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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day 23 Kakamega May 31, 2011


Today Hezron and I had two stops to make.  Our first was to Mumias and then afterwards back to Kakamega to visit again with the widows.  Hezron stopped by around and we headed out.  First I wanted to go to the bank and get some money that we were going to need.  We went to the Equity Bank in Kakamega and it had 4 ATM machines.  When you go to a bank in Kenya you can feel safe that you are not going to be held up at the ATM.  Every ATM machine I have ever seen comes with its own military.  Most banks only have one or two men with machine guns but some I have seen come with a small platoon of soldiers.  Photos of military personnel are forbidden and I would love to take a picture for you but I do not want to spend anytime in a Kenyan prison.  You are just going to have to take my word for it these guys have real machine guns. 

I stood in line to get my turn at one of the ATM’s I put my card in to withdraw some money it told me it was out of cash.  I tried another and it would not give me any cash either.  Then a bank employee came and told me that all the machines were out of cash and they would be filled sometime later that morning.  She then told me to go to the Nakumatt and withdraw from there.  I told her I was already there before here and it would not give me any money either.  She then told me to go to KCB Bank up the road.  For some reason KCB machines keep throwing out my card and telling me I do not exist.  So I was not going to go there.  Only Equity and Barclays will give me money with my card.  I then decided I would just go inside and exchange some 2006 and newer C-notes.  You see here in Kenya if you want a decent exchange rate your bills better be big and they better be crisp 2006 or better.  The exchange rate on a new C-note will get 80 to 82 Ksh per dollar.  Anything older then 2006 or bills less then $50 will only exchange at around 70 Ksh per dollar.  I learned this lesson in Maralal on my last trip.  Went into an Equity bank with some large bills from 1996, 2001, and 2003 the guy would only offer 69 Ksh per dollar.  We negotiated and he finally gave me 74 Ksh per dollar for some of them.  You would think that a dollar is a dollar? 

So I went inside stood in a long line waiting to get to a teller.  Finally got to the teller and handed her the cash and she told me that I needed to go through door number 11 over there (behind me).  So I went into door number 11 and it was a room with some more doors and people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room.  There were no more chairs and there were still quite a few people standing.  If there was ever a place that needed one of those number machines this was it.  I would have no clue as to when my turn was.  Obviously the guy that came in right behind me would know his turn.  So I went back to the car and asked Hezron if we had enough gas to make it to Mumias.  There is an Equity bank near Mathew’s shop.  He told me if we can make it to Shibuli without the car giving its first sputter letting him know we are about to run out of gas we would have about 15 kilometers to go before we run out.  He knew I was worried about running out of gas.  I have already had an experience sitting on the side of the road waiting for hours.  We were about 7 or 8 kilometers out of Mumias when Hezron told me that he got his warning.  We made it to the bank I went into the ATM and withdrew the money I needed and yes there were machine guns present.

We then stopped at Mathew’s shop and gave Mathew the money to buy his lathe.  He then told me that he was waiting to purchase it after he could secure transportation for it to his other shop across town.  Mathew’s shop has been broken into before and he does not want his new toy to be stolen.  I explained all the details to Mathew and he was quite pleased.  After we left Mathew’s shop we got some fuel for the journey back to Kakamega.  Hezron is right on time we were to meet with the widows at .

We arrived back in Kakamega just after and the widows had already met.  Most of them had already left and we were left with only about a dozen widows including all the leadership.  They had discussed in their meeting the possibility of starting the passion fruit orchard instead of maize on their plots.  The Chairwoman quickly told us that they are in favor of replacing the maize with passion fruit.  We told them that the yogurt project could still be viable but they are much better suited for agricultural projects since they are already and have been growing crops successfully for a long time.  Hezron and I spoke to them for about an hour explaining all the details or at least the ones we could speak to. 

All of the plots the women have to use are presently filled with maize and will not be available until August.  Pastor John was kind enough to allow the women to use a portion of land where I think we can plant about 160 vines.  Based on the data I got from Colin in Moi’s bridge and from the literature I got from the Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute I calculated we would need 160 seedlings, 110 support posts for the vines, about 300 meters of wire between the support posts, about 20 perimeter fence posts to finish the fence line, and about 350 meters of barb wire to fence it all in.  What I do not know yet is the chemicals and fertilizers needed.  We have someone to till the ground on Monday for 1000 Ksh and again the following Monday for another 1000 Ksh. 

As we went out to the plot of land with the ladies there were a few large piles of dirt that had to be moved before the land could be plowed.  I asked how much it is going to take for someone to come in and move this dirt.  I heard 500 Ksh and I thought to myself no way.  Hezron then said it would take at least 1500 Ksh to move it.  I then asked the treasurer to find someone that will move the dirt.  As she started to go and get the guy who was going to plow the other ladies stopped her and said why are we giving this man money for something we can do?  We are starving and we could use this money to buy us all some food.  As you can see in the pictures below these are not small piles of dirt and I quickly had a learning lesson.  These women who among themselves have virtually nothing and some are pretty frail but ready to move 4 or 5 large piles of dirt with hoes and shovels 10 to 30 yards away so the guy can come in and plow on Monday.  As I thought about it I thought to myself this is their project and they are not going to be paid for any of the other work they do until the crop starts to produce income.  Then I thought this is their money and they were ready to pay someone to come in and move the dirt.  Why not pay themselves to move the dirt?  I quickly went into my wallet and pulled out 2000 Ksh ($25.00) and gave it to Hezron.  The women were jumping for joy, yelling, and just so happy.  I had to walk away before I broke down.  As I walked back to the car one of the guys that helps with the widows passed me with tools in hand and I turned around to look back.  I could see the women on the mounds moving stones and some already with hoes breaking the dirt.  Then came the hardest part me continuing to walk away knowing deep down I want to go back, help dig and move that dirt with them.  My mind says lets go dig but my body says otherwise.  I wouldn’t last 5 minutes before I would be on the ground gasping for air.  I hate this condition I have and so wish it would go away.  I have prayed and prayed but for some reason God has not answered with any healing.  Today was a very emotional day for me and I might just be starting to understand his motives.

Hezron showing some of the widows the plot dimensions

Measuring the plot for the passion fruit orchard

Some of the mounds that must be moved $25 ??

A possible future plot available in August

I have budgeted 25 Ksh per hole to dig the 110 post holes.  I guess the women can do this too.  Without the chemicals or fertilizers I have calculated the total cost for this small orchard around $300.  If the numbers are correct this small plot of passion fruit could generate somewhere between $75 to $100 per week in income after 6 months and for up to 5 years.  This might not seem like a lot of money but if we are able to get at least one acre planted and produce up to 40,000 Ksh a week these 40 women can live a much better life then they do now.  Remember how happy the group was when I pulled out 2000 Ksh to move some dirt.  Just think how happy they would be if they were all able to take home 800 to 1000 Ksh a week each.  Even 500 Ksh is more then they have now.

I do hope with all these blogs that you are starting to get a picture of what life is really like over here for those that have nothing or even less.  If anyone has any questions or would like me to investigate something for you to help you better understand what is going on please feel free to ask.  My email is.
Take care and God bless      


Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 22 Kakemega May 30, 2011


I wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day and hopefully what was a great start to your summer season.  We truly live in a blessed country and today we honor those that have given their lives in service to our country to secure our liberties.  Just yesterday we lost another 7 service members in Afghanistan.  Please continue to pray for those that are in harms way.

Today I am happy to say I did very little.  I slept in, had a couple of cups of tea for breakfast, I took a walk into town and just hung around the guest house.  I also spent some time reading and getting information on the NGO.  We had our afternoon storm and we did not lose power.  The storm has been done for a couple of hours and I decided it was time to go and have dinner.  I am at the restaurant sitting at candle light writing this on battery power because the electricity went out just after I sat down.  I am having chips, mushroom soup, and chapaties.  I have my own Heinz ketchup made with seeds from real Heinz tomatoes grown and processed in Egypt.  It’s good to have a little bit of America every now and then.  The mushroom soup was hot and quite tasty but it was so dark I could not see any mushrooms in my soup.

Tomorrow Hezron and I will be going to Mumias to visit with Mathew at his shop.  We are going to purchase Mathew the lathe that he wants.  Then we need to try and figure out how to get it to his other shop south of town.  Afterwards we will come back to Kakamega around and meet with the widows to speak to them about converting their crops from maize to passion fruit.

Take care and God bless      


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Day 21 Mt. Elgon May 29, 2011

Hi all

Today we went to a little village named Chesamis at the base of Mt. Elgon to visit with a newly formed church of Freedom Ministries of Kenya.  This is the third church of Freedom Ministries in Bungoma County.  The churches name is the Number One Church.  The Number One Church has just celebrated its 6 month probationary period and Bishop Hezron came to welcome the church to the ministry.  Here are some pictures of the church and the bluffs towards Mt. Elgon.

The Number One Church among the trees

The Number One Church in Chesamis

Bishop Hezron singing and dancing with the children

A view of the bluffs and cave near the church

A view of the bluffs towards Mt. Elgon

Mt. Elgon was mostly in the clouds today


After a couple hour drive we arrived around and services lasted about 4 hours before we had dinner and headed back to Kakamega.  When we arrived the skies were clear and by the time we were about to leave the dark clouds were starting to come over the bluffs from Mt. Elgon.  We were starting to get worried that once the rains start we would not make it out.  When these roads get wet they can become slick as ice and off into the ditch you go.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day and I am going to take a rest day.  Tuesday we will be back to Mumias and then come back to Kakamega and meet with the widows again.

Take care and God bless


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 20 Kakamega May 28, 2011

Hi all

Today we were to meet with the widows again but something came up and only a very few of them showed up.  There was a guy next door to Pastor John Umala that died last night and he was still lying in his home for people to come and say goodbye.  John asked me if I wanted to go see but for some reason I could not think of why I would do that.  But thinking about it later I probably should have.  If I truly am looking to really dig deep and learn every thing about the Kenyan culture then I should of went.  Death is part of all cultures and during the meeting with the pastors, Liydia, Morris, Hezron, some of the widows and I at least I heard what death is like in Kenya.  I got a sense that the people in the room including myself were not that comfortable whenever someone came to pay the dead man a visit.  Even though he was next door next door was only a few feet away.  I guess I can understand why the widows did not want to come today.

We were able to spend some time discussing a little about the yogurt project and then we decided to bring passion fruit into the equation.  Liydia has all the information about the yogurt project but once the discussion changed to passion fruit she immediately felt that this would be a much better project for the widows.  Pastor John quickly donated a plot of land which is close to a ¼ acre for the widows to use.  Liydia tells me between the 40 or so widows more land can be gotten.  The widows that were in the room wanted to know when we could start plowing the land getting it ready for the orchard.  I told them that I would love to have the orchard planted within 4 weeks time if possible.  But first I want to make sure that the group as a whole agree to do it.  I asked the questions on how much money it would take to get the plot ready for the orchard and she told me that it would take about 2000 Ksh or about $25 to have someone come and plow the ground.  It would take another 25 Ksh per hole for the posts and I guestimated 121 posts or about $38.  The posts themselves are about 100 Ksh or about $150.  The passion fruit seedlings are about 25 Ksh each and I guestimate about 165 plants in this plot or about $50.  Costs of the chemicals, fertilizer, wire and perimeter fencing is unknown at this time.  If I had to guess this ¼ acre plot could be planted for somewhere between $300 and $400.  In six months time the harvesting of the fruit can begin and if the numbers are correct at about $500 per acre per month in income this plot can possibly generate up to $125 per month for 5 years.  With the average income in Kenya less then 2 dollars a day this is really good money on a small piece of land.  We will meet with the widows hopefully on Tuesday to discuss this.  If this is what they want to do then I told them we can start immediately preparing the land for the orchard.

On a side note Pastor John Omala is leaving for Nairobi tomorrow for his first trip to the states.  He his going for 2 weeks and will be attending a CFO Camp in Dayton, Tennessee from June 2nd thru the 7th.  John is so very excited and very anxious to be able to come to the states.  Please pray that he has a safe journey and that his trip is a memorable one.  As I said before I met Bishop Hezron at a CFO Camp at Messiah College back in 2008. Here is a link to CFO for those that have never heard of this organization.

Tomorrow is off to Mt. Elgon to visit an area that Hezron has recently developed into his ministry.

Thanks and God bless


Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 19 Mumias May 27, 2011

Hi all

Today went a little better then yesterday.  This morning Hezron picked me up at the Sheywe Guest House around 10 and our first stop was to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute here in Kakamega.  After signing in we were directed to the main building to check in with the receptionist.  We asked to speak to someone about the soils in and around Kakamega to see if they were adequate to grow passion fruit.  We were told to have a seat and someone would take us to see a soil expert.  We were then taken across the compound where we had a lengthy discussion on passion fruit.  The nice lady told us that the Institute will help us source seedlings and if we already have seedlings they will direct other farmers to us to buy seedlings.  They also have a planting service, soil service, and whatever else we need to plant an orchard.  This might help in this area instead of sending the Kakamega farmers to Moi’s Bridge for training.

Kenya Agricultural Research Institute

After our visit to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute Hezron had told me that Mathew had found a used lathe that he wanted us to look at and get a demonstration of how the locals trim a piece of wood.  Mathew was in Bungoma and would meet us at his shop in a couple of hours.  Hezron and I then took it easy and slow to Mumias.  Once we got to Mathew’s shop the field outside all the shops was filled with vendors.  Today was market day and I decided to look around.  I could see all the vendors and the bundles of clothes that have come donated from us in America and other developed countries.  On one hand the clothing is dirt cheap and the poor can have clothing at affordable prices.  On the other hand these donated clothes have destroyed good paying textile jobs and put a lot of factories and tailoring shops out of business.  I watched a special once called “t-shirt travels”.  Here is a link to the site.

We donate clothes into those yellow boxes with the globe on them or any of the other agencies like Goodwill.  You donate your clothing and what does not go into a local thrift store is bundled and sent too many third world countries around the globe.  This particular documentary followed the bundles from New Jersey to Zambia.  They come off the boats and someone will buy a bundle sight unseen and take it back to their village.  Once they get to the village they open their bundle of clothes and then begin to see their take.  Some times it will be good some times not so good.  They sell these clothes in local markets as you will see in the pictures below.  The side effect was the complete elimination of the hundreds of clothing manufacturers in Zambia.  These factories used to employ thousands of people but now they don’t.  I find that it’s also the problem here in Kenya.  Someone wants to open a tailoring shop but it is difficult to compete with low cost donated or free clothing.  Yes some people wear traditional clothing but the vast majority of people here wear our hand me downs.  The only real market left for the tailoring shops are school uniforms because they are required for all children to wear.  So next time you give to one of those clothing pick up places you might want to ask yourself are we helping these people or are we hurting them.

Market day in Mumias

Selling donated clothing and the green building full of bundles

Some shade but the smell from here is something else.  In the background are all the fish stands.

As I was walking around I noticed a really fowl odor coming from around the green building with all the bundles of clothes.  It was a mixture of the outhouses and dead fish.  Of course I needed to investigate and what did I find but at least 50 vendors all selling fish.  Piles of fish I mean piles of fish.  People would have two or three foot piles of dried minnows, tilapia, Nile perch, catfish, and all sorts of different size fishes.  The minnows were the most interesting.  What do they do with these little critters?  Well of course I asked and I was told that they feed the minnows to the children to keep them from having worms.  I was asked to try one but I could not keep thinking I used these little guys to catch other fish not eat.  I said thanks but passed.  I visited a couple of shops and one shop I stopped at was selling fish skeletons and fish heads that have already been cleaned of the filets.  I took a picture and then the lady asked for some money for the picture of her fish.  My smallest bill I had was a 500 Ksh note and I was not going to give that to her for a picture of some fish heads.  I told her I would be back.  I went back to the furniture shop and told Hezron of the stinky place around the corner and he said that while he was here he needed to buy some fish heads.  So I took Hezron and Mathew to the Lady where I took the picture and told her that I brought a customer to buy her fish heads and skeletons.  She was very pleased and all the bad names she called me I hope she took back.  Here are some pictures of market day in Mumias.  To bad I cannot add smell to them I think you would really enjoy it.

The fish are everywhere how they breathe this air all day is beyond me!

One of the many piles of minnows sold by the bucket full
The table in the background had some really big fish

Click on any picture if you want to enlarge and get some detail

Fish heads and skeletons

Nothing goes to waste
The fish were filleted for meat to export vendors buy the rest to sell

Hezron's purchase price 90 Ksh
Hezron tells me that the fish heads are his favorite part "tender"

After the market Mathew took us to a local vendor where he takes his wood to be run on the lathe.  Mathew spends up to 6000 Ksh a month to have his parts made and he wants to purchase his own lathe to eliminate this cost and to be able to make parts for other furniture makers who do not have electricity.  His new shop south of Mumias has electricity and he is ready to expand to electrical shop equipment to reduce his cost and hopefully hire more workers.

Shop owner working the lathe

Hezron and shop owner after he makes chair leg from block of wood in about 5 minutes

Mathew and his chair leg

I would like to thank all of you that responded to my need for attention.  What I see and what I hear takes it toll on me every day.  Being alone does not help since I have no one to discuss the day’s events with.  The need is so huge and the reality is that what we are going to be able to accomplish is just a drop in the bucket.  Again I did not receive a whole lot of responses but the ones that I did receive were very encouraging and I really do appreciate it.  This boost should keep me going for the rest of my trip.  Tomorrow we will finally get to meet again with the widows here in Kakamega at 10:30 am.

Again thanks take care and God bless you all



Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 18 Kakamega May 26, 2011

Hi all

Again today did not go as planned.  Hezron had called me after breakfast and said he was unable to get into Kakamega from his home in Shibiri.  There was a serious accident and the police closed the roads.  By the time the road opened the skies opened up again and Hezron would have been unable to get out of his neighborhood.  Once it starts to rain Hezron is unable to make it out of his home to the dirt road that turns to mud.  The drive and the roads becomes to slippery and his car will not make it up the hill without getting stuck.  Going down hill does not seem to be a problem.  Tomorrow we will try to go out again.

Today I spent some time just relaxing, reading the Bible, on the internet doing some more research, took a walk before the rain started, and once we lost power I took a nap.  I also spent quite a bit of time reviewing and asking God if this is what he wants me to do?  I look at what is going on over here.  It is just mind numbingly huge and just where does one start?  The need is so great and then I start to believe that not many people really care what is going on over here.  People have their own lives and families to worry about.  I promised God a few years ago that I would let him take charge of my life and ever since then I have spent living some of the worst years of my life.  My family is gone, my health is not good, and I no longer have any financial security.  I keep telling myself I do not have to live like this.  But I continue to do so.  Why?  Because I want to serve him and his people as he has commanded us to do. 

There are many of you out there that are reading this blog.  Please tell me that this in not worth it.  I do not receive many comments but the ones I do are uplifting and I really do appreciate it.  But the vast majority of you reading are silent.  Please will you tell me why?

My email is

Thank you and please pray for my family my ex-wife Jan, Branden, Kellie, and Melissa they have suffered immensely through this as well. 

God Bless


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 17 Kisumu May 25, 2011

Hi all

After a late breakfast Hezron and Mathew arrived at the Sheywe Guest House just after ten for the 35 mile two hour trip to Kisumu.  Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya and the largest city in Western Kenya.  Kisumu sits at the end of Winam Gulf an inlet off of the much larger Lake Victoria.  Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest fresh water lake in the world after Lake Superior.  Mathew is in his mid 30’s and he told me that he had never seen Lake Victoria before today.  He told me that he had been to Kisumu once before but it was late at night and never saw the lake.  Mathew lives a mere 30 miles from the lake and today was the first time he had ever seen it.  This seems hard to believe but millions of Kenyans never venture further then a few miles from their homes their entire lives. 

Before lunch we went and visited Lakhani Electrical & Hardwares Ltd.  We looked at some wood working machines and I must say they are expensive by our standards.  The shop did not have the lathe and the band saw available but the owner of the shop did take us to another shop near his to show us the lathe, band saw and multipurpose wood working machine that was fully put together.  We were to go and look at some other shops to compare prices but once we moved to another shop the doors were closed and it was lunch time.  I guess you do not go to Kisumu without going to the fish eateries along the lake shore for lunch.  There were at least a dozen of these little hotels along the shore.  A hotel is a place to eat not sleep.  As we drove up all were inviting us to come and eat at their place.  To me it did not matter they all looked identical and none had a menu since the only item on the menu is fish.  Hezron and Mathew shared a tilapia smothered in kale with ugali and I had a side of beef soup with shredded kale.  I believe this was the first time I had ever eaten soup with my fingers.

It was an exciting day for Mathew to finally see the lake so after lunch I asked Hezron to take us to Hippo Point so Mathew could get a better view of the lake even though it was only a small arm of the much larger Lake Victoria.

Lake Victoria from Hippo Point

Mathew talking with a couple of guys fishing

Water inlet for the city of Kisumu

After Hippo Point we decided that it was best to go back to Kakamega because we could see that there was a storm on the mountains we needed to go back through.  After some rain and really slow traffic we returned to Kakamega around five.  Tomorrow we are hoping to meet up with Liydia about the yogurt projcet and visit the local department of agriculture to see if the soils around Kakamega will support passion fruit orchards.

Take care and God bless


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 16 Mumias May 24, 2011


Today did not go quite as planned.  We were to meet with the widows this morning but they met yesterday instead of on their regular Tuesday meeting.  They were expecting us but somewhere the lines of communication failed.  Hezron and I showed up at the Blessed the Blessed ECD Center and were greeted by the school children and their teachers.  Pastor John was in Nairobi at the US Embassy.  He has been invited to attend a CFO (Camps Farthest Out) meeting in Tennessee and he was applying for a Visa.  I had met Bishop Hezron at a CFO camp at Messiah College in Pennsylvania back in 2008.  While Hezron was trying to figure out what happened one of the teachers came to the car and asked if the visitor could get out of the car so the children could touch him.  I was more then happy to greet all the children and then they sang me a few songs.  They sang the alphabet song, bah bah black sheep, and another one that I did not get the name of. 

Blessed the Blessed ECD Center children and teachers

Instead of wasting the day Hezron and I decided to do Wednesday's schedule.  Hezron gave Mathew a call and we headed to Mumias to meet with Mathew at his furniture shop.  We arrived at Mathew’s shop around lunch time and we discussed his business and I took a few pictures.  On my first visit a year ago Mathew only had this one shop.  Since then he has opened another shop a few miles south of Mumias and is looking to open a third in Lumakanda.  I asked to go look the new shop and he said ok but first he invited us to lunch.  We went to a local eatery and had lunch.  Call me strange but I am so fascinated by ugali so I took a picture of Hezron’s lunch to show all of you.  Then Hezron demonstrated his African spoon made out of ugali.  Ugali is one of Kenya’s main staples made out of Maize.  It is about the same consistency of play dough and is served at almost every meal.  I guess what I find so fascinating is the size in which these wads of ugali come in.  I have been at meals where a wad of ugali is brought to the table the size of basketballs and then completely eaten.  As you can see in the picture it is the largest item on his plate.  The other main staples are rice, cassava, potatoes, and chapaties.

Chix, ugali, kale, and soup

Hezron demostrating his African spoon


After lunch we headed over to the other shop a few kilometers from Mumias where Mathew’s workers were making furniture.  Out back he had his chain saw operator cutting 2 x 6’s out of raw timber.  The other guys in the shop were trimming down the boards to proper size by hand.  At the shop in Mumias there was the bottom half of an entertainment center and at this shop was the top half of the entertainment center.  I asked Mathew how much the entertainment center sold for and he told me he sells many at 16,000 Ksh (80 Ksh = $1) or about $200 and then I asked how much does it cost to make.  Depending on the availability of the raw timber he usually makes these entertainment centers for 13,000 Ksh.  I then asked how long it takes to make one of these entertainment centers he told me about 2 weeks.  He feels that if he is able to make these in less time he can sell more at a larger profit.  Mathew has been making furniture for 20 years and been in business for himself 14 years.  He told me that God has blessed him and business is very good.  His goal is to open more shops and hire more people.  His main problem is everything is made by hand and when he needs a piece that has to be machined like a spindle he has to take it to another shop and pay to have it done.  Mathew pays in excess of 6000 Ksh every month to have others make his machined parts.  Mathew’s shop in Mumias does not have electricity but his new shop south of town does.  Mathew is now looking to go electric and stop using others to make some of his components.  In fact Mathew stated that if he had his own equipment he too could make components for other furniture makers in Mumias and elsewhere.  Here are some pictures from both the shops.

Victory furniture shop in Mumias

Cutting boards by hand

Trimming 2 x 6 boards by hand

Making 2 x 6's with chain saw

Furniture leg made by others on a lathe

Bottom half of entertainment center carvings are by hand click on picture to see full size

Top half of entertainment center total cost for both pieces 16,000 Ksh or $200

I put this in for all my old Foamex buddies.  Looks like this could of been made in Eddystone.
(I guess they stacked them like we did can you see the cleave?)

More Maxfoam tops

As we look to reschedule with the widows we decided tomorrow would be a trip to Kisumu one of the larger towns in Kenya on Lake Victoria to go look at shop equipment and also try to find yogurt machines.  I would like to thank everyone again that is viewing my blog and to say that there are now 10 countries from which my blog viewers are coming from.  They are the United States, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Spain, India, and Malaysia.

Again thanks and God bless you all


Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 15 Kakamega May 23, 2011

Hello all

Today I am really glad I took a rest day.  Today Kakamega was hit by a pretty nasty hail and thunder storm and the wind just kept on howling.  It seemed as if the thunder was continuous for well over an hour.  Of course we lost power again as we do most every other day here.  That storm passed and then another smaller one came through later in the afternoon.  I do not believe that Kenya has tornados like the states do.  I read today that Joplin MO was hit pretty hard and many are dead.  The US is getting its share of disasters this year.

Today I spent most of my time reading about fish farming here in Kenya.  I researched different types of tilapia and catfish.  Peter had told me that sometimes he will not get the proper tilapia and I guess the proper sex of the fish is important too.  I read about different types of feed and how to reduce costs to the farmers by using the proper feeds for the type of fish that they are raising.  One technique that is used by farmers to fertilize their ponds is to raise chickens or rabbits above the pond and let the droppings go right into the water.  Here is an example of a chicken coop above a pond and the pond with the chicken coop on the right that I had seen at the fish hatchery.

I also spent some time reading about passion fruit and macadamia nuts.  Most of the macadamia nuts are grown in Central Kenya but I would assume that they can be grown in Western Kenya too.  Passion fruit can be grown in Western Kenya as long as there is a water source.  I thought that maybe the fish farmers could also plant small orchards next to the ponds.  The water supply might be sufficient to sustain both the ponds and the orchards. 

Tomorrow is a return visit with the widows here in Kakamega.  Their regular meetings are on Tuesdays and I wanted to speak to them as a group to get input from all of them about this yogurt project.  I am also expecting to get some costs from Liydia Barasa about some of the equipment and materials associated with their project.  I also hope that the gentleman that is presently making the yogurt will be there as well.  Hopefully Liydia and I can further investigate this project this week and come up with a game plan to move it forward.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 14 Kakamega May 22, 2011

Hello back in Kakamega

Today was a return day to Kakamega.  Breakfast consisted of 3 hard boiled eggs, toast, fresh mango juice, and some black tea.  I am told that if a person drinks their tea without milk that they are thought of as to poor to afford milk.  I am a creature of habit and I just cannot bring myself to drink tea flavored hot milk.  Hot chocolate is more my speed when it comes to any kind of hot milk.  On Saturday I did try some hot milk with my corn flakes and sugar.  Different!! 

After breakfast Pastor Dave and I discussed the last two days events while we waited for Cousin George to pick up Ben so we could head to Kakamega.  Many questions were swirling in my head from visiting all these fish farms.  During one of our discussions last night it came up that without proper refrigeration once the fish come out of the water the buyer of the fish have the upper hand and will manipulate the price until the farmer is forced to bring down his or her price per fish.  While I was looking at Peters books I noticed one ponds harvest of 300 fish only produced about 1000 Ksh (80 Ksh = $1) profit for the 8 month period after expenses.  Thirteen bucks for 8 months of work can be discouraging.  Of course Peter does not always do that bad it depends on so many variables that seem to be controllable with a little help.  With so many area farmers all competing for the same customers including the Lake Victoria fish farmers (Nile perch) balancing the hundreds of ponds throughout the year to keep a steady supply of fish is important.  Too many questions.

Today on the drive back from Busia we discussed the next steps in trying to help these farmers.  There was an organization that had been formed a few years ago with these farmers but somehow failed to help anyone and fell to the wayside.  Some of the farmers have formed smaller groups or clusters to help market their fish and not saturate the market with so many fish.  Ben tells me that the farmers are eager to restart the larger group and hopefully within a couple of weeks the group can notify the Registrar of Societies that they are meeting again.  I looked at the numbers that are possible here and they are staggering.  Between all the ponds that are in operation and those that are there but dormant it appears that there are close to a thousand ponds available.  A thousand ponds times a thousand fish each equals a million fish for a 8 to 10 month period.  The total capacity is almost $ 2 million per year.  When I went to the fish markets I talked to the vendors and they told me that they sell out of fish every day.  They never have to throw any away.  Kenyans really love to eat fish and the demand will support these fish if managed properly.  The Busia county has well over a million people and all of Western Kenya has millions more.  If the farmers were able to always get 150 Ksh for one fish a pond should generate 150,000 in sales.  The cost of fingerlings and feed should not exceed 30,000 Ksh for the duration of the cycle.  This leaves 120,000 Ksh profit per pond.  So a farmer with 6 ponds should be able to easily have an income of about $10,000 per year.  With the average Kenyan making a dollar or so a day this is really good money.  The farmer named Jackson that I had met yesterday had progressed to 13 ponds and had multiple employees and with the added help he is pretty close to maximizing his profits with what resources he has.  Jackson told me he does pretty well.  He is actually building an office on the site as he continues to think about expansion.  All the farmers have more land to put up more ponds but until they maximize what they have there is no sense putting up any more capacity.         

Tomorrow is a down day for me to take a break and do some fish, yogurt, and passion fruit research.  Macadamia nuts are also another crop that can be very profitable.  I still need to do some more writing.  Ben gave me a 10 page write up of the commercial fishing proposal for the Namboboto area that I need to finish transferring to word along with some of the other projects that I have looked at.  Power goes out a lot here and my lap top has only about 2 hours before it goes blank.

I would like to thank all of you that are reading along with this blog.  Readership is increasing daily and I have been told by some of you that you are passing it along to others.  I really do appreciate it and I pray that you can all at least pray for the good people of Kenya that want to make a better life for themselves. 

Thank you again and God bless


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 13 Busia May 21, 2011

Hello from Busia

After breakfast today we spent another day of traveling to the fish farms to view some ponds that are managed properly and some that were not managed properly.  Look at some of the various techniques to manage and maintain the farms.  I was able to ask some more questions of those farmers that are doing well and some that are not doing so well.  I was also able to review the books of one farmer to see how he accounts for everything daily.  Lastly we traveled to the markets to see how the fish were sold locally and to one of the hatcheries to see how the fingerlings are raised before selling to the farmers. 

Our first stop in the morning was to an experienced fish farmer Peter Omalo who has been farming for 11 years after retiring from government service.  Peter has 6 very well managed ponds.  While touring his ponds he showed me how to divert the creek to fill his ponds after harvesting.  Caught a tilapia to show me proper sizing before harvest.  He also took our group to another 4 ponds further upstream that were being severely mismanaged.  The ponds capacity were for only 1000 catfish and the owner put in 2000 and was not feeding them properly.  Catfish not fed properly will eat their own.  Peter also caught one of the catfish out of the mismanaged pond to show me that after 10 months is wasn’t very big.  Later that afternoon I was able to see another 10 month old catfish that was the proper size as you will see in the pictures.  After the tour we went back to his home and he was kind enough to allow me to look at his books and answered many questions. 

As I speak with various farmers I sometimes ask the same question.  One of these questions is how much do they pay for a fingerling?  Yesterday one lady told me 10 Ksh (80 Ksh = $1) today I asked Peter and he told me 5 Ksh.  As I was looking at his books I noticed that he had paid as low as 3 Ksh per fingerling.  At the last ponds of the day I asked that owner and he told me 7 Ksh per fingerling.  Why the dramatic swing in prices between farmers?  Other questions continue to bring up other questions.

Drained catfish pond

Diverting creek to fill ponds

Holding up water to fill up pond

Opening fill tube to fill pond

Filling pond for new batch of fish

Right size talapia for harvesting

Overstocked and under fed catfish

10 month old catfish out of overstocked pond

10 month old catfish out of properly managed farm

Our second visit of the day was to another experienced fish farmer Jackson Kanani who has a total of 13 very well managed ponds.  Jackson has grown past what one farmer can manage of about 6 ponds to hiring 2 other workers to help him with 13.  There is another employee that he shares with another local farmer that provides security at night for his ponds and his neighbors.  Today was harvesting day and we arrived after the first 600 catfish were removed from the pond and did not get to see them.  There was still another 200 to 400 in the pond of the original 1000 to be harvested.  They were not able to finish the draining of the pond for the second harvest before we had to leave so I had them do an example of using the net to remove the fish and they caught a few catfish for me to see.  Jackson put in 1000 catfish and he feels his yield will be low because of a few problems and he fears his yield will only be about 800 catfish.  He is also experimenting with different techniques to ward off predators.  While we were at one of the back ponds I saw something moving across the pond that at first looked like a snake.  Peter told me it was a monitor lizard and as I went around the pond to get a picture it ran off into the maize.  The other major predators other then birds are otters.  After asking many questions from all the farmers that I had talked to about what it would take to be more profitable I pretty much got the same answer.  Knowledge seemed to be the first on every ones mind.  Others included proper feeds, certified fish species, security, fencing, predator control, and a really big one new markets. 

Draining catfish pond for harvesting

Harvesting the catfish

Very well maintained ponds (13)

Bird control over catfish pond

Two other stops today were to visit a place where fish are sold in a local village.  The tilapia and catfish are sometimes sold along side the Nile perch from Lake Victoria. The other and last stop was to visit a fish hatchery run by the Ministry of Fish.  Then it was back to the hotel for a late lunch.  I did way too much walking today so I took an hour nap before going back out and discussing the day’s events.  Tomorrow it is back to Kakamega after some more discussion and planning of a follow up trip to meet with the 80 farmers and government officials as a group to discuss where to go from here.

Selling fish at the fish market

Nile perch at the market

At the hatchery breeding pond

At the hatchery holding pond

At the hatchery nursery pond

At the hatchery demostration tanks

Take care and God bless