By Katy White, UCVM Veterinary Student and VWB Intern
The internships with the Wakulima Dairy Group are a joint initiative of Veterinarians without Borders and Farmers Helping Farmers, an organization of globally-minded people from Prince Edward Island partnering with Kenyan farmers and families.
We have safely arrived in Mukurwe-ini with all of our luggage! Arriving at 3am in Nairobi the streets were very quiet. This was sharply contrasted 6 hours later as we ran some last minute errands in the city. The streets were bustling with people, motorbikes, and cars. As we were running on very little sleep it was nice to get out of the busy city for a change of pace. We stopped at the Starbucks Hotel in Karatina for a lunch of chapati, a Kenyan specialty fried flat bread. Upon arriving at our house we were presently whisked off for dinner at Gerald Kariuki’s house. Gerald is the recently retired coordinator of the Wakulima Dairy group. He is helping facilitate our work with them as well as many other Farmers Helping Farmers projects. We were very grateful for the delicious meal served, followed by chai, tea, and fruit. The chai tea is plentiful here and I imagine we will have had a lot of it by the end of the summer.
The next day we organized some of our work materials, and met with some of the Wakulima dairy employees we will be working with. The dairy is quite impressive. Having started in 1980 with only 35 farmers producing about 36 kg of milk per day, today it is a busy cooperative of over 6000 farmers producing nearly 50 000 kg of milk per day. Both pasteurized milk and yogurt are sold from the facility and they are constantly looking for ways to expand further. We were impressed by the efficiency of the operation as we moved through from milk receiving and testing to pasteurization, packaging, and shipping. At left Julia (left) and I are all dressed up for our tour of the dairy.
In our project we will be working with youth farmers of the Wakulima Dairy. We will be visiting 40 farms three times each over the course of our 3 month stay. The service project is based on research by Dr. Shauna Richards on cow comfort, hygiene, nutrition, and disease prevention on small scale farms. At each farm we will be helping them to alter their stalls to make them more comfortable for the cows. The more cows rest the more milk they make. We also help them to keep their stalls clean and go over milking practices to help prevent mastitis. We will help them improve their feeding practices to ensure that nutrition is optimized for milk production. On our final visit we will help the farmers teach a seminar to other youth farmers in the area so that they can also benefit from these practises. The hope is that in the future this new group will work together to continuously improve their dairy farming.
So far we have completed eight of our farm visits. The farmers have been very welcoming and eager to learn. Our team consists of myself, fellow intern Julia Nguyen, Shauna, Priscilla (our translator), and Ephraim (our driver and stall constructor extraordinaire). We have had lots of fun getting to know each other so far and I am excited for the rest of the summer!
Julia, Shauna, and Pricilla enjoying the sun after one of our first days of farm work.