Today was a big day! Ayub brought some new plants from the nursery. I had asked for more edibles so we could not only make the upper gardens beautiful but also productive. We placed and planted for a few hours in the morning. Then it was off to a bee keepers meeting with Simon at the IPI office. Karamana and Simon were talking about the benefits of adding beekeeping to the farms as a way to increase income and make Meru a unique region to a community of farmers that have started meeting monthly.
Simon and Karamana demonstrated some basic techniques of beekeeping and honey production, and answered questions for the group. We then ate some delicious lunch of rice and pea stew. The Equity bank came as well, at first I was quite skeptical as many of their handouts were in favor of conventional agriculture, and I had some big questions for them at the end of the meeting. We ended up having a great discussion, even though I had my opinions. They started in Kenya in 1983 and were just a small micro finance lender and have grown substantially and now are in Uganda and Sudan. They assured me that they look at each person individually and make sure to balance the loans with their needs and what they can afford so that it doesn't get messy as it has in India and as we know in the US where people were borrowing more than they could afford.
Geoffrey Kirimi also spoke, he was from Naari. He is part of End Hunger Now and was coming to share what they are doing in Naari and other parts of Kenya with banana production and how the two communities can work together.
I was requested to speak and added in (translated by Karamana) that they have all the knowledge and technology they need and it is just a matter of sharing with each other and adding value to their Shamba (farm) by growing organic and saving their seeds. Unfortunately the promotion of GMO seeds here is HUGE is based on increased yields. People are encouraged to plant the same crops at the same time thus creating a surplus and minimal value for the crops and then when the crops are done there is a shortage and food is very expensive. The GMO seeds also require heavy inputs of fertilizers and pesticides to maintain their yeilds. It is a bad cycle and fairly recent a result of the Green Revolution. JP and I brought a few movies explaining this and we will host several showings/ discussions while we are here. It is a complex issue food and hunger in Africa, but one I think can definitely be solved with a shift in thinking on several levels.
The meeting was really quite a success!! The most exciting thing for me was after the meeting the group decided to visit two of each others farms a month and share their findings and discuss techniques each meeting. I was absolutely thrilled as the impact of people sharing and empowering each other, trusting their knowledge and getting recognition from their peers makes this trip worth it as it is something that will last!!! After the meeting Karamana and I walked up the hill to visit a friend's nursery to look for some plants for KACH. On the way we ran into her friend Jane, a ditch full of watercress, a hilarious bird, some goose berries to collect and eat and saw a few of her bee hives. I returned home with a bag of avocados, guavas, macadamia nuts, carrots, honey and feeling happy! When I arrived Kamal and Kathy had smoked a chicken and everyone was ready for a 4th of July feast!!!! all in all a good day!
Small forest nursery
Karamana giving instructions on bee keeping.
Attentive future bee keepers