Friday, March 20, 2009

Greetings from Hot, Dry and Dusty Makindu . . .

The long rains are due to start any day . . . they say. They are unpredictable so people do not plant until actually see the rain.

I have scheduled some goat raising training for 54 guardians at MCC. They have never had any formal training and our hope is that the training will help them be more aware of how they need to improve feed, disease control and housing in order to gain increased production from healthier animals. I made a site visit day before yesterday with the District Vet Officer to the best goat raising site out of the guardian group (their choice). We found 7 goats and 4 sheep sharing the same small pen, the goats were visibly infested with fleas and tics and the pen was heavy with animal droppings . . . all not a good environment. They have been raising all livestock the same way "forever" according to Chege, the vet officer, so culture change is our major hurdle. Our role is to provide the information and training, the guardian's role is to make the necessary changes. I can only be hopeful. As happens more often than not here, we have had to reschedule the training at least once. We are now scheduled to start on April 2nd, we have scheduled nine sessions of two hours each. The guardians seem very interested as they all showed up early the day we were supposed to start . . . that is unusual . . . meetings sometimes start here up to two hours late. If the rains do come, we may have to reschedule again as the guardians will be planting their shambas (farms). We will wait and see . . . Livestock ownership, mostly cows and goats, is a sign of wealth in Kenya so that is why everyone has or wants them. They may have no money but they have goats. Goats are also their savings account. The problem with this cultural norm is that they sell the goats only when "times are tough" and tough times normally happen to a large percentage of Kenyans at the same time so the market price for goats or any livestock drops significantly and their "wealth" is diminished often twofold. Changing this cultural personal financial practice will take much education and time. Language is a bit of a barrier but I am working with and through the MCC social workers who speak Kikamba (the mother tongue here) they also speak Kiswahili and English! Some communication gets lost in translation I am sure but I can only hope it isn't a lot. The social workers are young, just out of college, so they understand the cultural barriers but are not tied up in them.

Our shamba at MCC is currently producing sackfuls of tomatoes so it is a great treat to have them with lunch now right off the vine, virtually, with hot chilis and onions!!!

I had one large (30) community group join my "tupa taka taka hapa" trash, clean up project this morning. We will work together every week now. One other group is supposed to join us next week. I am excited to see if we can make a difference. I need to contact the Marketing Directors for some major companies here to see if they want to donate trash bins, I think I mentioned that before. I think people might respond better if they had a place to dump their trash besides on the streets.

The community is currently having a major outrage over the water company billing rates. They have had one community baraza (meeting) and have now scheduled another after they drafted a letter to the local officials and the water company. People's bills are four to five times what they should be . . . MCC just received a bill for 23,000 shillings, our normal bill is around 5,000 and the pattern of water usage here has not changed. People cannot afford this and most are not paying . . . so we will wait to see the outcome of this. You cannot live without water so the situation is getting desperate.

Yahoo has been very unreliable here for the last month, so if you have emailed me and I have not responded, please be patient. I still only have access about once a week. Thanks to those who write, it is always great to get a letter. It sometimes gets a little lonely but I am happy and working hard.

My best wishes to all!!!


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