Our team supervisor Dr. Shauna Richards has arrived! Shauna is a veterinarian from Nova Scotia who just finished her PhD at UPEI. Her PhD is based on data collected on rearing dairy cows in central Kenya, so we are excited to utilize her research findings and learn from her many experiences here in Kenya. With her guidance, we have started the teaching phase of our project for the summer: educating farmers about calf care. Each day, a different community member hosts us on their farm to teach a seminar. They each invite 10-15 neighbouring farmers to attend and learn. Our seminars focus on calf nutrition, housing, management and disease prevention practices as well as mastitis prevention and body condition scoring for cows. After the seminar, we offer to visit the attendees’ farms and provide specific advice on how to best improve their farms for both their calves and cows. At some farms, we are able to assist with minor reconstruction of housing. Each farm poses a unique set of challenges for us to assess and for the farmer to overcome.
Margaret Njoki is one of the members of the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. She is 32 years old and a mother of two. Since Margaret has been very diligent in utilizing the advice she received from last year’s VWB team to make substantial improvements to her barn and stall for her one cow, Njata, we wanted to highlight her farm and the effort she has put into it. Margaret started farming two years ago to help provide income for her family. She is the main caretaker for Njata and was recently been able to purchase a bull. Margaret’s farm was not immune to this year’s drought, but she has seen an increase in milk production and a decrease in mastitis in her cow as a result of last year’s training. Over the past year, Margaret has seen an improvement in her cow’s health and she feels much more confident in feeding and deworming Njata properly. When we asked Margaret for the best advice she could give to youth interested in dairy farming, she suggested planning ahead, budgeting, and investing in the cow now so it will pay off later. We were delighted to hear Margaret’s suggestions, as they support many of the key concepts we are teaching in our seminars.
Aside from our veterinary work, our time here has allowed us to learn about other aspects of life in Kenya. Another Canadian organization working in Kenya, Farmers Helping Farmers, is affiliated with Days For Girls, an Ontario-based non-profit that provides reusable feminine hygiene products to girls in developing nations. We were able to attend a school visit with Farmers Helping Farmers volunteers to promote the value of women and dispel myths surrounding menstruation and hygiene.We distributed kits containing reusable pads and taught the girls how to use and care for them properly. These reusable kits will prevent girls from having to miss school and other opportunities while having their periods. Feminine hygiene products are often not readily available, especially in rural areas, so we are hopeful that these kits will be useful for the girls.
Shortly before Shauna arrived, we were able to go on a safari in Amboseli National Park. This park is located in southeastern Kenya, near its border with Tanzania. It is known for its spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro and its elephant population of around 1000. We enjoyed seeing a wide array of Kenyan wildlife, as well as the different landscapes across the country. During our trip, we were also able to visit a Maasai village and learn about their way of life as well as their cattle rearing practices which differ greatly from those in the Mukurwe-ini area, where we have been learning and working.
Although we have much more to say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the photos below!
This project is supported by VWB-Canada with Global Affairs Canada funding.
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Visiting the dairy with our supervisor Dr. Shauna Richards (photo centre right).
Our happy but hot team after our successful first day of teaching the calf seminar on our own!
Alina working with our translator, Priscilla, to teach a small group of farmers the importance of navel care for calves.
Kelly helping Shauna as she explains teaming up to Theresa Wairimu, one of our new farmers, in preparation for calving. Steaming up is when increased amounts of concentrate and forage are fed in the weeks leading up to calving in order to increase peak milk production. On weekends, when the neighbourhood kids are not in school, they love the excitement of new visitors!
Margaret Njoki (left) is talking with Megan and Alina about why she started dairy farming.
Margaret started farming so that she could contribute more to the family income and provide more for her two young children.
Megan helping to distribute the colorful Days for Girls kits to some of the eager students at Karaguririo Primary School.
Girls in grades 6, 7, and 8 at Karaguririo Primary School were happy to show off their new kits!
Cattle are very important to the Maasai people. In their culture, the Maasai zebu breed is a symbol of wealth as well as a vital source of many products used for everything from consumption to housing.