Mission to Kenya 2005

Saturday, January 15, 2005


Bio-Intensive Agriculture Center, Meru, Kenya

Last night, after viewing the sacred lake, we returned to the farm where janet served us a delicious dinner, we sat on the veranda or out in the garden, admired the amazing stars and - for some of us at least - truly relaxed for the first time since we hit Kenya. This area is so lush and the farm is beautifully kept.

Then we retired for the evening - the 15 women slept in one big open dormitory and the three men slept in the other. John has dreams of installing partitions in the dorms to give a little privacy and inproving the showers (PLEASE!) and the toilet area. Using the bathroom in the night entails a trip (so now we know why they said to bring a flashlight!) down past the cow shed. We are definately not in Kansas, Dorothey!

Our intinerary permitted us to sleep late (8 am versus 5:30 -- THANK YOU, Florence!!!) and Janet had a lovely breakfast waiting for us. Around 9:30 am, John took us for a teaching tour of the farm.
Here is a link to the General Board of Global Ministries description about this program. The Advanced Special I THINKis #014217-2RA.

The farm was established by the first Methodist missionaries who came to Kenya in 1862. The ruler of the country at the time gave them this land. The main building was built in 1919 and used to be a school. It was converted to a farm in 1992. The canopy over the stairs (and across the veranda??) was added in 2003 by a VIM team!

Missionaries started spreading the Gospel and also sartede up girls schools and boys schools and churches (until then, no one here went to school). There is a second house on the property that was built later; a British lady is living there but she was away during our visit.

This 2 acre facility is a totally organic demonstration farm. Students come to the farm to learn and john also goes out into the area to teach. (John feels that improving the dormitories and showers would attract more students to the farm; I have to agree!)

The corn here is 9-12 feet high; in fact, everything is huge and lush and delicious (our lunch came from the gardens)!

John's mission is to teach farmers how to get greater yield from their land. He also provides training on nutrition and HIV/AIDS. Ninety percent of those who come for training are women. The first year he was here, he had 500 come, the next year 780, then 970, 1070 in 2003 and 1,200 were trained in 2004.

He teaches about crop rotation,

Like an American USDA Agricultural Extension agent, he also introduces improved strains of plants to farmers in the region. For instance, he showed us a very fast growing form of South African Eucalyptus tree that goes 24 feet tall in two years when it can be harvested; it doesn't require lots of water, it is self pruning, and it is fast growing. It can be used to make medicine and organic sprays for crops.

We saw a nifty hay stall built by a VIM team from Texas for "zero grazing" (no free range); the cow stalls were spotless with a sleeping area and a separate feeding area. The area is cleaned twice a day and the maure goes into a compost pile (as does everything on the farm. In fact, if you weren't composting before you saw this place, you left a believer! We met the milk cows - Betty, Susan and Carrie. They grow and harbvest napier grass (which they chop up and feed to the livestock).

While I am thinking about it, we would all like to thank the VIM team from Texas who laid the concrete walkways throughout the complex. THANK YOU!

The dorms were built in 1930 when the facility was a girls school. we saw a water pump designed like a "Stairmaster;" Alfred tried it out and it worked well -- you just have to keep up the pace if you want the sprinkling system to water your crops at full force! Go, Alfred, go!

Because of the composting (and double digging to enrich the soil, John practices "intensive farming" ; where normally corn would be planed 2 feet apart, he plants 5 in a 2' by 2' area.

There are stalls for calves and goats and vertical vegetable gardens that Satterleys Nursery in Oklahoma City would be proud of.

We went into a new building built be a Texas VIM team that includes a kitchen, dining area and a conference/classroom. He currently puts 100 people into the calssroom but it is unfinished and gets hot. It needs a ceiling, windows on the back side for cross ventilation, plywood for the walls, etc. And he needs lots more chairs. Infact, he left us with a booklet outlining needs at the farm And, I have to say, a VIM trip to this farm alone would be divine and the work needs to be done and the whole effort is doing a great amount of good for the area. Except maybe that part about starting to do bee-keeping; not sure I'm into bees myself. So - Hurrah for John and Janet and this beautiful place!

By the way, if you want to make a small contribution, send John money for twin bed sized sheets. What WERE those things we slept on, anyway? They felt like polyester bedspread material. Sorry to gripe, john, but the sheets (and the one working shower - but Marshall took care of that) were the only at this lovely facility.


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