Fresh air filled our lungs as we climbed the hills to Mgambonyi; the car windows open to equalize the air pressure. During the day it was hot and extremely dry, grass and water are scarce from a long dry season so keeping hungry cows fed and watered is giving farmers a huge challenge. Farmers have small stores of dry grass remaining and others buy bundles carried by motorbike from the lowlands.
On the first night, the stars shone brightly, the sky was clear, the air crisp. Sleep was sweet and well needed in preparation for a busy day ahead. We set off walking to one of the farms where we’d agreed to meet with all Zaidi’s partnering farmers. During the meeting we discussed the importance and benefits of full participation and ownership of the project by farmers. All farmers aired their ideas, views and concerns, which led to many constructive conversations of how to move forward to improve their supplies of food and water for cattle, improve their levels of support for each other, stretch the assistance to welcome more farmers and develop their farms, one by one.
The early hours of the next morning brought welcome rain. It felt chilly in the wind and rain on the tops of the hills. Setting off wearing four layers (including a raincoat) we walked to visit one of Zaidi’s new farmers. We set off through familiar areas but then branched off down a hillside we’d never been down before. The views were absolutely breathtaking, with low clouds passing through the valley so close; you could reach to take hold of them. We walked along a path that not even a small motorbike could pass, down and then up small, winding pathways, almost impassable; it seemed almost it’s own community.
Stella, the new farmer has two children and she cares for her aged and sick mum who, when we arrived at their house, was completely wrapped in blankets on a mattress in the sitting room. The previous day, Stella had come to our meeting, it was the first time she had really been out for three years. It was great to see the benefit that Stacey (Stella’s new cow) would bring to that whole family. We were welcomed to Stella’s brother’s home (her nearest neighbour) for a cup of tea. Leaving their home, we visited families on the way back up the hill; it made us smile. We began, just Glyn, Pastor Ronald and I but as we continued our journey we kept adding people. At one point there was a line of ten people hiking up the hill together chatting stories and shouting greetings to others digging on the hillside in their farms! It’s a privilege to receive visitors and one way of appreciating their visit is to escort them on their way. We met many new and lovely people that day!
Kiriwa at Bob’s Place is a community nursery school whose teachers, Catherine and Margaret are doing a wonderful job teaching many young children from the area. Now they have their own building they are able to operate until 3pm, giving children lunch, as well as a mid morning break for porridge. Forty-three children attend the school, with three year groups being taught together. One group of children is preparing to join Mgambonyi Primary School in January, but more are waiting to come to join this fast growing school. Parents, teachers and locals are pulling together to build two extra classrooms and parents are being encouraged to make sunbaked mud bricks for the building. It’s a great community initiative! The children’s smiles are infectious, especially wrapped in their little, bright red balaclavas. Everyone enjoys play-time, “Make a circle, a big, big circle…” the children shout and then they breathe deeply in and out, taking in lots of refreshing air and continue with lots of songs, dances and games.
Zaidi (a Swahili word meaning, ‘more’) is an Education for Life project providing farmers with dairy cows, repaid by the farmers from the sale of their milk, generating income to provide a cow for another farmer. As the project develops, we’re also able to assist farmers to buy water tanks, which enables them to keep a constant supply of water for thirsty cows. This project is in it’s third year and it’s growing, our first calves are now pregnant, placed with new farmers and expecting young ones themselves! There are twelve cows within Zaidi at the moment, but watch this space, we’re growing ;0) With a high demand for milk in Kenya, the dairy will buy as much as the farmers can produce.
Thank you for your support and prayers, Zaidi is growing; there’s even ‘more’ to come!