Friends and Training for Life

By Krystina Lewis, Ashley Kroyer, and Angelina Gorrill, AVC/UPEI senior vet students

It’s hard to believe we have been here for almost three weeks now. 

The project “More Food, Better Food; Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers” provides us as veterinary students with the opportunity to educate farmers on dairy management to help them increase their milk production; specifically, we get to work with some of the local women’s groups. This experience has provided us with the chance to use and better our teaching skills. We have been thrilled with the positive feedback we have received after each seminar; many farmers have expressed how much they have learned from each seminar and how happy they are to see young, intelligent women passing along their knowledge.  

AVC’s Ashley teaching about disease prevention 

University of Nairobi student Rose teaching about calf and heifer management. 

We have been welcomed by every seminar group with open arms although one group does stand out. Mwende Women’s Group welcomed us with song and dance! 

It has been an honour to meet so many groups of strong, intelligent women. The women were engaged throughout each seminar. They Mwende Women’s Group gifted us beautiful green polo shirts that was similar in colour to their matching dresses!

Dr. John VanLeeuwen and AVC students Angelina, Ashley, and Krystina with some of the Mwende Women’s Group in Tigania after receiving our polo shirts. 

This past week we also met with Destiny Women’s Group. It was very special as they gifted us with our Kimeru names. Since Ashley spent 3 months in Naari in 2018, she already had her Kimeru name; Kendi which means someone who makes others happy. Krystina was given the name Karimi which means an active farmer. Angelina was given the name Mwendwa which means someone who is loved. It was very special for us to receive these names.

On our last day we were able to get a tour of the University of Nairobi Veterinary School from our new Kenyan vet student friends Rose and Festus. To our surprise, we were greeted by Jacob, the Kenyan student from our first week. It was so wonderful to see him again and catch up along our tour. We also bumped into Alube in the hallway and were greeted with a warm hug. It’s clear we have made life-long friends here in Kenya and we wish them all the best for the future.

We would like to thank all the Farmers Helping Farmers team, both Canadian and Kenyan, for this amazing experience. We were able to work with and meet so many wonderful people. 

Tuonane tena – see you again!

Walk-in cow clinics in Kenya: organized mayhem but a huge success

Veterinary students Angelina and Krystina with some of the local children at the Mbaaria walk-in clinic. The stickers were a big hit! 

By Krystina Lewis, Ashley Kroyer, and Angelina Gorrill, AVC/UPEI senior vet students

On February 1st and February 6th, the Farmers Helping Farmers veterinary group held walk-in clinics in Mbaaria and Buuri. Despite some rain mid-morning in Mbaaria and the stresses associated with the first walk-in clinic in Buuri, both clinics were a huge success. Over 400 cows were dewormed and over 80 cows were treated by the veterinarians and veterinary students at each location. Many farmers graze their cattle on pastures which exposes them to parasites and tick-borne diseases. Deworming and tick-prevention is therefore essential for these animals. 

A short time-lapse video of the deworming station in Mbaaria where Kenya vet students Evans and Jacob and PEI vet students Krystina, Ashley, and Angelina work closely with Kenyan farmers to deworm the cattle.

Understanding how to move individual and groups of cattle is critical for these walk-in clinics.

Moving cattle as per the image below will help to ensure that the process is less stressful to the cow. By standing in the area marked “A”, the cow will walk forward and by standing in the area marked “B”, the cow will stop moving.

Cows will also follow other cows so this method also applies to moving groups as well.

These clinics attract many members of the community so keeping the cattle calm is important for the safety of the veterinary team, the farmers, the community members, and of course, the cows.

The Farmers Helping Farmers veterinary team including University of Nairobi students Alube and Michelle, after completing the walk-in clinic in Buuri. 

Cows will also follow other cows so this method also applies to moving groups as well.

These clinics attract many members of the community, so keeping the cattle calm is important for the safety of the veterinary team, the farmers, the community members, and of course, the cows. 

The Farmers Helping Farmers veterinary team, including University of Nairobi students Evans and Jacob, after completing the walk-in clinic in Mbaaria. 

Some of you may remember Ashley from previous Farmers Helping Farmers blogs as she spent 3 months during the summer of 2018 in Naari, but this is the first time Angelina and Krystina have been to Kenya.

It’s been great having Ashley around to help the other veterinary students with learning both Swahili, one of the national languages in Kenya, as well as Kimeru, the local language in Meru County.

Knowing how to greet and introduce ourselves (even if it doesn’t always come out properly!) has brought smiles to the seminar groups. It also supports working together as a team at big events, such as these walk-in clinic

Ng’ombe – the Swahili word for cow. 

Make your own fertilizer

Or why Roger Henry donates money for pitch forks!

By Teresa Mellish

A pile of composted waste materials has nutrients for growing crops worth 6000 Kenya shillings. This is because it replaces 2 bags of fertilizer, each costing 3000 ksh.

With funds from Global Affairs Canada, Farmers Helping Farmers senior horticulturist  Stephen Mwenda demonstrated to 12 members of the Destiny Mboroga women’s group how to have usable compost in 4 months.

The waste materials included dried corn stalks, ashes, straw,  manure, green plant material, water, kitchen waste and air.

Ken videotaped the demonstration so it will also be available for other groups. Stay tuned for that and other videos coming soon to our Farmers Helping Farmers YouTube Channel.

One of the pitch forks that Roger Henry donated money for was used in the preparation of the pile.

He has been donating money for pitch forks for many years and they have made a huge difference.

Roger, a compost specialist for many years with Agriculture Agri-Food Canada, was in Kenya in 2013 with a Farmers Helping Farmers team to teach farmers in two women’s groups abou turning manure and plant waste into compost for their crops.

Here’s a story from 2014 about Roger Henry and the pitch forks.

Ken has also been visiting the lucerne farms of the Buuri dairy. On Prince Edward Island, we call it alfalfa!!

Then there are the locusts!

We knew there were locusts in northern Kenya which are travelling south.

Today we saw a group of them on a road.  Creepy little critters!

Why comfy cows matter

-by Krystina Lewis, Angelina Gorrill and Ashley Kroyer, AVC vet students with Farmers Helping Farmers in Kenya

A Kenyan woman at one of the cow clinics

On January 30th, UPEI veterinary students Ashley, Angelina, and Krystina and University of Nairobi veterinary students Evans and Jacob, along with Dr. John VanLeeuwen, conducted a seminar with one of the Buuri dairy groups.

Approximately 15 farmers from the Kibirichia region came together to take part in the first of six seminars being conducted as part of the Farmers Helping Farmers train-the-trainer model. It is associated with a new 4-year project entitled “More Food, Better Food: Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers”, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada.

A Kenyan woman at one of the cow clinics

One of the topics discussed in the seminar was the importance of cow comfort. We were pleased to notice the farmers were very attentive and were asking fantastic, thoughtful questions throughout the entire session.

Some of the questions kept us on our toes as we haven’t been asked them before. One aspect of the cow comfort seminar is where we demonstrate two “knee-tests” which help determine if a cow’s stall is soft and dry.

For the first test, you drop to your knees to test softness of the stall. If your knees hurt from the fall, it represents how your cow feels as she is trying to lie down and therefore the bedding is not soft enough.

For the second test, you stay in a kneeling position for 30 seconds and when you stand up, if your knees are wet, then the cows bedding is not dry enough for her.

The farmers are very receptive to this demonstration and it promotes a great conversation about cow comfort and welfare.

Comfy cows are happy cows and happy cows produce more milk!  

Krystina Lewis demonstrating the knee test

Following the seminar, the veterinary team followed farmer Joshua to his farm. Once there, the group discussed cow comfort and the changes Joshua and his wife Mary could easily make to ensure their cows Mwendwa (meaning “loved” in the Kimeru language of the region) and Rena (meaning “grace” in Kimeru).

Joshua and Mary already had a great foundation for their zero-grazing shamba (“farm” in Kiswahili) but a few changes in neck rail placement and the stall width would help ensure the stalls and cows stay clean and dry and would help reduce the risk of udder infections. 

The vet team for January 2020

The veterinary team has been a little surprised with the weather.

By January, the rainy season is supposed to have ended and the dry season is supposed to extend until late February or early March.

However, we have encountered rain every day since arriving on January 25th!

Although, this isn’t ideal for our clinics, it hasn’t dampened our spirits. The rains have made for awesome green vistas.

Hopefully we see some more sun throughout the remainder of our time here so that we can experience Kenya to the fullest!

Enjoying the view

More Food, Better Food project begins


By Colleen Walton, Farmers Helping Farmers

The FHF Nutrition team, Colleen and James, made a follow-up visit to Murinya Primary School to see if the school had implemented the recommendations made by 2019 UPEI students to upgrade the school meals.

We met a most enthusiastic Deputy-Headmaster who reported that she had instructed the new cook to make all the changes possible within their current constraints – most notably that the school does not yet have a big vegetable garden.

This garden will be developed in the next few months. But in the meantime we were excited to find that the school is now soaking maize and beans before cooking, have increased the proportion of beans in an effort to increase iron and protein intakes, and have reduced the salt content of their githeri.

As well, the school has changed to using Vitamin A fortified vegetable oil!

We weighed all the ingredients, weighed the portions of githeri served to the different ages of students and ultimately computed to what extent the githeri provided nutrients for the students.

James is busy now doing the computations. We certainly know that with soaking we can increase the iron intake of the student and the fortified oil is a step forward in reaching the necessary vitamin A for good eyesight and improved disease fighting.

We are all anticipating the benefits that the garden with carrots, oranges sweet potatoes, swiss chard and kales will provide to these hardworking students.

Today the nutrition team joined a dairy club in Naari and provided the Family Nutrition seminar with a taste of special githeri. (A stew full of healthy veggies!)

Here James is presenting on the need to avoid drinking tea one hour before and on hour after the meal. This practice ensures more iron from the beans is usable for the person’s body.

And we brought food!

James is safely transporting super githeri for the dairy club seminar.

Collen says: “A taste of super githeri is worth a thousand words!”