Saturday, October 9, 2010

Maybe this post will answer your question too!

You are most likely visiting my blog because you received an email or FB message from me (or both!). One of my friends responded to my request with some very thoughtful questions. I think they are important and wanted to share them with you. Maybe you have a similar question.

Who will continue with the project after you leave? Do they have knowledge and experience caring for and milking a cow, do they have experience or access to someone re raising the variety of vegetables that you want to grow?

The answer to this question incorporates the basis of my project. I am here to facilitate a sustainable development initiative. That is, one that does not depend on me, but accesses resources already in place just needing a bit of a “boost”. My job at Daisy is to identify opportunities where the school can grow or areas they need to work on. During my first few weeks, I spent a lot of time doing observation and asking many questions. Once I identified these areas, I was to gather my ideas, identify the schools assets (be it individual, financial, spacial, etc.), and collaborate with the staff. As you know, I saw the greatest need in nutrition, vocations, income-generation and access to resources.

Daisy has several staff members that are both teachers and agriculturalists. In fact, the school already has a club that deals with farming and working with the land headed by two teachers in particular. The school grounds has a cow shed that has not been used in 2 years. They used to keep 3 cows, but two were sold because of financial crisis and one died of natural causes. (I am currently working on ways the school can prevent selling as a means of funds in the future; such as encouraging fundraising or informing their Board of Governors when problems strike.) The school also has several acres of land that is unused. They have a grounds man who can offer his time and energy. Lastly, Daisy is well-known and respected in much of the community, therefore has connections with various agricultural and agronomy organizations.

These assets are the reason I saw my initiative being successful. In fact, I was originally going to teach a nutrition or farming seminar. However, we changed that to weekly meetings with the students, facilitated by one of two “teachers in-charge of gardening”. I found that they are extremely knowledgeable about organic farming, animal keeping, and the local foods. After all, do remember that farming was a major part of there culture. People survive off the land here. Unfortunately, less and less young people are learning such skills though as time change. However, it is extremely important to have this knowledge as Kakamega, and Kenya in general, are rural. But the teachers at Daisy are from a different generation and grew up learning how to farm. In fact, several have farms of their own. Therefore they have resources and knowledge!

As of right now, Daisy is in close contact with RODI (Resource Oriented Development Initiative) which focuses on teaching agricultural practices, KARI (Kenya Agricultural Research Initiative) which has branches ranging from selling of goods to research, to harvesting and teaching, and lastly a Veterinarian (my neighbor) who will advise them on keeping a cow should they need it.

I am making sure to let them make the decisions (under my guidance) and lead the focus of our meetings with both staff and students. They know much more than I do on this topic. I have complete faith in them. This program will really benefit the school in so many ways and I can see their brainstorming everyday for ways of making it happen. I am also setting in place steps towards accountability and transparency. They will sign a contract before I leave. The FSD site team will make random checks to the school to see they are following the guidelines that we agreed on.

Is the soil appropriate for those vegetables?

As I said above, the school had cows in the past. Therefore, a manure pile was created. This manure has rotted and made a large amount of the land very fertile. Where the land is not as suitable, we plan to move the rotted and nutrient-rich manure/soil mix to the other plot of land. I do believe the crops will fair just fine where we have chosen to start the garden.

Why did you choose a cow over a goat, chickens, or another animal?

We chose a dairy cow over these other animals for several reasons. A cow will produce more milk for the children and excess to be sold. There is a shortage of milk in the children’s diet currently and the school had already been seeking solutions to this problem. The compound has a zero-grazing cow shed (although it needs some renovations), which is suited, obviously, for cows over goats. I was told that chickens are much more time and labor intensive than a cow, and finicky. Plus, cow milk is the milk of choice at the school!

Will these staff be there for the long term and how do they feel about this project? Have you gotten input from them?

I do not foresee the staff changing anytime soon. However, my job as an intern is to see that no matter who walks onto the school grounds, could read through my sustainability plan, work plan, business plan, and/or contract and be able to pick up where the previous person left off.

The staff are overjoyed by the proposed program. I find often that they are going ahead with plans before I even asked them. I have heard nothing but good comments. However, they do challenge me, which only means they are thinking about the challenges that are sure to be ahead. I like that. They have assured me many times that they will not let this program fail because it is so beneficial for the school (and just to be sure they mean it, I will have them sign a contract).

The entire project is based on their input. They are the “owners” and beneficiaries of this project. Therefore, they must take initiative to see it through and also invest in it. Currently, the have not only contributed time and energy, but some start-up funds and lots of resources (ie. shovels, wheelbarrows, labor, space, etc.). If I make any decision I am sure that they know and I get their opinions on it. I hold daily meetings about issues/concerns/agendas with the appropriate staff members. They have accepted me as a member of the staff and I am becoming close with them. Therefore, it is easy for me to talk with them about my plans or concerns.

This week I am going to introduce the option of doing a fundraiser with the parents and community to raise a bit. Not only will this create awareness in the community, but build ownership with Daisy towards this program. Although they may not raise a lot, the little that is contributed will mean a lot more than a number, but investment and a need for accountability from the school to keep the program going.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great job. Those are some thoughtful questions and answers. I'm glad to hear about it and hear more about the hard work you have put into this.