Speaking of cows can take you to all sorts of places! We’d planned to expand the gene pool of the cows in Mghambonyi by finding new places to buy healthy cows. Saul, one of Zaidi’s partnering farmers took us to the place where he bought Ada, a beautiful strong Ayrshire.
The Agricultural Training Centre at Ngerenyi is an amazing place, 84 acres of fertile land, forest, a small dairy farm, accommodation, conference facilities and a huge dam teaming with beautiful birds, which supplies water for the centre and never dries up.
As we explored the centre we ate red guava, saw bananas, potatoes, maize, napier grass, avocadoes and macadamia nuts growing and then, to our amazement we passed a bush with wild strawberries and another which looked like raspberries.
Our brains began working overtime and we talked with the Principal about bringing agriculture students for a residential week, to spend a couple of days at the training centre and then time in the forest and with our partnering farmers…
Friday became a very busy day, we visited the teachers and children of Kiriwa Nursery and talked about moving into their new building ‘Bob’s Place’, which is almost complete. During April we will meet with parents, teachers and children and officially hand the new nursery over to them. The children demonstrated their skills in reading and counting, actively reciting counting rhymes and they enjoyed playing with little finger puppets too.
Leaving the nursery, we had to rush to the forest where we were to meet two Forest Rangers. We sat on logs whilst enjoying the cool fresh air under the trees, watching Sykes monkeys inquisitively watching us and jumping around. Jonam and Gabriel, the rangers were interested to hear ideas of ventures in the forest and were very supportive of bringing children from other areas of Kenya to learn the importance of the forest, appreciate the eco-system and learn about responsibly tending and using what we have. They said, “It’s good, how can the children learn about what they have never seen.”
We extended the meeting to a trek through the forest, this time it wasn’t the monkeys jumping around, it was us trying to avoid safari ants! (Aaah!) The little blighters find their way into your trousers and then start to bite as they go up your leg, so you start jumping around and bashing yourself as if you’ve gone mad (believe me, it’s worth it – Ngangao Forest is stunning!)
As we walked we watched colourful butterflies flying around us and listened to the calls of monkeys and exciting birds such as the Taita White Eye (a bright yellow bird, with a white ring around its eye) and an unusual thrush with enchanting birdsong. Once through the dense forest, we climbed to one of the highest places in Taita Hills, from there you could see the town of Voi (in the lowland), in the other direction a small town on the road to Taveta (a Tanzanian border town) and in the distance the magnificent Mount Kilimanjaro (actually that’s not quite true – if we’d been there at 7 in the morning we could have seen Kilimanjaro, but at 12 noon it was completely covered in clouds!) What we did see on the way down was a cave, which is the playground for porcupine at night, there were none there in the daytime but we saw their footprints from the mouth of the cave.
During the afternoon we met the Forester and the Ecosystem Conservationist for Taita-Taveta District to discuss activities in the forest. They were extremely welcoming and supportive of working together in the future to educate children, welcome visitors, protect and grow the forest!
On Saturday, with Kelvin (another partnering farmer) we visited Brookside cooling plant and were very happy to hear that the milk yield of the area is increasing. Lorries from Nairobi are collecting milk four times a week.
We visited Saul and his family who have Ada and Martha, we spent time chatting with their children and waiting for Saul and Mary to come back from the shamba (farm). The farm is set at the top of a very steep hillside and sure enough Saul and Mary came walking up that hill each carrying a 30kg sack of napier grass on their head to feed the cows – they made it look easy, but as they got closer you could see how much they were sweating, it’s hard work! The biogas system is now working and as we turned the tap you could hear the gas hissing as it released from the tank. All they need now is for a specialist to connect the system to their kitchen with piping.
From there, we enjoyed meeting new Zaidi calves, both heifers – one from Chelsea and the other Donny. It’s great to see beautiful healthy calves. Iwi and Penny are very strong, heavily pregnant and eating loads ready to deliver in the next couple of months. After seeing the cows Kelvin took us around his shamba where they are growing green peppers, cauliflower, maize, kales, napier grass and other green leafy vegetables. Kelvin moved around the hillside with the agility of a mountain goat as we picked green peppers together.
Arriving back at Ronald and Agnellah’s house early evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset and playing with their children with bubbles. They laughed, danced around catching them and watched with awe as some climbed higher and higher until they could be seen no more!
As always the time disappeared quickly – but it was a successful few days of planning, permissions, assessing where we’re at with Zaidi and figuring out how to improve.
Thank you – the impact of your love and support is strengthening and far reaching!