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Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 14 September 30, 2011 Busia


This morning we got off to a late start but we were able to make it to the Funyula town council to meet with Mayor Ben and his staff.  Ben told us of his desire to get his town pavilion and shopping area completed.  Once it is completed the desire is to get street lighting to allow the shops to stay open later.  Right now many smaller towns are unable to have many shops open after dark because it is just too dark. 

After the meeting with his staff we met with the Upper Funyula Fish Farmers Association.  The original association formed about 5 years ago and was not able to sustain itself.  Ben has been spending time getting the farmers back together and today I heard their challenges.  Like most else here in Kenya lack of proper training is always on the top of the list.  I told them that training is a continuous journey and that even among themselves they have a wealth of knowledge.  One of the board members started his fish farm in 1961.  Fifty years and still farming fish is quite an accomplishment.  After all the concerns were aired which were pretty much the same that I heard when I was here a couple of months ago.  I told them that the first step of getting back together and to start working to a common goal was a very good decision.  Their concerns are still training, feed, fingerlings, security, and marketing.  I spoke for a while and afterwards I asked them to pick one of their concerns and get with the rest of the group to decide what needs to be done.  I asked them to pick one of them other then training since training is a given and should commence as soon as possible.  They all agreed that feed costs and availability is their first concern.  So within the next month they will meet and look into what it is going to take to provide their own feed.  It was also stated that the fish grow best with high protein and tastes good with a good amount of starch.  Their wish is to acquire some blood from the butcheries and dry it along with some rice bran to make fish food.

The other issues include the cost and availability of the fingerlings.  Presently fingerlings can be as low as 3 Ksh per fingerling but not guaranteed.  They also have issues with the type of species they are since they are not able to get certified fingerlings.  There are over 150 farmers with upwards of a thousand ponds with many more dormant and available land to do more.  These farmers have buying power but just need to be able to use it.  Also we talked a little about security.  The main security problem is not human but of the reptile variety.  The monitor lizard loves the fish and it is illegal to kill them.  This creates a problem for the farmer and proper fencing is needed to keep the predator out.  To help keep the humans from fishing the ponds they should be well fed so when someone comes fishing the fish will not be hungry and bite the bait.  Lastly the other issue of marketing was two fold.  They have a local market but would really like to expand to make sure that they can get the proper prices for the fish.  The other problem is the fact that they are on borrowed time to get the fish to market.  Some sort of refrigeration or processing such as drying them so they will keep longer will help tremendously.  One of the other areas that they are going to start right away is getting the ponds staged so that there isn’t a multitude of fish hitting the market on the same day.  I told them if there are 1000 ponds there should only be up to 3 or 4 ponds going to market every day.  The farmers also have to compete with the Nile perch that come out of Lake Victoria but should not worry too much since Tilapia and Catfish are also popular among the populous.  Lastly Pastor Ososo presented his plan of a savings and loan association among them to help with some of the larger operating expenses.  Overall it was a great discussion and hopefully in the next couple of months I can get some reports on how they are doing and what we might be able to do to help them move forward.

After the meeting with the fish farmers we were off to visit the two orchards.  Before we went to the plots we secured the timber for the posts from a local lumber guy.  I was not able to get a great price and it is going to cost an extra forty bucks but we are running out of time and this stuff needs to get done.  After the timber we visited Pastor Odongo’s plot and laid it out.  After we finished we were off to visit Pastor Ososo’s plot and laid it out as well.  The holes will be dug within a couple of days and will be ready for planting.  After the two plots it was off to one of Mayor Ben’s colleagues to visit his shamba.  He showed me his one (1) purple passion fruit vine that he had planted to create some shade area to sit under.  He pretty much planted it right in the ground and let it go.  No watering, no chemicals, no nothing.  The vine was huge, looked very healthy, and free of bugs.  After looking at this one vine I continue to wonder why we need to have so many chemicals if they grow so well by just putting them in the ground.  I am also intrigued by the color of his soil.  Too me it looks much darker then most soils I have seen.

Tomorrow early in the morning it is back to Kakamega to meet up with Hezron and we will be off to Kitale.  Hopefully we can meet with Pastor Moses and his wife.  After our meeting the road up the mountain might be dry enough for us to travel up to visit with Pastor Joseph and his wife.  I only have a week left before I leave and I am so behind it isn’t funny.  I got a call from a chemical representative today but missed it.  I assume that it will now have to wait until Monday.  I pray that I can accomplish this task to an acceptable level before I leave the country in ten days. 

Take care and be blessed.               


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 13 September 29, 2011 Busia


This morning I had my usual breakfast and then went to the gazebo to work on the chemical calculations.  I am really confused and not sure how to proceed with this issue.  I think I just need to walk away from it for a day or two and wait for the answer to come from above.  He hasn’t failed me yet.

Around Pastor Ososo, Councilor/Mayor Ben, his cousin George, and Pastor Dave arrived at the guest house.  They had lunch since I was still full from breakfast.  We talked about fish farms and passion fruit.  After lunch the five of us went to visit with an unfortunate guest at the Kakamega prison.  This was my first visit to a foreign prison and let me tell you that this kid has now seen the innards of a Kenyan prison.  I now confirm my earlier statements about foreign prisons.  Ok to visit but not a place I would like to call home.  I must say that the guards and staff were all very polite, professional, and well kempt.  Maybe our impressions of foreign prisons from the movies are a little exaggerated.  I wanted to take some pictures but for some reason I did not think it would even be appropriate to ask.  You know I wonder if I was a guest would they let me write my blog every day.  My luck I would be in solitary confinement and my blog would be pretty much the same every day.  “Today I sat in my cell” “Tomorrow I am going to sit in my cell”.

After the prison we were off to Busia.  Along the way we had a flat tire and had to replace it with the donut.  Once we arrived at the Generations Hotel in Busia we sat down had some more discussions with Pastor Ososo and Pastor Dave while George and Councilor Ben went to fix the tire. 

Tomorrow we are off to visit with the 5 member leadership team of the Funyula Fish Farmer Association.  Mayor Ben has been very busy since my last visit and has gotten them organized with a membership of around 150 farmers.  I am anxious to hear what they have to say.  After the meeting we will be heading to the two orchard sites to map them out and finish with the preparations.     

Take care and be blessed.               


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 12 September 28, 2011 Bungoma


Today did not start out as planned.  Hezron had car troubles this morning and we were not able to do the schedule today.  We also got a call from Mt. Elgon and it had rained pretty hard and the road would not be good until maybe in the afternoon.  So we had a change of plans.  Today we went back to Wamulu International and got all the application data for the passion fruit chemicals.  Robert had deleted one chemical since it was fairly similar to another chemical and the two chemicals should be rotated every six months and not used together.  I am only looking to supply the orchards six to seven months worth or until the orchard starts to produce income.  We are now down to thirteen different chemicals.  I wrote down the application data and tonight I spent some time putting all the numbers together.  The problem that we have is that not all the chemicals are needed at once and some chemicals only need to be used if there is a problem.  Once the problem arises then it will need applications to correct it.  In order to take into account every problem and give every plot the chemicals to combat every problem it drives the cost up considerably.  If we were to do only the recommended fertilizing and some pest management then the cost is well within the budgeted amount.  I really need to think about this longer and possibly look to have corrective chemicals in smaller supplies stored at various locations in case there is a problem at one of the orchards.

While we were at Wamulu we also took a look at the timber that Robert had looked at.  We talked with the owner of the land and his prices were way beyond what we wanted to pay.  Like four times as much.  After much discussion and Hezron doing his bargaining skills upon the poor soul we came to a decision that we think is workable.  Here in Kakamega we are buying the posts already cut and at our number 80 Ksh a piece.  Where Robert wants to buy his timber they are still trees and the owner wants good money for them.  How many posts can be gotten out of the tree is up for debate and you could win some and you could loose some.  Anyway I told Robert that we have a budget price based on what we can buy timber at.  He needs to have a certain number of posts for his area and if he does not have enough money to cover the cost then it is on him.

Nice straight pole trees

After the timber we headed over to the second of the areas plots.  This plot is on a hill and will house about 190 vines on fourteen rows.  After this plot we had a bite to eat and then it was off to see the third plot at Stephan’s farm.  Presently he has green beans planted and will plant the seedlings in the rows of beans.  This orchard will have about 110 vines on eight rows.  After here we were to go to visit some of the Bungoma sites but the afternoon monsoon came in and we were done for the day.  We decided to head back to Kakamega since it is very difficult driving when water does not run off the road and Hezron cannot see the potholes.  So it is very slow indeed.

Pauline's plot near Wamulu

A typical passion fruit hole

Stephan's plot with beans already planted

Tomorrow it is off to Busia with Pastor Ososo and Councilor Ben.  They will be here at the guest house around and off we go.  While in Busia we will be meeting with some of the fish farmers and take a look at the two plots while we are there.  I really hope that we can come up with a connection between the Western Province and the slums of Nairobi.  Every time I look and think of the slums I draw a blank on what to do there.  If the average income in Kenya is somewhere between one and two dollars a day then I would think that most people in the slums make much less then that.  Passing money from one pocket to the other in the slums really does nothing for them since there is not much money to begin with.  What is the answer?  I do not know but money has to come in from the outside somehow.    

Take care and be blessed.               


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 11 September 27, 2011 Kakamega


Thought I would blog a little early tonight to beat the power outage.  Wrong again.  The guest house has gotten a generator to run the restaurant and kitchen so off I was to get dinner as well.  Tonight I am getting something special.  I have asked the cook to make me a chicken filet.  If they can do it with a piece of beef then I would assume that they can do it with a piece of chicken.  Now I only need some spicy, some tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, a decent bun, and presto a Spicy Chicken Sandwich.  You would think I could go ten days without my bringing this up.  Not a chance.

This morning I worked on the chemical list until Hezron arrived and we headed off to the widow’s orchard outside of Kakamega.  We arrived just after and spent some time looking at the plot.  The women were there weeding and harvesting their collard greens to take to market.  After a brief stay and chat with Councilor Bianna it was off to Bulinda to talk with Robert about the chemicals.  Once we were there we could not stay long since the afternoon storm was coming in fast and we did not want to get stuck so we left in a hurry.  The road out of there was slippery again but not as bad as Saturday.  Robert is going to get me the chemical application data so I can get it into the computer so we can get all the supplies needed to plant these orchards starting next week.

Tomorrow early it is off to Moi’s bridge where we will meet up with Pastor Moses and his wife Jane.  Then we will visit with Colin at his family’s passion fruit orchard.  After this we plan to head up onto Mt. Elgon if the road will allow to meet with Pastor Joseph to discuss passion fruit and clinic on Elgon.  After this we will head back through Bungoma and stop at a couple of orchard sites if possible.  It is going to be a really long kidney punching day.

Take care and be blessed.               


Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 10 September 26, 2011 Kakamega


The power is out again tonight.  Go figure.  I used up my last candle and matches on last nights power outage.  Went to the office seems there is a shortage of candles too.  They were able to finally find me one and I am typing by candlelight once again.

Today I went back into town to look for another modem.  Went to the Orange network and their modem is pretty expensive and to buy airtime I have to go to their store to recharge.  Too much work.  With Safaricom everything from my phone.  Tonight the internet is working 3G pretty good.  Not sure if it will last.  While I was in town I went to another hardware store to see about lowering the wire cost some more.  This guy gave me some outrageous price and I told him that I was going to purchase over a half a ton.  He would not come down on his price so I left.  I was going to go to my original place but the afternoon storm came in.  I had to make way into a shop and wait for the monsoon to stop.  The nice lady gave me a chair to sit in while we chatted.  I am not sure why most people take cover when it rains and there is no movement in the streets but I will tell you why I take cover.  You see when it rains here not only do I not want to get wet I do not want to take the chance of slipping on the mud.  Cars do not have traction and sometimes people do not either.  Some of you reading this know what I am talking about.  The difference with falling in the country side and falling in the city is the nasties that are being washed away with the rain.  In America you know that smell when the rain just starts to hit the pavement well that is not the smell that permeates the air when it starts to rain on the city streets here.  I guess it is a good way to remove the raw sewage to somewhere else.

I also took the chemical list that Robert had given me to try and find out what they are.  Some of them I could find the real chemical name and some I could not.  There is one product called Dudutrin and when I was at the chemical store I saw a bottle of something that gets rid of the Du Du bug but it was not Dudutrin.  If anyone knows what the chemical name of this is please let me know.  Maybe the bottle I was looking at is Dudutrin and I did not realize it.  The chemical list has 14 items on it and I have gotten about half of them to where I can determine my calculations.  I will have to finish this up with Robert since he has the book that tells me what everything is.

Tomorrow I have to get back on the road if possible.  I have spent the last few days working the numbers and documents for this project.  There is more work to do to get all the timber, seedlings, wire, and chemicals to the locations.  I also am planning to meet with Pastor Ososo and Councilor Ben in Busia on Thursday and into Friday.  I do want to spend some time with the leadership of the fish farmer association to hear what they have to say.  We also have two passion fruit plots to look while I am in Busia.  Some of the orchards are ready to plant and others are still preparing.  I need to get a tally of where everyone is and what it is going to take that they are all planted in the next three weeks.  I do not have to be here to plant all the orchards I just need to make sure that they have everything they need to accomplish their tasks before I leave in a couple of weeks.

Pastor Ososo's plot in Busia 

Some more of our seedlings about ready to come out of the oven

Pastor Robert his wife and his workers in front of the seedlings

Take care and be blessed.               


Day 9 September 25, 2011 Kakamega


This is getting downright depressing.  Even the 2G network isn’t working all the time.  I think Safaricom is going to loose a customer.  They tell me two or three weeks of interrupted service before it gets better.  I guess it is time to visit the Orange store or the Yu store to get a different modem.  I wonder if their networks are going through the same problem as Safaricom.  I can’t believe Safaricom management would be allowing for their services to be interrupted for even a few hours more or less a couple of weeks.  TIK.  So this post is getting to the internet very late since I could not get any service last night before I went to sleep.

Today I spent the day at the guest house crunching numbers.  It looks like we can plant an acre of passion fruit for under $800 but I am having difficulty planting 24 plots at the same price.  Six thousand seedlings spread out on one six acre plot would cost just over $4100, six thousand seedlings spread out over six one acre plots would cost just over $4500, and our price to plant six thousand seedlings over the 24 plots comes in at $5300.  None of these prices reflect labor and plowing that we are putting to the stakeholder to furnish if possible.  Since most of these plots would have been plowed anyway to plant maize we are looking to only supply the materials for the orchards.  Each orchard will be calculated on a case by case basis.  I do not believe I will be able to get the wood costs any lower.  I might be able to still reduce the wire cost some more.  Total support wire needed is reaching 16,000 meters or well over a half a ton.  My first quote was for 12,000 meters and increasing it to 16,000 should be worth a few shillings.  Seedlings are already bought and paid for.  The last high cost is the chemicals.  Robert has been working the numbers for the dozen or so different chemicals needed to maintain the orchards.  Since chemicals are based on the number of seedlings we should be able to come up with a per seedling cost per chemical.  We will need this put together so we can get each plot its own allotment of assorted chemicals.  Robert says he has been able to reduce the overall cost of the chemicals down 20,000 Ksh but I still want to look at the specifications of each chemical to determine how much time it will take to use it up.  I want the chemical budget to reflect enough chemicals to reach harvest or until the plot can sustain itself.

Once all the data is given to me I will finish the spread sheet and hand it over to the ministries project managers.  All they should have to do is put in the length and width of the plot to determine everything that is needed including the cost to plant.  We are looking at sourcing the wire and chemicals in large supplies to keep the costs down.  If we are to keep them at the source of the seedlings then when we go to deliver the seedlings we can bring the allotted wire, chemicals, and other hardware.  The timber for the support posts will be at the responsibility of the stakeholder and what they can negotiate in their area.  Talking with both Robert and Hezron it is a crime to transport timber without a permit.  I need to investigate this some more since we are in need of transporting some timber to the sites.  If I haven’t told you before I have no desire to spend any time in a prison here or anywhere.

Tomorrow is more of the same.  I will work on the dozen or so chemicals to get the concentrations and costs needed for each seedling.  I will go and visit the hardware dude to see if I can get a better price on the wire.  I will also try and find out how far each of the twenty four plots is along for planting.  If the holes have been recently dug then another chemical must be put down into hole before planting.  If they have been dug for a couple of weeks then the chemicals are not needed.  I also have to address the training and transportation costs to make all this happen.  I also need to find some shillings to help reimburse Robert and his accountant for all their ventures into Mumias and Bungoma.  So far everything looks like it is possible to meet all the needs and stay at or under budget unless I am missing something (possible).

It took 20 minutes to get this picture of Bulinda orchard site uploaded

Take care and be blessed.               


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 8 September 24, 2011 Bulinda


This morning I awoke early and decided to have breakfast.  I do not know why I don’t eat breakfast more often.  It is included in my evening rate.  I am starting to feel bad about the Kenya shilling.  When I stayed here a couple of years ago my room rate was 1000 Ksh a night and the exchange rate at the time was as low as 67 Ksh to a dollar.  So that 1000 Ksh a night was $14.93 a night.  Today I exchanged some money and it was 95 Ksh to a dollar.  I still pay 1000 Ksh a night or $10.53 a night.  To make things worse for the guest house is that they have to give the government 18% this leaves them with a whopping 820 shillings or about $9.11 per night.  I looked on the menu and if I was to buy the breakfast without staying it would be 400 Ksh or about half the room rate.  Where in America can you get a deal like this?  You could go to Denny’s and get a $1.99 breakfast deal but you do not get fresh ripened pineapple straight from the plantation.  Breakfast is usually quite tasty.  Every now and then I get an egg that tastes funny.  Here in Kenya they do not refrigerate the eggs and you never know how long they have been sitting on the counter.  I keep telling myself they come from straight under the chicken to the stove.

This morning I continued to work on the numbers until Pastor Robert came to pick me up.  We stopped by the Equity bank in Mumias to talk with the bank managers about the problem with the new bank account.  I guess it will all be worked out in the next couple of days.  After the bank we headed out to Bulinda to view the main orchard site and our seedlings.  This plot will be managed and worked on by the staff at Wamula.  This orchard will be used to help support Wamula International and Pastor Robert’s ministry.  This is the largest of the orchards we are planting.  This plot will be planted in a 2 meter by 3 meter layout and shorter rows.  All three plots in Bulinda are going to be planted 2 meters by 3 meters.  The other 21 plots are going to be 2 meters by 2 meters.  We stopped in the nursery to check on the seedlings and they still look much better then the last batches we picked up.  This time I took some pictures.  Early next week we will start to deliver the seedlings to the plots that are ready to plant.  I would load some more pictures but my computer took 10 minutes to get this one done.  I am back on the 2G network and it is really slow.  I have had to save and reboot this three times in the last hour.  Not having a good blogging experience tonight.

A few thousand of the seedlings ready for planting

Tomorrow I will continue on all the documents that are needed for Wamula to manage the loans.  I am still looking to reduce the costs of the chemicals, posts, and such so we can provide some training, cover transportation costs, etc.  For a few of you that are reading this you do know what happens on the roads here when it rains.  Some of you remember our journey down in a ditch.  It was a very exciting time.  Well today it was raining in Bulinda and I was worried that fate was going to repeat itself.  The road turns into zero and I mean zero traction.  The car goes where it wants no matter what the driver does.  You have to drive the crest of the road or you just slide right off.  The problem lies when two cars are approaching one another and neither want to leave the crest of the road.  As we approached each other both cars came to a near stand still as we passed each other and I then started to feel us heading for the ditch.  The car next to us was doing the same in the opposite direction.  Luckily for both of us we managed to get back onto the crest without sliding into the ditch.  I thank God that for the 10 or so kilometers that was the only car we encountered.  The motor bikes, bicycles, cows, people, chickens, etc. they just have to get out of the way. 

Take care and be blessed.               


Friday, September 23, 2011

Day 7 September 23, 2011 Kakamega


Today I slept in a while since I was up last night until fairly early in the morning.  After I awoke I headed out to the gazebo had a couple cups of coffee and spent most of the day working on the calculations for the orchards.  There is plenty of work to do to find out how many posts, chemicals, etc. we are going to need.  I am still short a few dimensions and I still have to get some good measurements of the plots in Bulinda.  The Bulinda plots are going to plant two meters by three meters.  All the other plots are going to plant two meters by two meters.  I have been having difficulty getting the spreadsheet to calculate the two by three plots properly.  I am always off by a row of seedlings.  It works perfect when I use the two by two calculations.  Also I am revising the calculator to reflect different exchange rates.  Today the exchange rate was over 100 Ksh to a dollar.  All my previous calculations were at 90 Ksh to a dollar.  I am also reducing the post costs and chemical costs.

Tonight I am trying a new variation of my meal.  Instead of beef filet and chips I am going to have Beef filet and onion rings.  I must say tonight’s beef filet was much tender then the last one the other night.  The onion rings are also very tasty.  After dinner I will continue to work the numbers to determine how much each plot needs of each item.  I will work a materials list for every plot with expected costs.  Not much else to report for today.  Tomorrow it is off to Bulinda to look at the three plots and the posts that are in the area for both Bulinda and Bungoma.

Take care and God bless.               


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 6 September 22, 2011 Kakamega


I promise today’s blog will not be as long as yesterday’s.  I went back to the Safaricom store to see about getting the android phone working.  They were able to get the phone working and the messaging working but were not able to get the internet working.  I finally went online and found some sites where people had the same problem.  It was a matter of getting the right proxy and server to get on the internet.  I now have all the bells and whistles on the phone except M-pesa.  If I want to send someone money I have to take out the sim card and put it in my old phone.  The android phone is missing the sim tool kit app.  Seems like this could be a problem for them here in Africa where having money on a phone is very important to the people.  However I do not believe many people will be able to afford the android phone.  I was looking in the store at the phones and they were upwards of 40,000 Ksh.  Pretty hard to afford when the average salary is 200 Ksh a day.   

I was quick to add a few apps.  I first added google translate and then found talk to me cloud.  I tried it out and spoke some English into the phone but the computer voice for the Swahili translation is too mechanical.  Seems like it’s the same guy on both apps.  I still can’t understand a word he says.  I need to try it out on some poor soul.  I was going to try it on my waitress at lunch but her voice is just too soft and tiny.  If anyone knows of a decent translation app I would greatly appreciate it.  I might even be willing to pay 99 cents for it.

Yesterday I spent much of the day at the guest house working on the calculations of the orchards.  Took a trip into town and checked out a few more hardware and lumber stores to find a better price for the expensive items we need for these orchards.  We did find a vendor for the end posts that are needed for the two acres here in Kakamega.  We secured a price of 80 Ksh for a nine foot and five to six inch diameter post.  I had budgeted 100 Ksh so again we will be able to reduce the cost even more.  I have been in Kenya about a week now and the shilling is falling like a rock.  It was 90 Ksh to a dollar when I arrived and it is already up to 95 Ksh a dollar now at least on the ATM.  The sell price is now 99 Ksh to a dollar.  I will continue to look for bargains to help reduce the cost even more.

Today I continued to work the numbers on all the orchards.  Pastor Robert arrived at the guest house later in the afternoon to discuss the problem with the bank and the chemicals.  It seems as if the bank did not sign us up for E-banking and the new account is not on the internet.  Tomorrow poor Robert and his accountant must take a long journey to Mumias to straighten out the problem.  I do not understand how the bank manager missed this one he knew that we were doing this all online from the states.  TIK.

Pastor Robert and I discussed the chemicals today and he brought his long list of about a dozen different chemicals that are needed to keep the bugs, disease, rot, and proper nourishment to the plants.  It looks like he has been able to reduce the cost of the chemicals by buying in bulk.  I had budgeted about 121,000 Ksh and he looks to have gotten it down to 99,100 Ksh.  As I crunch the numbers what started out to be $1000 an acre is looking to be more like $750 to $800 an acre.  The smaller plots still take much of the same supplies needed to do a larger plot.  A row 20 meters long takes two end posts just like a row of 40 meters takes two end posts.  It costs just as much to plow one sixth of an acre as it does to plow one half an acre.  For all the supplies that were used on the first orchard it came out to be about 41,000 Ksh or $450.00.  I put the same size plot into the new spreadsheet and that same size plot is just under 26,000 Ksh or about $290.00 which included the fence in both calculations.  To do just the plot without the fence and paying someone to dig the holes (farmer’s responsibility) the cost would have been less then $200.00.

Tomorrow Robert will be at the bank to fix the money problem.  I will stay at the guest house and finish the calculations.  I will also take another trip into town to get information on all the chemicals so we can figure out how to distribute all the chemicals to the various plots since we are buying in bulk.  It looks like we will be looking to start planting some of the seedlings early next week.  I believe we are going to pick up a batch of seedlings on Monday or Tuesday.  Also today I had to rearrange some seedlings and the total still came out to be 6000.  Tis exciting indeed.

Take care and God bless.               


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 5 September 21, 2011 Kakamega


The internet seems to be working better today.  It doesn’t take as long as it did yesterday.  Yesterday we spent most of the day at the Kakamega orchard site.  We arrived mid morning and Councilor Bianna was having a little celebration and had brought some food for the widow’s and orphans.  John Imala had talked about how far his school for the orphans has come in the last few years with over 600 children having passed through the doors many going on to local primary schools.  After my two lengthy speeches, a small meal we toured the orchard and went inside to hash out the details of where the seedlings were going.

Blessed the blessed orphans school and widow's group

Councilor Bianna addressing the crowd

Councilor Bianna brought some maize and grain for the children

To me this is most remarkable on how all this happened.  When I left Kenya back in July it was determined that we were going to come back and plant some more passion fruit to make the orchard here in Kakamega viable.  It was decided that we would plant late September or early October before the rainy season in November.  In early August the decision was made to plant 5000 to 6000 seedlings enough to fill a truck weekly for the market.  I emailed Robert back in August to prepare 6000 seedlings since they had to be grafted at least six weeks prior to planting.  Many and I mean many emails passed across the 8000 miles including the big deep to Africa every day.  Overcoming the communication barrier was almost an impossible task.  If I was to tally up all the seedlings that were requested and how many were promised before we had made any decisions to whom would get them it would be well in excess of 10,000 seedlings.  The excitement and the hope of these people was just too much.  I understand it and I can appreciate it there is nothing like hope.  It was like a kid in a candy shop with 10 bucks burning a hole in his pocket.

Before I left the states I had given directions for the distribution as follows.  Kakamega would get 2000 seedlings for a multitude of different ministries.  Mumias would get 1000 seedlings for their ministries.  Bungoma would get 1000 seedlings for their ministries.  Bulinda would get 1000 seedlings for their ministries.  The other 1000 seedlings would be split evenly between Mt. Elgon and Busia.  Upon my arrival a few days ago the number of seedlings requested was still in the 8000 range and I had no idea how to fix it.  Some of the locations had more seedlings then allotted and some had less but the number was still in the high range since Kakamega was still around three to four times their allotment.   On Sunday I had let the Galilaya church increase their number of seedlings as well as the Jerusalem church to double their plots from one to two.  Then on Monday we let the Khabukoshe church have their two plots.  As I was crunching all the numbers I still had the problem with Kakamega and three to four times too many seedlings.  Here I am increasing the number of seedlings when I have to somehow reduce the number.  What was I doing?  It is just to hard to say no!!

After lunch yesterday it was time to address the issue of Kakamega and how to reduce the seedlings to a manageable level.  Before we discussed the Kakamega issue John Imala had asked me about Teresa Musungu his neighbor who is also a widow if she was going to get a small plot.  Her plot was not that big and I said ok we can plant one more plot for her.  What am I doing?  I said ok since we had reduced the size of the Kakamega’s widow’s plot so they could have some soil to grow vegetables on to help them before the first harvest comes in.  It's good how I can rationalize giving her a plot when I just reduced another.  We all thought that was a good idea to reduce the size of the widow's second plot since they had planted all the kale in the orchard and it has grown very well as you will see in the pictures below.  So well in fact I think it is taking away from the passion fruit. 

As Councilor Bianna, Pastor Morris, Pastor John, Bishop Hezron, and I were trying to come up with a solution to the lack of seedlings for Kakamega I asked them if it would be possible to reduce four of the plots in half and eliminate Pastor Ambetsas one and a half acre plot.  I knew this was not going to be a good solution but I knew once I put it out there they would start to think.  All of them said it wasn’t a good idea and was there a way that we could get him a little something.  At this point I had no idea how many seedlings we were talking about and how many were going to be distributed among the ministries.  Bishop Hezron then spoke and said that most of his seedlings had already been planted and that he only needed to replace some dead ones and the empty holes to finish his plot.  Every one agreed that the four plots would be cut in half and Pastor Ambetsas would get 250 seedlings to plant for his ministry.

As I started to feel the relief that we are on our way to solve this problem it was time to crunch the numbers.  I had developed a spread sheet to determine the number of seedlings, posts, wire, chemicals, holes, hardware, etc. and a final cost for each orchard with only the length times the width in meters.  Put in the length, the width and presto you have all the information you need.  I started to put in the dimensions of the various plots and wrote down the plots that are large and those just getting a set allotment.  Here is what I started to put down on a spread sheet as I collected the data. 

Pastor John Imala 430, Widow’s # 2 Kakamega 231, Bishop Hezron 259, Teresa Musungu 121, Jerusalem Church 190, Galilaya Church 192, Widow’s Mumias 234, Khabukoshe 120, Jeremiah 108, Paul Wangila 280, Doricus 65, Augustine 180, Mt. Elgon Clinic Pastor Joseph 416, Freedom Ministries Mt. Elgon 416, Pastor Ososo 250, Pastor Odongo 250, 3 plots in Bulinda 1000, Pastor Morris Opiyo 330, Lydia Barasa 178, Pastor Ambula 250, Syvanus Jomo 250, and Pastor Ambetsas 250.  Here we have the 24 plots and if you do the math what do you get?  I put all the numbers on the excel spreadsheet and did the summation and when I scrolled down to see the number I was stunned.  Six thousand even or as we would say “on the money”.  Tell me this is just a coincidence and there is no God.  As my friends here in Kenya would say “no worries”. 

Granted as we start to plant there will be a few seedling to many here or a few short there but I would say that God is telling us that he is in control and have some faith dude.  Another problem solved and it was time to leave, visit the orchard and take a few pictures.  As you can see we have a little problem with kale.  I am not sure if this is contributing to the various sizes of passion fruit or not.  We have one plant that is already at the wire eight feet up.  There are many others that are between four and eight feet up.  We have many others that are healthy but between two and four feet up.  We also have some more dead ones.  Pastor Robert had told me that he had gotten a bad batch of scions (baby seedlings) before grafting from one of his sources.  He feels that we must have gotten some of these seedlings.  These dead ones are in the same holes as the previous dead ones.  I am not sure of the total but they will be replaced at no cost.  On our tour the other day at Wamula the seedlings we looked at were all very healthy after the graft and I pray that we have this issue behind us as well.  I will count the dead ones and have them replaced when the new seedlings arrive in Kakamega. 

At the eight foot point ready to branch in each direction

Almost six feet high looking good

Very healthy but only about four feet high

A little too close together (just my opinion)

A healthy one and a dead one above

The kale is doing great

As I said above the widow’s were told that they could plant kale in between the rows of passion fruit as a cash crop until the passion fruit start to harvest.  Well the kale is doing very well and they are making money.  Yesterday they made over 1500 Ksh.  I think it is time to rethink when we plant crops in between the rows.  KARI said it was a good thing to do but I believe we should wait until the passion fruit is mature.  We should also only plant in the rows and not everywhere as you can see.  Pastor John, Councilor Bianna, and the widow’s felt that I would be disappointed with what I saw.  During my speech to them yesterday I did tell them that I was disappointed.  I did want to come here and see all the seedlings at eight feet.  But I also told them that my disappointment was a good thing and that it is a valid emotion.  From here we fix the problem.  I also told them that they need to get used to it because we are going to have other challenges along the way.  I went on to explain that I had already told them that these things would happen and that we learn from our mistakes, we rejoice, and we move forward.  In the end we win.

The widow’s other plot will have an area set aside on the side to grow other vegetables instead of passion fruit to make some money before harvest.  They can always come back later and plant that small area.  This is getting long so I will cut it off now and get completely caught up tomorrow.  Tomorrow Pastor Robert will be in Kakamega to discuss the last major cost.  The chemicals.  I would say that the last few days have been very productive and I am really happy that I arrived earlier then planned.

Take care and God bless.               


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 4 September 20, 2011 Mumias

Greetings from Kenya

I guess I need to pick up at the beginning.  Three days behind on the blogs not getting off to a very good start.  Last night I was able to get back on the internet and I guess there is a huge difference between a 2G network and a 3G network.  It reminded me of the early days of the PC that were really not that long ago.  It actually takes minutes for a web page to show itself on the screen.

On Sunday Bishop Hezron and I attended morning service at the Galilaya Church in Mumias.  After church we had lunch, chatted a bit, and then took a walk to the site of the Galilaya Church orchard.  I made it the short distance to the plot but the walk back reminded me that I still can’t walk up a hill without seeing stars and running out of breath.  Maybe someday it will go away.  This plot has been plowed and was waiting for me to tell them the size of the plot so they could dig the holes.  You see we only have 6000 seedlings and dividing them up among six different areas on twenty four plots was proving to be difficult.  Today I was able to tell them to plant the larger plot.

Galilaya orchard site

After we departed the Galilaya plot we headed over to the Mumia’s widow’s plot across town.  This plot had already been reduced and they had plowed and are finishing with the digging of the holes.  This plot just so happens to have a couple of permanent residents to oversee the plot as you will see in the picture below.  Only one of the residents was marked and the other is not.  We are hoping to plant this orchard early next week.  Just as we were starting to leave one of the widow's came up to me in the car and presented me with a cup.  She took off the napkin and behold a cup full of live termites.  I have my limits and she then commenced to show me that they are indeed tasty.  She says they are sweet and delicious.  Part of me said it was time to try the little critters and the other part of me (my mouth) said no way.  I know that there are many of you reading this blog that really love this delicacy and maybe someday I will get the nerve to eat one of the little flying things.  I think I would prefer them fried and dipped in chocolate.

Mumias widow's orchard site

Multi-purpose orchard

Cup full of live termites

I just can't get myself to do it

After the widow’s orchard we headed over to the Jerusalem Church to see their orchard site.  This site had also reduced their plot considerably.  The site I looked at was pretty small and today I was able to tell them that they could acquire another plot of similar size to get them to a couple of hundred seedlings.  After leaving the orchard site we went to the home of the General Secretary of Freedom Ministries Morris and his family to have dinner.  It was only an hour or so after lunch and I could not eat that much.  I passed on the chicken (it was getting dark and I couldn’t see to find any white meat) and some potatoes, kale, and chapatti’s.  For lunch I had some beef, cabbage, rice, and chapatti's.  Tonight I will be eating at the guest house and I think dinner will consist of a beef filet, potatoes, and chapatti’s.  I might even throw in an order of carrots.

Jerusalem orchard site

On Monday it was back to Mumias to the Equity Bank to fix the problem with the bank accounts.  In order to keep the funds under the supervision back in the states we created a dollar account (current) and a shilling account (savings) on my last trip.  Well it turned out that we were unable to transfer funds between accounts because a money exchange had to take place.  Well the guy that is in control of the money lives in the states and the process to exchange dollars into shillings via fax machines etc. was not going to happen.  The solution was to open a dollar savings account and the officers of Wamula International can withdraw dollars and exchange into shillings at the bank.  I want you all to thank God right now that you are not in Kenya and you do not have to open any type of business account.  Trust me it wasn’t pretty. 

Since we were unable to complete the banking transaction because the bank needed an original NGO certificate we had to take Robert back to Wamula to get the proper documents to finish the process.  We arrived at the bank around in the morning to open the account and by in the afternoon we were complete.  Along the way we had a bite to eat.  I had chicken soup without any chicken in it and some chapatti’s.  While at Wamula we quickly went into the nursery, met the staff, and viewed the seedlings.  I do not know why I did not take any pictures.  Anyway I will report on the seedlings tomorrow. 

On the way back to Mumias and finish with the bank we stopped at the last orchard site of Mumias.  The Khabukoshe (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) Church plot.  This church had also reduced its plot size and decided to plant two small plots for their projects.  We were only able to see one of them because we did not want to travel back down the road where the plot was because the road was not as wide as the car.  Did I ever tell you how really bad the roads are here?  I thought I took a picture of the plot but I didn't.

After we finished with Mumias it was time to come back to Kakamega and go to Safaricom to find out why I cannot access the internet and get my new phone (thanks Paul) working.  The 3G network for Safaricom is growing and needs some maintenance and work so the lines will be intermittent for a couple of weeks.  I am now 2G and it is slow.  They were also able to get my new phone working with email and voice service.  However the internet and my M-Pesa account are not working.  I will need to pay another visit when they get the answer.  It seems the phone I have which is not new is an htc phone whatever that means and Kenya is on a different system.  Hopefully in the next couple of days I will have this working too.

Also on Monday maybe our most successful coup was the reduction of wire cost.  The widow’s support wire cost us 250 Ksh a kilogram.  The gage wire we were using was on the heavy side and by the meter it cost about 18 Ksh per meter.  We are able to reduce the gage size smaller and buy in bulk.  We have been able to reduce the cost of support wire from 18 Ksh a meter to 5.36 a meter.  In order to plant the 6 acres we will need about 12,000 meters of wire or about 40,000 feet.  This is a significant savings of $1700 for the six acres and will now put the cost of an acre to under $900.

Tomorrow I will update on the events of today and tomorrow.  For Wednesday I will stay at the guest house and finish the worksheets of all the plots.  I will also journey into town and try to get the phone working properly.  I will also look to find more sources for supplies.  I will also try to tell a story of something that happened today that was truly remarkable.  When I showed the Pastors, Bianna, and the Bishop they were amazed when I showed them.  To me it was a sign that God is in charge or he is really looking over us.

If I haven’t said it before I will say it now.  It is a real blessing to be here with these people and I pray that I can continue to tell their stories and even mine.  People here have a difficult life by any standard and they really could use our help.  Our goal is to help them help themselves.  It’s not easy and I cannot even tell you half the story.  I do pray that you are getting something to think about.

Take care and God bless.