Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Follow-Ups and Aprons

We've spent a lot of the past week doing follow up evaluations of the programs we implemented last summer. Our two main projects last year were to assess the school feeding programs at 5 schools based on the World Health Organizations recommendations and to work with 2 womens groups to give family nutrition seminars. The feedback we've gotten this year is unreal. We've discovered that every school is at the very least soaking their beans and maize and using mbembe maize (whole grain / unpolished....all the nutrients are in the outer husk that they normally remove by polishing the maize) and they are all adding more vegetables to the meals now then they were this time last year. I honestly wasn't expecting so many positive changes to have been made. When we arrived in Kiirua and the Meru area (where all the schools are) there was no mistaking that they have been experiencing severe draught. The short rains season just ended without nearly enough rain and the long rains season before that had passed with very little rain as well. The majority of the crops were not successful enough to harvest and the school gardens are looking pretty rough. Some of the schools have access to water piped in from Mt Kenya (CEFA water) but an elephant stepped on the line last week and it hasn't been repaired yet. When the conditions are already so incredibly dry, even a few days without water for drip irrigation can make or break the harvest.

Despite the incredibly challenging conditions, each school is making nutrition a priority and has really done all they can to make changes. Ruuju school in particular has even gone above and beyond the goals we made with them last year and has made even more changes than anticipated! It's been really greta not only to see that our messages were listened to and are being followed, but it was equally as awesome to get to see all of the wonderful people we met last year at each of the schools. We were even greeted as fellow staff at one of the schools by the headmaster. I can only imagine what the school feeding programs will look like once the area gets some rain and the conditions improve. The school feeding programs run by donations from parents. Each parent is responsible for donating a specific number of kilograms of maize and beans, but right now, the parents have nothing to donate. Most of the schools only have enough maize and beans stored for a few more weeks, not enough to last the rest of the school term. I'm not really sure what will happen when they run out, but it's not looking good.

We have been working with Esther again to have more aprons made. We were asked to speak at the Souris Village Feast and we are going to sell aprons there too. Ester has just finished making us more than 200 more aprons! They look awesome and I'm really excited to sell them! She is planning on using the money from these aprons to buy a solar panel for her home so that her kids can have light to read and do school work at night. How cool is that?! Her husband has been helping her make them so it's turned into a family affair.

We've only got 4 more days in Meru, and 1 day in Nairobi left until we head back to Canada. It's crazy how fast three weeks go by! I wish I was staying all summer but at the same time I really missed summer at home last year, plus I'm pumped to start internship!

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