a lot more damage to your car, although I suppose in either case you'd be dunzo. We thought we might see them because there is a trail covered in really giant poop that goes from one side of the road to the other. Why did elephant cross the road? To get to Mt Kenya supposedly. Of course being the ridiculous Mzungus we that we are, we pulled over and took about a million pictures! The locals thought it was quite hilarious that we were so fascinated, but its not everyday you see an elephant in the wild!

One of the women from the group has been 'adopted' by a FHF member and has been given a sewing machine as a means to source income additional to her farm yields. Her name is Ester and Christina and I are working with her on a special fund raising project. It's still in the works and we're getting the fine details all ironed out but we're hoping to raise enough money to purchase 2 water tanks and the gutter that go with them. The Machui Woman's Group just accepted 38 new members, all of which will need water tanks. Stay posted for the full details of our project!

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