By Ben Vos
Just a few words on my experience so far in Kenya. As I have been telling many farmers here, I was a dairy farmer on P.E.I. About 20 years ago John VanLeeuwen, our vet at the time, sparked my interest in things he was doing for the farmers in Kenya. I thought about going at the time but leaving the farm at the coldest time of the year, and for that length of time, was just not possible. I also wondered if I would make any difference there because they have lived and farmed there for so long. What was I gonna say, or do, that would make any difference to them?
Landing here certainly changed how I felt.
First thing you notice is how genuine the people are, who greet you with a handshake and a smile. People are dressed very sharp, and certainly care about how they go out in public. Driving through the communities, you see a lot of people herding their cattle, sheep, and goats. Others are selling goods on the side of the road. You also see many people doing hard physical labour.
The thoughts I had were about starving people, asking for food. It doesn’t seem to be like that, if you have access to water. The soil looks very fertile, even though some areas have not had rain for years. People make do with what they have, and try to provide food for their families, and make sure they can send their kids to school.
Being here with Farmers Helping Farmers has given us a great opportunity to see what effect they really have here. I was asked to help farmers with dairy training – giving workshops on topics in the manuals they were given as part of a dairy club.
The main thing I have noticed is their lack of knowledge of things that seem obvious to me. We are teaching them about getting the cows ready to calve, feeding them properly, and the housing facilities. Production on most farms is very low, and there is lots of room for improvement. Most farmers rely on less than a handful of cows to make their living. Teaching them the skills to help improve the production will directly help them with their bottom line.
Most people that we have talked to have never seen white people show up at their farms, and when first talking to them, they seem a bit puzzled. Within a short time you start to see a lot of heads nodding, or laughing at things that they should be doing.
I’m very glad to have been a part of this trip, and hopefully ignite a spark in some of these farmers. I’m sure that they’ve all learned something, and will improve things on their shambas, or farms. I have certainly learned a lot about them, and even myself, while being here. So many things we take for granted are not so in Kenya.