Crossing the land
11.08.2008 - 12.08.2008 24 °C
Blog 12 August 2008 Kakamega, Western Province, Kenya
Well – Happy Dave is back on the road beginning another different adventure. After almost two years of working in Agricultural Development for Africa, I have learned a lot about the priorities, problems and styles of working in order to improve the lives of small resource-poor farmers. I remain committed to using Science and Technology to help achieve these ends, but now add Enterprise to the bag of tricks that I think will work.
Essentially I want to helping all involved to see and create value from their work and be able to feel the rewards. I think it is essential that the farmer values the seed she/he’s obtained. The person getting the seed to the farmer and the company, NGO (charity), or research institute producing the seed must also be rewarded. Without the sense of value from the farmer’s perspective, she will not treat for the new seed or technology with appropriate methods, water and care in order to get the best from it. Development interventions are all too often short-lived and/or very localised in scale due to lack of incentive to reach enough farmers over a long time period. If the disseminators experience the sense of value they will ensure this does not happen.
However, I have been painfully aware that, despite wanting to use Science, Technology & Enterprise to help small farmers in Africa, I have been painfully aware that I have only ever met 3 small farmers. As such, I don’t have genuine first hand knowledge of those people I want to benefit. I needed to experience working directly with my stakeholders so that my experiences can confirm, contradict, clarify or deepen some of the things I’ve learned about them from chatting in pubs or reading authoritative reports.
This is why I’ve come to Kakamega.
So, at the kind invitation of Paul Seward, I’m going to spend the next 2 months working with FIPS-Africa (Farm Input Promotions Africa – www.fipsafrica.org). I’ll be placed in Kakamega, in Western Province of Kenya. If you look on a map, its about an hour’s drive north of Kenya’s third city, Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria.
I left Nairobi yesterday with Musau and Gichuki driving quite slowly in a 4 tonne truck out west from Nairobi. Two hours drive got us about half way along a fantastic newly built road to Nakuru (home of the flamingos and white rhinos). The next many hours along bumpy roads got us less far to the Kericho – in the heart of the Tea Picking lands for Unilever’s PG Tips, Lipton and Brookebonde. It was strange driving across the rift valley – the area before Kericho suffered some of the worst tribe on tribe violence during the post-election clashes in December/January. A number of burned out houses could be seen by the road-side and people still living as IDPs (Internally Displaced People) in tented camps outside several of the villages.
“Why are they still there?” I asked Musau as we drove past. “The election was 7½ months ago.” From seeing Kenya in Nairobi, this was a reasonable question. There is a reasonably functional Grand Coalition between members of both parties; the country has returned to a state of nervous normality with more mistrust but most things happening. Some people have even said that the IDPs just want to keep having an easy life and being fed by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and WFP (World Food Programme).
“You can’t make them go home!” replied my new friend. These people have had their houses and farms burned by their neighbours. People they once considered to be friends. If they return back, notes are put through their doors saying ‘You don’t belong! If you stay, you will be killed.’ What can they do? Where can they go? Would you take your family back to the place they’d been for 60 years if that had happened to you?”
Food for thought!
Anyway – it was getting towards 6pm so we stopped for the night in Kericho before heading on towards Kakamega this morning. Today we negotiated access to some great new varieties of Sweet Potato developed by KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Institute) and squeezed 75 large bags of vines into a 4 tonne truck. After, I came to my new residence – ate some beef stew and rice and now to bed.