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Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15, 2012

Hi all

Well we have another mixed review from the orchards in Kenya.  First we have the bad news coming in from Mt. Elgon.  Bishop Hezron has told me that the losses on the mountain are pretty steep.  It appears that three quarters of the crop was lost due to a variety of reasons.  They were hit with the lack of rain as did much of Western Kenya after the planting last October.  Not only did the rain do some damage but some freezing temperatures took some out too.  Mt. Elgon is a very large shield volcano 14,000  feet above sea level sitting just north of the equator.  I am not sure of the exact elevation of the orchard but I assumed it was somewhere near 8,000 feet above sea level.  I know when I am up there my heart is pounding something fierce trying to get oxygen through my body.  Maybe having a severe iron deficiency in my blood has something to do with it.  Anyway I was under the impression that the only parts of the mountain that experienced freezing temperatures we above 10,000 feet.  The mountain does get snow at the highest elevations but when it does snow it is gone by mid morning.  However Hezron has told me that the surviving vines are doing well.  Maybe once the vines get hardy they can withstand some cold temperatures and a period of no rain.  I know it is hard to believe that it gets cold in Africa especially on the equator but believe me it gets pretty chilly sometimes.

For the better we have a report and some pictures coming in from Pastor Robert in Bulimbo.  We allocated 1000 seedlings for the three orchards in Bulimbo.  As you know we had lost Stephan's orchard due to his and his wife's untimely death.  Also planted in Bulimbo was a plot for Pauline.  I am not sure exactly how the vines were finally allocated among the three orchards but Roberts was by far the largest of the three.  I am under the impression that Robert had added some more vines on his own to grow his orchard to 800 vines.  Robert has been growing passion fruit for many years and is quite capable of keeping his orchard healthy.  According to Robert he did not lose that many seedlings due to the drought.  By the looks of the five pictures he sent me it is pretty impressive.  Robert tells me that he should start harvesting sometime in August.  It's been about a year since the first vines were planted in Kakamega and now I can finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.  However it looks like these pictures were taken at night.

Pastor Robert and one of the passion fruit vines


Pastor Robert and another vine

This one is not as high up

Looking good

I also see a flower on the vine

Between Mt. Elgon and Bulimbo almost a third of the vines were planted.  Such a disparity between many of these orchards.  Some do very well and some have not done so well.  My hope is that the majority of them are doing well enough to produce an income.  At some point here in the near future a decision needs to be made on what to do about going forward with this project.  Again it is very difficult to troubleshoot this issue from 8,000 miles away.  I am now more then anxious to get back to Kenya to see these orchards first hand.  Every day we get closer to seeing some income generated that will touch those that could really use it. 

Take care and God bless.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July 3, 2012


What a difference a few months, lots of prayers (thx), and a good amount of rain can do to change our situation in Western Kenya.  Starting almost a year ago we planted the first of twenty seven passion fruit orchards on a 1/5 acre plot that Pastor John Imala had donated to the Kakamega Blessed the Blessed Widows group.  We went into this with very high hopes for a future income for the forty something widows of the group.  If you have been following along with my blogs for the last year you know that this plot of seventy something vines has had its ups and downs.  Right now I do not know what to think and how to really tell the story.  Let me see if I can give a quick history in a sentence or two.  We planted some vines, some lived, some died, the widows planted some kale, we replanted the dead, the widows disappeared, the rains did not come as expected, we still could not find the widows, the orchard went to weeds, some of the widows came back, the widows cleaned up the orchard, the widows planted some maize, the rains came again, the orchard is now a mixture of maize and passion fruit vines.  Pastor John Imala had planted maize with his orchard too.  Conventional wisdom told us not to plant maize with the passion fruit.  However while the passion was struggling the maize grew well and now there will be a harvest of maize later this month.  The income will in turn help the Blessed the Blessed Widows group and the eighty or so Blessed the Blessed Early Childhood Development Center children.  Not sure what is going to happen after the maize is harvested.  I hope to be kept in the loop and I will report as I get the info.

Kakamega widows orchard last July

Kakamega widows orchard today

In order for the first plot to be viable and to get enough fruit to take to market it was decided that we needed more then seventy vines.  We decided to plant another six thousand vines over another twenty six orchards scattered across Western Kenya.  We planted on Mt. Elgon (2), Bulimbo (3), Busia (3), Bungoma (4), Mumias (6), and a few areas around Kakamega/Shibuli (9).  Nine months ago I returned to Kenya for a month to help get this done.  Again if you have been reading my blogs you will know that the rains did not come as planned last November and December.  I have been getting scattered reports for the last six months telling me that some of the vines had died and some had lived.  In my last blog I sadly reported that one of our plot stakeholders Stephan and his wife died in an accident.  No one was left to attend the plot and it is a complete loss.

Now by Gods grace and your prayers I can report some great news.  The rains finally returned a few months ago in Western Kenya and some of the surviving passion fruit vines have started to produce fruit.  I got a report yesterday that Mumias, Bungoma, and Kakamega are starting to harvest the first fruits and Pastor Robert has been requested to start helping get the fruits to market.  We lost the one plot in Bulimbo.  Pastor Robert in Bulimbo was the last to plant his seedlings however his vines are at that wire and branching out.  Pastor Robert has told me that he was able to maintain most of his seedlings and only lost a few to the drought.  Pastor Ososo had reported from Busia that he had lost some vines but the survivors are doing well now.  The other two plots in Busia I am not sure about.  I have not heard the status of the two orchards on Mt. Elgon yet. 

Bishop Hezron reported the other day and sent me some pictures of his wife Melissa’s orchard in Shibuli and a great success story on Pastor Ambula’s orchard in Kakamega.  Melissa’s orchard is doing well.  Many of the surviving vines are at the wire, branching out and starting to produce fruit.  Pastor Ambula’s plot ended up being a combination of Pastor Morris’s plot and his.  Pastor Morris was unable to get his plot ready before the planting and the seedlings were then allocated to Pastor Ambula whom just so happens to be Pastor Morris’s uncle.  I am told that Pastor Ambula has done some fine work with his orchard.  He recently took some of his fruit to an agricultural show in Kakamega and won an award for his fruit.  He has also been picked as a show orchard for other farmers in and around Kakamega to visit.  Between Pastor Morris and Pastor Ambula’s churches their allotment was around six hundred seedlings.  I am not sure how many had died but according to the pictures his orchard looks great.  The pictures are great to see but I am even more anxious to get over there to see the results first hand.  As of right now my plans are to return to Kenya sometime mid September into October.

Melissa Okaba's orchard in Shibuli

Looks great more vines taking shape

Pastor Ambula's daughter and the orchard

Passion fruit

I see purple passion fruit almost the color of harvest

To me this is great news and a long time coming.  I want to give all the glory to God.  For without him none of this would have happened.  Some people believe in coincidences however I am not one of them.  Four years ago this summer I met Bishop Hezron and Pastor Ososo.  The sequence of events I have seen and lived through since that time are at least to me mind numbing.  Most of the time I feel so out of my comfort zone it ain’t funny.  I do not feel adequate to the task and failure is always on my mind.  The deeper I get into this the more terrifying it becomes.  Sometimes I wonder if this is all really happening and all the questions that come with it.  I have a hard time answering them in my mind.  The biggest question of all is “Y” “Y” “Y” why is this happening?  However when I get news like this it really confirms that there is a God, His grace is upon us, and there is hope out there for those less fortunate then ourselves.  I am honored to be serving as His hands here on earth.

Thank you all for your prayers, and comments they are greatly appreciated.