The Proof is in the Pudding: Farmers Helping Farmers Handbook Helps Kenyan Farms Continue to Grow

Jambo! After countless delays, the UPEI vet students, Kasadee, Karen, and Andrea, as well as our supervisor, Dr. John VanLeeuwen (UPEI dairy cattle specialist), have arrived in Kenya and have begun working with local dairy farmers. Here in Kenya, every day is different and comes with its own unique activities, experiences, and people that we meet along the way. 

Throughout this week we have attended various question and answer seminars with local dairy groups, including Buuri, Naari, and Ngusishi. These seminars are a great opportunity for the farmers to ask questions directly to a veterinarian (daktari) and learn from each other. We are also learning a great deal, including a goal of five Swahili words a day. 

The seminars have been a great opportunity to see how dairy cattle are managed here in Kenya. Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) leads training for cohorts of the dairy groups where the farmers work through the important steps outlined in the FHF-UPEI Handbook for Kenyan Dairy Farmers. Graduates from the program were awarded certificates for their hard work during these seminars. 

The dairy cattle (ng’ombe) are the main focus of the FHF-UPEI vet group in this part of Kenya, but this year, Dr. Martha Mellish (UPEI equine professor), along with donkey owner and dressage trainer, Anne Aloi, have started the Working Donkey project.

We were lucky enough to tag along with the donkey (punda) crew on Wednesday where we helped complete welfare assessments, perform physical exams, and provide deworming medication to the donkeys. A seminar for donkey owners was also widely attended in Nkando where many thoughtful questions were asked and answered. 

The busy week continued into Saturday with the first walk-in clinic of our trip being hosted in Mbaaria. Each of us were able to pair up with a veterinarian and a translator to treat over 70 cows, heifers, bulls, and calves. More than 280 cattle were also dewormed. 

It was organized chaos where we were able to help many farmers and it was a great chance for us to see diseases that we would not normally see in Canada. The walk-in clinic was a great opportunity for farmers to bring in their animals to us, where we saw variety of breeds, ages, and symptoms. The entire FHF-UPEI crew, including veterinarians, dairy farmers, and lots of Mellishes teamed up to host this amazing event! 

The highlight of the week was seeing a farmer from the Naari dairy group, Mary, who has vastly improved the conditions on her farm leading to increased milk production. Mary hosted the seminar on her farm and had a clear thirst for knowledge as evidence by the thoughtful questions she asked. She has recently completed the FHF-UPEI Handbook training. The knowledge she gained from the training was clear in her improvements on her farm, including proper nutrition for all her cows and cow comfort.

By implementing the teachings from the FHF-UPEI handbook, she now has three successfully bred cows, as confirmed by us by rectal palpation, two of which she plans to dry off within the next month following the recommendations of our team. While on her farm we toured her new barn, which she has built with the help of FHF staff member Stephen Chandi, which has led to more comfortable cows. 

Mary continues to diversify her agri-business by expanding to potato seed as well as other vegetables in her large garden. She also has a new biogas unit where she can use the manure from her cows to help heat her gas stove in the kitchen and the excess can be used as fertilizer in her garden. This farm was a wonderful example of how hard-working Kenyans paired with the education from FHF and UPEI can lead to successful and prosperous farms.  

We are looking forward to the next two weeks here in Kenya. Check back here next week for a new update. 

Tuonane (see you)!


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