Time is flying in Kenya

We have been in Kenya for a while now so there is a lot to report on.

Our first days in Kenya were spent in Nairobi, where we were treated with a really nice hotel. It was great to eat raw vegetables again, especially tomatoes. We visitied the Nairobi Vet School, and also got a tour of the International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, and stayed at the hostel there. We met a tonne of very hospitable people with enormous knowledge of the challenges facing some of Kenya’s poor.

From Nairobi we drove to Ischimara where we visited the Wakulima Dairy Co-op (Wakulima is Swahili for farmer). We stayed at the Chairman’s house, who we only ever knew as ‘the Chairman.’ We visited some farms in the area where we treated sick cows and John educated the farmers about the importance of stall construction and cleanliness to prevent mastitis. We also began taking blood from calves, which will be tested for immunoglobulins to find out about the success of passive transfer.

Soon we moved on to the Mchaka orphanage and the St. Theresa Mission Hospital where we watched in action the meal programs designed to feed toddlers in the area. We also fed and spent a day with the orphaned babies of the region.

Nearby in Meru we witnessed firsthand the effects of the 3rd drought in a row. We visited Kinyinjeri school where the garden and a sorry food store is all that feeds the communitie’s children. The principle told us that it is difficult to convince some of the children to return home at the end of the day, as often times there is no food there. They live dangerously close to the edge of starvation, and with no harvest until January it is difficult to imagine the challenges they will face in the near future.

We then travelled for a day to Ex-Lewa, so named because the man who named his farm Lewa (a muzungo- white person) had to vacate his land at the request of the government and took the name of his farm with him, leaving Ex-Lewa in its place. Here we visited some more farms, treating animals and taking blood. The co-op has a new relationship with Farmers Helping Farmers and they are very appreciative of the help and advice being offered. We were welcomed so warmly and were treated so well it was amazing.

Kenyans have given us such a warm welcome into there homes. Almost everywhere we have been we are offered something as we leave. We even recieved a bag of freshly picked avacados! mmmm.

Presently, Val and I are travelling to farms with Dr. Kimindi, a local Kenyan vet. We are learning a lot about challenges facing dairy farmers in the area, and about the veterinary profession here. What a great experience.

Exit Ethiopia: Enter Kenya

This is our last day in Ethiopia. Tomorrow morning we leave at 6 am to Addis Abeba where we will see where Lucy, the oldest human skeleton, and go shopping at the largest market in Ethiopia. The 350km drive takes over 6 hours, as we will once again be weaving in and out of donkeys and people.

We have had a great time here in Ethiopia. Val and I have learned a lot about cattle and the way of the Ethiopian dairy farmer. We have learned what is required in terms of the basic changes needed here to improve the welfare of the cattle and improve milk production. Some of these include principles of cow comfort, such as trimming toes and adding bedding, to nutrition, and the necessity of concentrates and mineral on reproductive success. We saw a very wide range of farms and met many people, most of whom were happy to participate with our project. We have had fun with our drivers Safu and Jabir and our partner Dr. Tolosa.

Ethiopian people are far more affectionate than North Americans, there is more hand holding and a much warmer greeting is given upon encountering a friend. In this sense, I think it is a richer country despite its lack of wealth.

First Days in Ethiopia

After treeplanting for a month or so, and meeting some of my new favorite people, I returned home with what I thought was 3 days to prepare for my journey to Africa. I was very sure the flight left on the 17th, and was very surprised when on the 16th, I was unable to check in online for my flight, and realized that my flight actually left at 6am on the 16th. This was the first adventure of many, and I was lucky enough to catch up with my travel mates Dr. John VanLeeuwen and Valerie Monpetit at the Frankfurt airport. We arrived to Addis Abeba, a city of 4 million, at night, so we were unable to see the city as we flew overhead, but as we drove to our hotel, it was obvious that Africa is a different world.

The next day we drove for around 8 hours on what was a very nice highway with a young man named Safu, pronounced c’est fou in French. It seemed a suitable name as we weaved in and out of people and animals. At one point, a donkey that was walking in the middle of the road made the wrong last minute decision to turn right and ended up in front of a bus full of people that was unable to stop. The donkey was struck, and we stopped to help, but some people in the crowd that gathered assumed it was us that had hit the donkey. Luckily there were enough witnesses to confirm that it was the bus. We left the donkey and all the people, and we were informed that the bus driver would have to compensate the woman for her donkey, and that it can take an individual up to 5 years to save the money to purchase a donkey. There is a saying in Ethiopia,”if you do not have a donkey, you are a donkey.”

The next day we went to church and had our first opportunity to become culture shocked. We attended a church ceremony that happens only 3 times a year, and walked through a crowd of thousands of people. It was breathtaking and nerve-wracking, and quickly exposed us to the world we would be living in for our time in Ethiopia.

We then began our work on the farms. With Dr. Tadele Tolosa as our guide, we began our travels around the city of Jimma. Valerie and I quickly learned how to take blood from the underside of the base of a cows tail, as John and the farm workers restrained the animals manually. The cows are Holstein cross with local breeds and are therefore thankfully smaller than the Holsteins in Canada. The farms have around 15 cows each, sometimes more, sometimes less, and we have seen all types of arrangements of barns, from concrete barns that are very clean to dirt floors and mud walls, which is more common. We are testing for the prevalence of Johne’s disease in Ethiopia, which has yet to be studied, and each day we return to the lab and spin the clotted samples from the day before to extract the serum. The serum will then undergo an ELIZA test to determine the presence of paratuberculosis (Johne’s). It is very interesting work and an amazing experience.

On our day off, Valerie and I went to “the birthplace of Arabica coffee” where there was a plaque erected by the President of the region. We also saw a gene bank farm for coffee, which had over 500 different species of arabica coffee plant, and various other species of tuber and herb. It was a very nice trip. We then returned to our hotel room to watch Oprah interview Micheal Jackson’s mother.

Soon we will travel to Kenya, were we will go on Safari. Both Valerie and I are very excited about this. I will tell you more soon!!