Text and photos by Julia Nguyen, VWB intern and OVC veterinary student, and Katy White, VWB Intern and UCVM veterinary student.
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. This project is also supported by the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre.
It’s just over the halfway point of our internship in Kenya. We have visited 27 out of a total 40 farms. We have completed all three visits to 22 of the farms. The past two weeks’ work has been broken up by two adventures. We climbed Mt. Kenya, and travelled to Amboseli National Park to go on safari. This has given us some time to reflect on our experiences so far.
One of our favourite moments about visiting farms (especially on the third and second visits) is seeing how the small changes we make are creating real improvements in cow comfort and milk production. For example, on one farm we made the minor improvements of increasing lunge space and creating a softer stall base. On our second visit the farmer informed us that the cow has been resting more frequently, and that its daily milk production had even increased by one kilogram. This is the kind of news we love hearing. We can often see how much cleaner the cows are from not resting in the dirty alley way, or witness cows resting comfortably in their clean and dry stalls. In addition, to seeing and hearing about good changes to their farms, we have enjoyed getting to know the youth farmers within our service project. Most are very welcoming of us, and very engaged in learning better practices. One exceptional farmer, Solomon Waribu, has been elected Wakulima Dairy Director for his area since being in our project! We are looking forward to the remaining farms left in the project, and hopeful the work we are doing is engaging more youth and female farmers; improving their farming practices to have a healthier cow and a better livelihood.
Some of our favourite people involved in the project have been integral to its success. These very important people are: Priscilla our translator, Ephraim our driver, Gerald and the extension staff at the Wakulima Dairy, and of course Shauna our project leader. Without Priscilla, Ephraim, Gerald and the Wakulima extension staff our project would not be possible. Priscillia is an exceptionally friendly person and she makes each day brighter. She gets along really well with all of the farmers we meet, and helps to make sense of what we are teaching through clear translation. Ephraim is a real renaissance man. He helps us with anything and everything that comes up, whether that be hammering in a tricky nail, calming down a temperamental cow, or getting “the hustler” safely up steep muddy roads that seem impossible to climb. Gerald helps us coordinate all of the small details that can be hard to organize, especially when you don’t know the area or the language well. He worked for years at the dairy and with the extension staff of Wakulima has helped connect us to all of the farmers in our project. We are very lucky to have such hard working and welcoming people to work with here in Mukurwe-ini. Ruth (the wonderful woman who does our laundry), Samuel (our amazing chef), and Jeramiah (our trusty back up driver), are also all integral in ensuring that our days run smoothly. Each one of them brightens our day every time we see them. They have made it feel like home away from home.
We were sad to bid Shauna goodbye as she recently left to return to Canada. She was an excellent teacher and made every day of work fun. We both felt lucky to have learnt from someone so passionate about the work they are doing. Her research here has found sustainable solutions for dairy farmers that can be implemented easily, while providing real returns for the farmers and their cows. It was obvious how happy the farmers were to work with her based on her easy rapport with everyone we met. We are excited to continue on the work she has been doing, and look forward to a future reunion. Good luck with your last chapter Shauna, and thank you for all your support!
We also have wrapped up all of our school visits! Thank you to the class 8 students (pictured here) at Gikondi Primary school for hosting us and letting us teach them about zoonotic disease, proper biosecurity on farm, proper cow handling, and dog bite and rabies prevention. They were our last school visit of the summer.