Whirlwind summer in Kenya!

After a whirlwind summer in Kenya, the time has come for our final blog post. As our time here draws to a close, we want to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our Kenyan family, without whom this project would not have been possible. Each member of our team has been essential in helping us reach our goals. We are so grateful to them for welcoming us into a new country with open arms.photo1(placeafterintroparagraph)
With their help we have worked directly with over 500 farmers and taught over 40 seminars. A total of 54% of the farmers we worked with were women. We were able to increase our impact this year by visiting more farms than in previous years to provide one-on-one training. This allowed us to teach farmers not only about the importance of raising calves, but also about feeding a milking cow, construction of an appropriate place for cows to rest, milking hygiene, and much more. By working one-on-one with farmers we ensured their individual needs were met to set them up to succeed.
To ensure our project was sustainable, we also taught 20 staff members at the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. about the best ways to raise a calf and take care of a dairy cow. These training sessions were based on years of past research proven to be useful in this region. This group of staff is responsible for training dairy farmers, so countless more farmers will learn about how to dairy farm more sustainably to ensure improved livelihoods.
We also visited 5 schools and taught 360 primary aged children about Rabies prevention, how to avoid dog bites, staying safe around farm animals, and how to ensure you don’t catch a disease from an animal. These students go home and teach their siblings and parents about this information, creating an even larger impact on the community surrounding staying safe around animals.
These are just some of the large impacts our work had this summer in Mukurwe-ini, but as we previously mentioned, none of this would be possible without our Kenyan family. Therefore, to end off our summer, we would like finish this blog by sharing some details about our great team that we had the pleasure of working with every day.
Ruth Wathiha provided us with laundry services to ensure we had clean clothes every day for working on the farms. Without her help, it would have been very difficult for us to maintain good biosecurity practices while working with the livestock here. Ruth is from the Mukurwe-ini region of Kenya and lives with her grandma, husband, and three year old son, Travis. Ruth has been working with Veterinarians without Borders since 2010. In addition to her small laundry business, she is a well-established entrepreneur, operating a fruit stand in Ichamara as well as a flour, sugar, and fat shop in Kimondo. In her spare time, Ruth enjoys listening to music and playing with Travis. Ruth loves working in the Ichamara region of Kenya because of its pleasant climate and peaceful atmosphere.

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Samuel Karanja, our very talented chef, was inspired at a young age by his uncle who was a successful chef at fancy hotels in the Nairobi area. Samuel completed his secondary education in Nanyuki and attended Nyeri Technical Institute for 2 years for his culinary training. He has been working with VWB/VSF for the last 3 years. Although he faces challenges such as limited availability of ingredients in Mukurwe-ini and less than favorable cooking conditions, his ingenuity pays off with his delicious meals and the well-deserved compliments he receives. He loves his childhood home of Nanyuki and credits his mother’s guidance for his successes. Samuel’s goal is to work abroad in Canada for a few years and ultimately return to Kenya to build a fancy restaurant of his own in Nanyuki. In his spare time, Samuel likes to watch movies and the cooking channel, listen to music, go swimming, and make new friends. Aside from his cooking skills, he has given us invaluable insight into understanding Kenyan life, and has become a great friend.

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Priscilla Muthoni was our enthusiastic translator who has been working with VWB/VSF since 2012. She speaks 3 languages – English, Swahili, and Kikuyu. Kikuyu is her native tongue, which helps us to connect with the local people. She was born in the Mukurwe-ini region and grew up on a dairy farm. Of her many chores on the farm, milking cows was her favorite, and this cultivated an interest in the dairy industry. She completed her post-secondary education at the Dairy Technical Institute in Naivasha and then worked as a laboratory technician doing quality control at local dairies. She is well versed in dairy cow care and Kenyan farming practices, providing background knowledge and a Kenyan perspective to each situation we encounter. Her favourite part of the job is helping to make a difference in the dairy farmers’ lives. In her spare time, Priscilla enjoys going out with her husband and 3 children to volunteer with the less fortunate. Priscilla was a vital part of our team, especially in connecting and building relationships with the farmers we teach. Every day with Priscilla was a delight as she is so personable, funny, and easygoing.

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Ephraim Mutahi was our very impressive driver. Amidst the bustling pedestrian and vehicle traffic, he was successful in getting us where we needed to be quickly and efficiently, and his faithful car Shira always made it up the most intimidating hills. He has been working for VWB/VSF since 2013 and really enjoys the opportunity to be a private driver because it’s dependable employment. He has worked as a matatu (local bus) driver in busy Nairobi, but prefers the more peaceful life of Mukurwe-ini. He says his biggest challenge as a driver is competing with the many other drivers in the area for customers, but it is worth it because his job allows him to provide for and work close to his family. Ephraim is a pastor and a father of 3, often providing us with daily wisdom and cheesy dad jokes. He loves spending time with family, volunteering on the school board, and taking time to bathe his cow, Maggie. He says, “When you have a big heart, you always have time to do more.” Ephraim feels lucky to have been born in Kenya because the country is free and the landscapes are beautiful. Our daily drives with Ephraim were always an adventure, and we looked forward to his exciting wardrobe choices.

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In addition to the team we worked with daily, we would like to thank Gerald Kariuki for coordinating our partnership with the Mukurwe-ini Wakulima Dairy Ltd. as well as the local community. He has been a valued liaison for VWB/VSF for many years and we are all very appreciative of his efforts. We also appreciate the following individuals for their many contributions to our work:
Extension staff from the MWDL – Charles, Elias, James, Eunice, Jeremiah
Veterinarians from the MWDL – Patrick and Ayub
The administrative, lab and management staff at the MWDL.
Henry and the staff at Sportsmen’s Safaris in Nairobi who supported us during this project.
We would like to thank our wonderful supervisor Dr. Shauna Richards for her knowledge and guidance throughout our placement, Veterinarians without Borders Canada for their sponsorship of this project, Farmers Helping Farmers for their continued collaboration, and the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre for their generous financial contribution. Last but not least we want to extend a special thank you to everyone back home who donated their time, services, money and encouragement for us to be here. None of this work would be possible without you!

photo6(placeafterthanksparagraph)Our team with friends and family in Mukurwe-ini at our Canada Day celebration

This project is supported by VWB/VSF Canada with funding from Global Affairs Canada.
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