This morning, Corrie Lynn and I went down to reception for some doughnuts. When everyone was up, we all got together for a group photo. We all dressed up in our African garb – kangas, Maasai blankets, jewellery, etc.
Once our photo was done, we headed out of Nairobi for our final project visit. Rachel and Tim stayed behind because Rachel was still recuperating and Tim had to get ready to fly home.
Once again, we picked up a few people along the way, and they took us to Maragua, the town where RODI is working with a local farm organization (Highbridge Banana Association) on advocacy and awareness building. We met with a group of local banana growers – mostly women. They told us about their challenges with unfair pricing, inability to compete with large corporations, lack of water, etc.
Some of their challenges are:
- There used to be an organized system for collecting bananas from various regions, but the roads got so bad that it stopped. Now they have to sell most of their products locally.
- Too many people are competing in the same industry, so the price went lower.
- They can’t compete with the multinational companies. They don’t have the capacity for irrigation systems, etc.
- They can’t produce the quality of bananas required by large supermarket chains.
- To certify organic to ship to Europe, they have to pay for inspectors to come from Europe and they can’t afford it.
After the meeting, we visited the farm of one of the members of the association. She showed us how they were trying to use good farming practices to make maximum use of their land. Unfortunately, though, there hadn’t been much rain lately so their crops were poor.
On their farm was a brick house that was partially built. They’d started it 5 years ago, but had been unable to finish it because of cost. The woman told us “we grow and grow, but the prices are still low.” Before we left the farm, the husband brought out a guest book for us to sign – a practice we’ve now grown accustomed to.
The second farm we visited was a little bit more comfortable. The farmers were Samuel and Agnes Njiba. Samuel showed us some interesting innovations on the farm. They’d devised a way to capture methane gas from cow manure and goat manure in a tank where it was stored and then used for household cooking. He also showed us the fish pond he’d dug in the back of his property. He’d stocked it with fish, but the water levels were a little too low now, so he was a little concerned.
Agnes and some of the neighbourhood women served us lunch in their comfortable, open-air sitting room. First they served us pop, and then we dined quite heartily on rice pilaf, veggies, plantains, stew, and some other dish made of cassava, maize and peas.
During lunch, we had the opportunity to purchase some crafts made of banana leaves. They were made by a local group of youth. I bought some jewellery boxes for the girls and some prints for Mom and Mom & Dad L.
I had an interesting conversation with Samuel, the owner of the farm. I told him that my husband was a stay-at-home dad who looked after most of the cooking and childcare in the home. He was quite surprised at that and said it would never happen in Africa.
After lunch we drove back to Nairobi. We stopped at the RODI office on the way. Esther, the woman from RODI, is quite impressive. We also met her daughter Rosemary. Esther is a single mother of 2 grown children, and she also cares for 2 children of her uncle who passed away. She has a tea farm, as well as some animals, and she also works for RODI. She’s quite intelligent and well-versed in the area of trade rules, etc. She’s travelled with Stu and Kenton to WTO meetings and trade talks.
After visiting the RODI project, we went back to the Hampton House and relaxed for awhile. Tim was the first of our group to leave. It’s hard to believe good-byes have begun already. It’s strange saying good-bye. We’ve become a unique kind of community with a unique bond. No one else has shared this common experience except these 12 people who were strangers less than 3 weeks ago. I don’t feel a strong need to cling to them, but there is certainly a sadness in letting go.
Later in the evening, Jim and Cathy Bowman brought Chinese food to the guest house and shared a last meal with us.